In the Beginning, There Was A Garden

Today, our main garden has 350 square feet of raised beds. Then there are the strawberry/raspberry beds (probably another 350 square feet), the Million Dollar Flower Bed, Chili’s Flower Bed, and what is currently the overflow bed (maybe 100 square feet), home to rhubarb, potatoes, and various veggies that don’t fit anywhere else.

The whole gardening/yardscaping thing began in 2007 with this, eighty square feet of topsoil trucked in by a neighbor, carried in 5-gallon buckets by me and Mike, contained in leftover-siding boxes, and sitting atop silty clay that turned to slick, quicksand-like mud in the rain.

Raised garden beds in mud

Oh, the mud! The first two garden beds on the silty mud of the septic field.

We put up a temporary and not-at-all-strong fence to encourage moose to walk around the raised beds. At first, I don’t think they even noticed it was there. They’d just walk right through it. But they didn’t eat much, if anything, in the beds.

We pounded the green metal posts in while the clay was mud. Several are still in the expanded garden—and in the way—because we haven’t been able to get them out. When that clay dries, it’s hard.

Broken string where moose walked through the fence.

See the broken strings on the ground? We put the rag flags on the strings to make them more visible to the moose. “What? There was something there? I didn’t notice a fence.”

Pretty soon, the moose seemed to get the idea, and they’ve been very accommodating since. None of our fences are strong enough to keep a determined moose out of a garden, but except for an occasional curious calf, they stay out. We have very considerate and polite moose. As a result, I’ve decided to not fence the strawberry/raspberry bed completely, but rather to fence the corners so the moose are directed up the center path should they wish to go up the hill. It’s not a perfect system, some moose still tromp through the beds (there’s nothing to distinguish them as anything special), but mostly they walk up the path. They don’t eat the strawberries and seem to wait until after berry season to prune the raspberry stalks.

Moose questioning the not-at-all-strong fence.

What is this thing? You mean you want me to go around it? Oh. Okay.

I didn’t know much about gardening, let alone gardening in Alaska, but, luckily, the plants knew what to do.

Bob watering the garden.

First-year garden, in August. It’s growing well!

The little garden provided all sorts of greens, radishes, beets, and peas. I had no idea how to harvest kale and collards, so I let them grow until they looked like the bunches I had seen in stores. These days, I harvest younger leaves as they grow rather than waiting for a whole “head.”

I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to expand the garden the following year.

Lots of greens growing in the garden.

September 7, 2007. How the garden grows!

We were especially excited to try growing tomatoes in buckets on the deck. Early and late in the season, we carried the buckets inside at night.

Tomato plants in 5-gallon buckets on the deck.

Tomato plants in 5-gallon buckets on the deck.

We got our first ripe tomatoes in October. I hate to say it, but they weren’t that great. We’ve grown tomatoes a few times since, even building a cold frame for the deck, but the results have never seemed worth the effort. If we ever build a greenhouse, I’ll have another go.

Red tomatoes on the vine.

We had vine-ripened tomatoes in October.

Though it seems terribly slow sometimes, these pictures are proof we’re making progress.

Today's 350-square-foot garden.

The garden today. The original two beds are in there.

Categories: Alaska, Gardening

10 replies »

  1. WOW! Your garden sure is expanding! You should have plenty of veggies to feed you and the moose. And your tomatoes look wonderful — even if they aren’t so tasty.

  2. There will be no more expanding of the main garden. It’s enough to feed us, and all I care to handle. We’ll continue to work on other beds and yardscaping in an effort to beautify. The wild tundra inches in every day, ready to take over when we move on or even turn our backs for a bit. I struggle with wanting to let the land be wild and wanting things to be my definition of “pretty.”

  3. Hey, get that moose out of there! Nice tomatoes. You have so much garden, you may have to open a roadside veggie stand.

  4. A neighbor would like to have such a veggie stand. I told her I’d pick blueberries for her! Our garden feeds us year round.

  5. It looks great Jen! Our garden got off to a slow start this year here in MD but it is coming along. Our peas are up and coming along. Our lettuce and green beans are up and our tomatoes are blooming along with our squash and pepper plants. I am hoping that it does well since we eat a lot out of it in the summer. I can the tomatoes too and sometimes the beans if we have enough. I hope you get plenty of goodies for this summer and the coming fall/winter. Loved the pictures!!!

  6. Thanks, Linda. I’m making an effort to improve my photography, but I’ll never have the patience or eye Mike has.

  7. I love our polite moose, too! Town moose can be so grumpy and impolite. I understand why, but that doesn’t make it better.

  8. Thanks, Cindy! It’s fabulous to e-see you here! One of these days I’ll give peppers a go, but they’ll be a long shot like tomatoes and beans. It’s fun to try, though, and sometimes we get lucky. It’s been kinda cool recently; we could use some warmth.