Time to get off my soapbox and back to the garden. We have a small (6 ft x 15 ft) garden area at the side of the driveway that is enclosed by a brick and slump stone wall. The driveway slopes down toward the house, making the area essentially a raised bed.
Vic (my loving spouse) thought it would be a perfect place for a vegetable garden because it was sunny, so I began “farming” it a few years ago. That was right about the time our neighbors to the south planted a solid wall of trees and shrubs in their similar-sized planter.
Understand that we’re crammed into our respective properties like sardines in a can here in southern California. Their trees prevent sun from getting to my garden about six months out of the year. Since I attempt to garden year round, that was an unfortunate turn of events.
And sun isn’t the only issue. Some idiot dumped a truckload of gravel into the planter at some past time, possibly thinking that it would help with drainage. So the dirt (you could hardly call it soil) is positively packed with large gravel. Every year, more of the rocks surface. Getting a shovel through that morass is a challenge.
I’m not done complaining about this God-forsaken patch of dirt. Because growing vegetables there has proved so frustrating, I tend to neglect this patch even more than the rest of my garden. I let weeds grow. I let them set seed. I stupidly let the seeds fall to the earth. And there they reliably grow into more weeds. At least something grows there. And yet I persevere.
Our fall rainy season has started, so I spent the past week pulling weeds out of the Garden of Perpetual Responsibility. Then I raked the ground until I had the surface fairly clear of gravel. As I always do before planting, I dug in manure and compost, plus some E.B. Stone SureStart, an organic fertilizer that has beneficial soil bacteria and mycorrhizae.
I can’t grow root crops here because of the gravel. And I’m tired of spading through that gravel each season. So I have decided to try perennials. I put in some thornless black raspberries last spring. I set them into nursery pots buried in the ground, just so the raspberry vines wouldn’t take over the entire plot. (Ha, like something other than weeds would grow in that garden!) On the spur of the moment, I bought a Victoria rhubarb plant and put that into the ground. They like colder winters than we have here, but I should get at least a couple of years of spring rhubarb stalks out of it.
I had good luck with an artichoke plant there in the past, so I decided to plant more artichokes this year. I bought three pots, and was surprised to find that they each had two artichoke plants in them. Then I got another surprise. My original artichoke, which I thought was dead, had sprouted after our recent rain.
I only wanted three artichoke plants, but now I have seven. I put them into the ground and left them to their fate. Given my usual gardening luck, I’ll be doing good to get a mere meal or two of artichokes next spring.
(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com, under columnists.)