The earth grumbles as the wind picks up and the sky furrows in angry, dark clouds. Rain is coming down hard on the horizon and making its way towards us over the neighboring fields. We really should pack up and head out, but after another day of mid to high 90’s, a little downpour could be refreshing. The plants could surely use a little rain. Derek keeps weeding and I hurry to finish the fencing while the heavens open up and shower us with the full force of its might. There are no lightning strikes and the storm brews over in less than fifteen minutes. Who’s to say there isn’t a little excitement in gardening?
Since our debut into the community gardening scene broke ground in early May, our plot thickens with lush, green leaves, ambitious heights, and curious misfortunes. As we increased our occasional garden visits to twice-daily waterings, the plants began to thrive with larger volumes of water. Summer sun beating down on the open plot paired with a couple thunderstorms gave everything a huge growth spurt. Zucchini leaves were twice as large with leaves the size of small children and the sunflowers expanded with thick stems and mid-torso height.
We pledged to make an intentional effort to pull a few weeds every day at our watering visits and set aside a longer time slot once a week to rip out every weed that camouflaged itself among the plants. When the sweet potato slips had enough roots to transplant into the last square of our garden plot, we had to completely heave up the grass patch of weeds that had overtaken our back corner while left to its own devices.
Transplanting sweet potato slips to the garden
Pests have been picking at the sunflower leaves ever since they grew enormously and we’ve been attacking them with the garden hose temporarily and shaking a little white pepper across the top. Unfortunately, any pesticides are completely out of the question as per the rules of maintaining a 100% organic community garden. The white pepper trick has been an improvement for the green beans and we were excited to begin picking our first rounds of its harvest with enough handfuls to each have a serving of fresh green beans with dinner. The beans like to hide underneath the leaves so Derek likes to search for new developments under the flowers while weeding in-between the plants.
Maintaining our garden has been an ongoing endeavor that we truly enjoy investing a little time into each day. Weeding and harvesting is to be expected mid-summer, but we were surprised to find entire sunflower leaves chopped off at the stem along the garden perimeter. Apparently, a hungry deer or other large animal found these leafy greens quite satisfying and couldn’t but help himself to a snack. The community gardeners warned us of the groundhogs and deer that feed on the garden when plants begin to grow. Up until this point, we had simply been keeping watch on the status of our plants and prolonged our defense efforts.
We considered fencing each square with chicken wire or wrapping it around the perimeter, but there was simply not enough wire to complete the job and could quickly add up in garden expenses to fence a seasonal community garden. There would also be the irony of building a fortress to keep out wildlife and then having trouble ourselves to reenter the garden space to work. We split the difference and constructed a fence made of twine criss-crossed around wooden stakes to make it inconvenient for deer but allow us to dip through the open spaces.
How we Built a Temporary Garden Fence:
Supplies: 2 packs of 6 wooden stakes (12 total), 1 pack of screw eyes, 1 roll of twine, 3 rolls of chicken wire
Tools: hammer, rubber mallet, spade, wire cutter, staple gun
- We spaced out the stakes with one on each corner and two on a side so that they were evenly distributed, then dug a small hole at each spot with the spade so that the stake could be pounded into the ground with the rubber mallet hammer and then compress the ground around the base with dirt.
- Rolls of chicken wire were in sections that were 12 inches high and connected to each other with spare wire and twisty ties. At each stake, the wire was stapled to the post. The wire was only wrapped along the base to prevent rabbits and hopefully groundhogs from entering. (Although, apparently groundhogs can climb 4 ft of fencing and dig underneath your fence, or so they say.)
- To insert the screw eyes, we used a hammer and nail to start a hole and then screw the eyelet into the hole on the top and bottom of each stake.
- Twine was tied in the top screw eye and crossed to the next stake for a criss-crossed twine fence and then a line was tied straight through each X down to the chicken wire.
Note: These preventative measures are only deterrents and not permanent solutions to the wildlife that plaque our garden community. However, you can try this at home, it’s quite doable for the everyday man. Mind you, we did construct this fence in a downpour. The photos were taken afterwards when the sunshine returned and our clothes were drenched.
The undertakings of maintaining a community vegetable garden are ongoing and rewarding. We are continually surveying the scene for new issues to troubleshoot and rejoicing when plants bloom and produce. While the wildflower patch has attracted a few butterflies, we thought we would add a few more flowers to our open areas next to a flowering Cantaloupe and Watermelon plant with Lamb’s Ear, Petunias, Lacey Blue Russian Sage, and the Cat’s Pajamas.
We’ve come a long way from where we first started with little to no experience in vegetable gardening. Everything that came out of our garden began as a seed. The hope is for us to learn from our rookie season tending to the plants so that we can eat some of the vegetables we grew and enjoy the flowers that bloom. In the meantime, we cherish the time that the two of us can spend together working in the community garden this summer.
“Gardening is the work of a lifetime: You never finish.”
– Oscar de la Renta