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.
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.
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.
I didn’t know much about gardening, let alone gardening in Alaska, but, luckily, the plants knew what to do.
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.
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.
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.
Though it seems terribly slow sometimes, these pictures are proof we’re making progress.