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Neighbor garden development

27 Apr

After many, many hours of weeding and mulching, the garden is ready for planting!

Some extra hands joined us two weeks ago to weed, paper, add rabbit litter, and then mulch the second third of the garden. We’ll plant the front section first, and then wait a few weeks before planting the second section. By that point, much of the paper will have broken down.

We had so many wormy friends, I just hope that pulling up all of the soil didn’t mean a smörgåsbord for the birds.

Then a quick mow in the back where the sitting area will be and we added a few wheel barrows of leaf mulch back there, too. Hopefully we’ll just have to mow/weed whack it to keep the grass and weeds down, but we’ll use the whole space as a border from the grass outside the fence. We’ll add some plastic edging between the back and middle sections to try to keep the grass and weeds out of the main area, but we’ll still have to keep an eye on that front part. Just before the back section, we have some strawberries, a blueberry bush and a raspberry bush. Yay fruit!


Monday evening we headed out to pick up some supplies. Siggy joined us to pick up 16″ pavers for the center path (HEAVY), some veggie and wildflower seeds, plastic edging, buckets and potting mix for potatoes, and a few other bits and pieces. He was very helpful.


We raked out a bit of the mulch to level the ground and then laid the paving stones. They will hopefully eventually settle into the soil here so they’re flush with the ground, but I don’t think they’ll shift too much. The path creates a nice visual point for the garden and makes a safe walkway so we can avoid walking on the soil when not working in the beds. We’ll need to pick up a few more pavers to complete the path, as our initial measurements weren’t so exact…oops.

We also had a visit from my friend Becky, a VCE Master Gardener and fellow FOUA board member. She suggested we remove the white mulberry that is actually invasive in our area, so we got on that and hacked away at the roots. At the bottom of this photo is where the strawberries live. We were excited to discover them (they’re starting to bloom and have teeny berries right now) and also the blueberries in the bottom right corner.




Here is the finished garden, ready for planting next weekend! We’ll use some of the seeds we picked up, and I started cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and sunflowers that we’ll move in about 2-3 more weeks.

Later that evening, I did a little time traveling and had a look at our future garden. I’m quite pleased with our progress.

New garden and new friends!

4 Apr

Now, I’m not giving up my status as Roof Garden Gal, but when neighbors I didn’t know before messaged me asking if I really am “super gardener,” well, I couldn’t say no. Turns out, they had just been approved for one of the coveted garden plots in an Arlington County public community garden. Really….the list was long before the pandemic, and now it has grown to over 1,000 people! They got on the list in the before times.

Their new plot is in a great garden that’s about a 15 minute walk from home. They asked if I’d be willing to help them get started, as neither of them have gardened before. I’m not one to say no to dirt, so this weekend we jumped in. Based on what they have in mind for their plot, I created an action plan.

FYI… 20’x10′ is a HUGE plot, especially for new gardeners. That’s considered a half plot, too. My neighbors decided to work the front 2/3 and keep the back 1/3 as a little sitting spot. They’ll add chairs and a little table and make it a lovely spot to enjoy the nice weather.

I was really happy to run into some garden folks I know through FOUA and Plot, and I was even able to connect with a woman who’s new in town and looking for opportunities to help in a garden. This is why I always carry business cards with me! I gave her a FOUA card and she actually emailed me that night.

Back to the weeds. This particular plot hadn’t been worked in about two seasons, as the previous gardener had some medical issues and was unable to tend to it. It was packed with weeds. She apparently made some smart decisions that benefitted us, as she had put down some landscape fabric. I suggested we treat it like a newish raised bed and start from the bottom:

  • WEED (Get everything up, regardless of its actual identity.)
  • LEVEL (Level out the existing soil.)
  • NEWSPAPER (Several layers of newspaper to smother whatever else is there)
  • LITTER (Hey, if you have access to rabbit poop, you use it.)
  • MULCH (The county supplies lovely leaf mulch to the garden. You haul it to your plot from a big pile.)

There are a few berry bushes that we left, but everything else came up. We watered in between each layer. (BLESSED ON-SITE WATER!) The soil looked amazing, there were tons of healthy looking wormies in there doing their thing. Thanks to the pieces of landscape fabric, all we had to do was pull up the sections that were still there, shake out the dirt, and move on. This way, we were able to disturb very little of the layers of soil bacteria that have built up over the last two years.

This was about 7 hours of work over two days. Three people the first day, five the second. Many hands make light work! That was the bulk of the heavy work, I think. Maybe cleaning up that back part, too. We’ll have ot put in some deep edging pieces to keep the grass from leaving the sitting area. Gotta see how that will work. Hopefully we’ll get some rain this week, but if not we’ll go back and water the mulch some more. It should break down in about 4-6 weeks. I’m thinking that next weekend after layering the second bed, we’ll add some more mulch to the first bed, and then plant some seeds there. The second bed will be about two weeks behind for the whole season. Turning the clods of weeds over reveled those yummy beneficial worms and also some evil grubs. Thankfully, other garden neighbors were more than willing to help us out.

My neighbors want to put a walking path through the middle using large pavers, which is a super idea. It will make a safe stepping place, differentiate the beds, create visual interest, and cut down on some of the space to work.

The one thing we forgot to do was a soil test, but I’m not too worried about that at this point. We can always do it when we return next weekend. (See the How & Why To Test Your Garden Soil I made last year)

There was already chicken wire in good condition in the plot, so we’ll get some new stakes and reuse the wire to create a fence. We were warned to protect young seedlings with individual barriers. LOTS of bold critters enjoy this garden, including this guy, who was more annoyed that we were interrupting his dinner than anything else.

Speaking of creatures….I didn’t pass up this opportunity to pick a few pesticide-free dandelions for the buns. Considering they’re also going to be contributing to the garden, it is compensation. Theo, of course, was not interested, and Ellie, of course, ate both.

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