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Friday, February 21, 2014

From Knapweed to Veggies: 2010-2013

Sometimes it's good to stop and look back, to see where we started...

(Note: You can click on the pictures to get a closer look.)

~ 2010 ~

This is the only "before" picture I have of the garden. In 2010 we pulled a lot of knapweed (one of the piles, next to my daughter). I didn't know about sheet mulching with cardboard yet -- ha! 

~ 2011 ~

One day in the early spring of 2011, my daughter and I spontaneously decided that we would start a garden that year after all. We had initially thought we'd wait till we could get the backhoe to the property. But we couldn't wait! We quite randomly selected a spot and started digging. Boy, was that hard work. 

We hand-dug two pits about 2 feet deep; I sifted the soil and added my compost along with some sawdust back in. This process took several weeks. We didn't have a wheel barrow yet, so we used the wagon with a sledding saucer on top (above). It worked pretty well! Time would later reveal that we had chosen one of the rockiest, most difficult areas to dig -- just a little to the east was a nice pocket of looser, much less rocky soil. But I didn't know that then!

Thanks to an acquaintance named Shelby, I learned about sheet mulching. Just in the nick of time! I was saved from a whole season of intensive weed pulling around the garden area.

Google Earth 2011 imagery for our property was not very crisp at that time, but my husband pointed out that I had used enough cardboard that it could be seen from space! We laughed hard over that one. (What an accomplishment to make the sheet-mulching visible from space, given the low resolution.)

Eventually I was able to cover the cardboard with pine needle duff... I spent a lot of hours raking pine needles from around the Ponderosas on the property. It doubled as fire protection, and I didn't mind doing it. I erected a humble little fence using materials generously offered to me by our neighbors, who had put in some fenced trees, and the trees hadn't made it. They said if I wanted the materials, I could walk over there and pull the posts and wire. So I did! I fenced small sections to make it less appealing for deer to jump in, hoping they'd be afraid of not having enough room to bound out again. (It worked really well until late August, when desperation always makes deer bolder.)

~ 2012 ~

In 2012, I upgraded to wood chips from Oroville for mulching over the cardboard to control weeds. I was still only gardening in a portion of what would become the full garden, but I began expanding via above ground hugelkultur beds.

The garden was surprisingly productive, given its many limitations.

The transformation from knapweed and yarrow to vegetables became more apparent...

So many great memories already!

~ 2013 ~

At the tail end of 2012, we had started digging pits with the backhoe, removing rocks, and adding large wood, leaves and manure back into the ground. 

One day in early April 2013, I received over 10,000 pounds of manure and hay from my neighbors. I can estimate the weight because the dump trailer was rated at 10,000 pounds, and it was too heavy to lift and dump! In this photo, Bob is transporting some of the manure with the front end loader, into the "Aspen Hotbed," the pit on the far left. This is the horse manure that made it hot (and the pumpkins went crazy in there).

Green starts to emerge from the soil - this photo was taken on July 11, 2013, just before the garden exploded into a jungle.

Here it is the next day, July 12, from space!

Several weeks later, on August 31 -- the jungle has arrived on our semi-arid landscape.

Strawberries in September!

~ 2014 ~

And now the garden is asleep, waiting for spring...


  1. Hey there!
    just gearing up for my first full length season in the okanagan. Would love to hear some of what is going in to your garden this year and why. Also intersted in perennial veggies! you got any of those goin down there?

    1. Hi growrevgrow, thanks for your comment! This year I am focusing on direct seed planting with protection from the elements and the animals. In the past I've done a lot of starts indoors, but the stress of transplanting takes its toll, and it is more work that way. This year it's all about small fabric and plastic structures that provide additional warmth as well as protection from hungry creatures. I'll be planting a bit of everything just about... however, the most successful veggies in the past have been greens, radishes, carrots, peas, onions, garlic (fall and spring planted), basil, "tiny tim" tomatoes, etc. I am very interested in perennial veggies also. At this point we have asparagus, lovage, Jerusalem artichokes, chives, rhubarb, sorrel, perennial herbs, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries going... Also the easy self-seeders are also nice even though the plants are annuals, like red and green orach, lettuces, spinach, etc. This year I aim to plant Good King Henry and Sea Kale. What perennial veggies to you plan to grow? I'm always looking for new ideas.

  2. Your view is fantastic - I'm surprised that you can concentrate long enough to get the garden going! I think you're not too far from me, I'm near Grand Forks, B.C. which I think is a little wetter, but your climate and topography is very similar. Looking forward to spring here, and lots more updates from your great situation.

    1. Hello Jacki,
      Thanks for your comment! Yes, we are fairly close by, in a similar biogeoclimatic zone. It is definitely very beautiful here and we enjoy the views a lot! How did you find my blog? I'm looking forward to spring too -- it's such a hopeful time of year.


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