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Summer Garden Clean-Up (and weird carrots)

All right, y’all. I have more weird carrot photos for you. The one on the left isn’t really weird-weird, but it grew wide and short instead of long and narrow like your typical carrot. (Hint: when you grow your own carrots, they don’t always turn out typical!) But it’s all good; both carrots had about the same root quantity as does your typical store-bought medium-sized carrot.

Now, as I promised in this post, pictures of our almost-cleared out garden! Yes, we are crazy, doing this chore in the middle of the summer when it’s 90+ degrees and at least 85% humidity. But I wanted to get them up before they all went to seed.

Also, it’s a whole lot easier to picture what I want to grow where, when the space doesn’t look like a jungle.

Forgive me – as I’ve stated previously, I’m really bad about taking “before” photos. But that’s okay – it just means you get to exercise imagination for this post as I describe what each area looked like before the weeds were cleared out. 😉  We – that is, J – dumpster dives for carpet at the one carpet store in McAlester, the biggest town near us…an hour’s drive away.

Here’s the northwest corner of the garden, where the asparagus patch is. Picture tall hay-type grass with seed heads, a couple of blossoming horse nettle, and miscellaneous other weeds growing in this small space. Then, look at the photo below.

The rocks are to help prevent things from growing right next to the metal flashing, because there was just a tiny bit of space between the carpet and the flashing.

The area in the next photo, where you see cardboard being held down by rocks, had a lot of grass mixed in with a few other weeds. I put cardboard here because one day I plan to have more asparagus growing there, so I wanted something biodegradable that would help enrich the soil.

In the next photo, picture more hay grass – much of it gone to seed – filling up the space where this carpet is now. The southwest corner you see at the end was the worst. There was at least one dock plant as well as a thorny vine mixed in with a bunch of grass plus a few other weeds.

After I took the above photo, I decided to go ahead and get the vines back on the growing bed where they belonged. Many of them were trying to root into the carpet! So the next photo shows the whole length of the path, mostly cleared of the vines.

This next carpeted path used to be made of boards and cardboard (some of which you can see in the mulched bed to the right) – plenty of space in between for red malabar spinach, wood sorrel, and other several other kinds of weeds (some flowering). The rocks come from the reservoirs I had J make when I thought I was going to be container gardening (with soil!) next summer. They’re holding the carpet down while I find other uses for them.

Now, imagine the next space COMPLETELY OVERFLOWING with red malabar spinach vines. I mean, it was in the raised bed (in the right of the picture), going into the pot on the left, and maybe a foot high of tangled vines!

Zinnias will no longer allowed to grow in that space where they are in the photo, but I’m leaving them there for this summer.

You can see some of the dead pea vines in the next photo, broccoli in the foreground. The area between the kiwi trellis (shared with the peas) and the bed with the rebar arches used to be a mess of grass, dock, and various and sundry other weeds. Use that imagination!

Here’s the south-facing trellis. Until J weeded it (I needed help; there was a LOT of well-rooted grass), it was a mess of tall and short weeds and tall and short grass. There also used to be several more zinnia plants. I avoided walking through here because I just knew I was going to get chigger bites. That’s how thick the weeds were, all the way down to the east side.

You can see that there are flowers and weeds at the east end. That’s because every so often I’m leaving space for weeds and wildflowers to grow to provide habitat for the wildlife.

Onto the next photo. The old boards and sticks in the foreground are not going to live there forever. I just threw them there to get them off the paths. By next spring, J will have made more rebar arches down to the end of the bed (you can see it where the landscape fabric is sticking out in the foreground), and I will have put more chicken wire over the arches. The plan is to grow one cucumber at each end of the bed, and they will climb on the chicken wire.

Previously, I’ve trellised cucumber vines upward, but it’s really hard to train them that way. Also, when there’s a strong wind, cucumber vines growing vertically are liable to break. I’ve had it happen before when we lived in north Texas.

Anyway. Really stretch your imagination now. Just to the right of the foreground area where the sticks are, used to grow a rosemary plant that was at least three feet high and that much in diameter. Between it and the bed, two docks – which had gotten HUGE – decided to insinuate themselves. In the bed itself, at the end, were zinnias, a huge weed related to the dandelion, and several other large weeds.

Oh, and there were a bunch of lambsquarters – very tall – growing around the rosemary. I mean, this area was a colossal mess, especially consider the smallness of it.

The photo also gives you a longer view of the path next to the kiwi trellis. The path to the right of the arched bed had some grass and a few small weeds, but it wasn’t bad because I had put down a bunch of cardboard and wood last fall.

Ignore the scrap wood and cinder block in the next photo, and imagine a jungle of weeds overtaking this area that is now bare dirt.

No, no. You’re not imagining enough weeds. Imagine more. No, more. Three times as much as that!

Seriously, I dreaded getting to this area to weed, but it actually turned out to not be so bad because many of the weeds were the kind that don’t grow very deep roots. Of course, I weeded after we’d had three inches of rain over three days, so even the grass wasn’t that bad to pull out.

The yellow wildflowers will go as soon they’ve gone to seed (and therefore turn ugly), but I’m leaving them for now because Somebody whined to beat the band when I told him I was going to take them out.

(Lesson for today: yes, kids, whining does produce results.)

The last three photos are of the strawberries that are going to go bye-bye the next time J gets to town to get another load of carpet.

As in, I’m going to dig all of the plants out and compost them. Close your mouth before you catch a mosquito, and let me explain.

I have probably more than two hundred plants elsewhere (because strawberries propagate so darn quickly!), and from those other two strawberry patches I harvested most of the pitiful amount of berries that I got this summer (more on that later). The berries from the plants you’re about to look at? I maybe – maybe – got five berries.

Yes, five. From all those plants. And they probably produced a few hundred.

Three words: mice, birds, mold.

No, wait, one more word: opossum. Yep. I forgot to close the garden up for several nights, and it left a couple of packages to evidence its visit. Yes, they do eat strawberries.

So I’m going to grow strawberries in an area where critters can’t get them, and in a way that will reduce the risk of them getting moldy (like I said, more on that coming up). I’m going to clear this area on the northeast side of the garden, next to the blueberry bushes, to make room for something else. (I might end up clearing out the clover, too…we’ll see.)

The end of this very long garden update!

P.S. – This garden are is about 1600 square feet (almost three times bigger than our house!). Please donate to help me recover from all the work I did. Just click the “donate” button in the sidebar…NOT! 😉

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