Monday, 15 February 2010

Chronicles of a new garden: the beginning

by Francesca

This year I have to start a brand new garden. I had a hard time wrapping my head around this fact, but it's necessary: last year all but a few of our crops were devoured or stomped on by deer, which were introduced in the area some years back, and have reproduced at an astonishing rate (I posted about this here, and here). Previously, the only four-legged threat to gardens, orchards and vineyards in this area was wild boars, so we'd surrounded our vegetable garden with a 1-meter-high fence: wild boars don't jump. Deer, however, jump magnificently – a lot higher than 1 meter. After much consideration, we decided that building a new 3-or-more-meter anti-deer barrier on our rented land didn't make much sense. So the only solution is to relocate the garden, and start all over again.

The plot I've chosen is a thin strip of terraced land directly behind our house. It's naturally protected on three sides by steep drywall terrace walls and thick vegetation, and will only require fencing on one small side. Hopefully it will be close enough to the house to keep the deer at bay.

The primary requirements for a garden are water, good sun exposure and adequate size (soil quality and drainage can be improved with some work).

I mention water first because using drinking water to water fields and vegetable gardens (lawns are virtually unknown hereabouts) is frowned upon. Fortunately, it isn't necessary: there's an old irrigation system that supplies spring and rainwater to much of the hillside, and I'll be able to water our future garden by running a hose from the nearest spout.


Sun exposure, however, is more problematic. An ideal garden should be oriented east-west and have a southern exposure. Our terrace is oriented east-west, but it's just north of the house, and lies in its shade for the better part of the winter. Not ideal. The good news is that I'm a wimp when it comes to gardening in cold and windy winter weather, anyway, so I won't lose much gardening time. But, I wonder whether my beloved perennial herbs will survive the winter in the cold shade. We'll just have to wait and see.

Adequate size is the real problem. The terrace is, in fact, just a fraction of what we've had until now. Well, less for the deer to eat, I tell myself, should they find some clever way of breaking and entering. But I am hoping that, despite the radically reduced dimensions of our garden, I'll be able to bring more vegetables to our table this summer than I did the previous one.

I'm starting the work on this new garden now. Although it's a little too early in the year to work the soil, there are a lot of preliminary chores to take care of, so that when the time comes to start hoeing, everything else will be ready.

I'll be chronicling the progress of setting up and tending a new garden in this space.