Something from nothing: Breaking ground for a garden

By , March 4, 2016
(c) The Herbangardener

Mowing out the garden perimeter

Because we are now stewards of three whole acres of land, we’ve been spending hours and hours — so many hours — researching tractors and thinking of what we want to do with the space. One thing we want of course is a garden. I am not thrilled to be starting from scratch for another garden. If you garden, you know it’s a ton of work. I don’t have the energy level to match, so it’s overwhelming. But if you garden, you also know that not having a garden is not an option! It’s a given. A necessity. After months of tractor research, stalking craigslist, exploring creative solutions, lots of sticker shock, and springtime — planting time — right at our backs, we decided that we can’t make a decision right now. We’re unclear exactly how much we want to undertake in general, we don’t have a solid plan other than Do A Big Garden, and we haven’t been on the land long enough to have clear answers about either of those things. We had nearly settled on a BCS 853 walk-behind tractor from earthtools.com, but the price is dear and we aren’t settled yet on which attachments we need. We’ve been paralyzed and overwhelmed. Finally on Monday night, the overwhelm reached its zenith as F sat wide-eyed in front of his computer screen staring at yet another page filled with tractors and tractor attachments and other hunks of metal with names we have yet to learn and prohibitive price tags or the right price tag but in a faraway state. Right then is when we decided to work with what we have access to right now that’s within our price range — and without a huge decision or financial commitment needing to be made in haste. This turned out to be a rented rototiller from the local hardware store, and the really nice self-propelled Honda mower F bought for the lawn.

The next day we rented the tiller, quickly eyeballed the area we wanted to make into garden — ‘Yep, there’s about good’ — mowed the weeds and dry grasses, and “started tilling.” But the tiller tines only just picked at the surface weeds and kicked up a little dust. It wouldn’t dig in. The ground was dry, too dry evidently, and nothing was happening. Frustrated moments ensued, we tried forcing it, then we thought of scrapping the whole thing and returning the tiller. Then we both went online, each finding some key pointers. “Ahh – you can raise the wheels so the tines dig in more” and “Ahh – for hard ground try going lightly over your whole area with the tiller east-west, then lightly again north-south. Once you’ve cross hatched it, then try going deeper the next round.” We almost didn’t, but I’m glad we stuck with it. We made progress, though not a whole lot for a laborious !6! passes, but enough to tear into the ground. While I tilled, F mowed the acreage. The lawn mower was awesome and we had no idea it would do so well on rough land; it devoured everything in its path without a single sputter. Probably the mowing of the land wasn’t completely necessary; but mentally oh very much yes. Somehow having the grass mowed on the rest of the land makes the whole thing seem tamer and more under our control and not so wild and untouchable and unmanageable and impossible. And we learned that yes you can mow two acres with your self-propelled yard mower and yes wear those comfortable shoes because you’ll be walking for miles and miles, back and forth back and forth!

The next day I turned on our irrigation well and opened the floodgates as they say. The garden can be flooded in a matter of minutes which will be a huge time saver this summer. I soaked it several times and we’ve booked the tiller again for this Saturday so that we can do the whole thing again and till much deeper this time we hope.

When I look out at the area we tilled, it’s huge. It’s nearly 3,000 square feet of garden. That in itself is overwhelming, but not as overwhelming as it was last week, before we had started at all. We made huge progress in one day and our bodies made darn sure we knew it (like ‘Ohhh…shit.”). Seeing the land mowed and the garden tilled up makes it easier to believe we can actually make something out of all this nothing.

 

Mowing 2 acres with self-propelled lawnmower

Mowing 2 acres with self-propelled lawnmower

Mowing done

Mowing done

Rototilling

Rototilling

Before mowing & tilling

Before mowing & tilling

After mowing & tilling

After mowing & tilling

Essential!!! I love these boots.

Essential!!! I love these boots.

(c) The Herbangardener

*****

4 Responses to “Something from nothing: Breaking ground for a garden”

  1. Jane Ecclestone says:

    Woo-hoo! Ground breaking day! Glad you could break thru all the head stuff to get down and dirty…and sore it sounds like! That first spring work can be wearing, especially when you’re starting from scratch. Only one suggestion – cover crops! Help you care for the soil while you’re coming up with your plan. And a few words from Helen Keller that was part of a reading yesterday: “It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to your powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with the great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.” I know you’ll do great things there – have fun!

  2. ed says:

    excellent idea to break off a piece of your acreage and see how much work that creates to make a garden before buying a lot of farming implements. renting is a great plan until you have a better feel for how much time, money and energy is required to bring your garden to life–and to help you decide how much garden is enough. good job for toughing out the initial tilling challenge.

  3. Lindsey says:

    Thanks for this Jane, and the quote from HK. That is a good wish to have in mind. :) Cover crops are factoring big into our plans, definitely!!! :)

  4. Lindsey says:

    Ed
    Yes it was just the thing – rent a simple rototiller and start small. It’s a good way to feel out what’s needed – by getting in there and doing the work and drawing conclusions. So glad we got this step done. It’s like the hardest step – just to BEGIN.
    LOVE to you.

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