Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Different Kind of Post

This is what posting means in Cle Elum.

Went over to our cabin Tuesday night and spent all day Wednesday working in a new garden I'm putting in. I actually started the garden last fall when I cleared an area at the bottom of our front yard of a hodgepodge of brush, small trees, an old firepit and miscellaneous garbage that had been left there by the home's previous owners. Once cleared, I gave it a good tilling and let it sit for the winter.

Yesterday, I pulled the tiller out of storage and worked the ground again for a couple hours, mixing in much of the organic debris that had collected over the winter (mostly old leaves and twigs) until I had a nice, rich composty loam to a depth of about ten inches.

Because our yard is a magnet for deer, elk, rabbits and skunks, I felt that a fence was a necessity to ensure a viable garden. To support the fence, I dug 11 post holes to a depth of 18 inches, put in the posts and set them with concrete. In the next couple weeks I'll string some chicken wire and complete the job.

The garden has a dead south exposure and will get plenty of sun, even though there are two or three tall pines that will give some shade. The plot is also on a mild slope, which should not only help get everything some extra sun, but should also provide good drainage. At some point before the weather gets really hot, I'll have to install some kind of automatic irrigation system that will water the garden when I'm not around.

Now the only question is what to plant. The growing season in Cle Elum is quite short, with freezing temperatures expected from the first of October until the end of April. Most local gardeners do their planting in late April or early May, so that precludes the possibility of many vegetables that might be available in a milder climate.

Other possibilities would be something like grapes and berries. I put in some grapes about ten years ago in a small garden closer to the house and they have done quite well, with virtually no supplemental water and very little care. The only problem is that as they are still maturing toward the end of September, if you get an early freeze, the fruit is killed immediately.

Another thing you have to plan for, besides the short growing season, is minimum temperature tolerance. Although the winters have been relatively warm lately, there's never been a December or January when the temperature doesn't get close to 0 degrees and I remember several times when it got down to -10 or -15, which is low enough to kill many perennials, including a lot of popular grape varieties.

Therefore, I'm also looking closely at berries, some of which, such as blueberries, should do quite well in Cle Elum's climate. Another possibility would be a mini-orchard. The space is big enough (being about 500 square feet) where I could probably put in three or four dward fruit trees.

I'd love to put in some corn, peas, potatoes and tomatoes, but for reasons already mentioned, I don't know if that's going to work. Vegetables are extra tough because they require more frequent care and I just don't know if I'll be over there enough this summer to do all the weeding, etc that's necessary for their survival. I'll let you know in a couple weeks what I've decided!

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