Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kitchen Garden

Well, I think we're finally zeroing in on a good design for animal-proof vegetable garden. The raised garden beds were built with gophers in mind since they are prolific here. The beds have 1/2" mesh welded wire hardware cloth at their bottoms under the 16 inches of dirt they contain. So far, the gophers have tunneled under the beds but have not managed to penetrate the wire barrier. But, it seems the watch dog here has an appetite for tomatoes, asparagus, strawberries, peas and green beans, among other things, and he would merely help himself whenever opportunity is at hand. So it became evident that some additional form of garden barrier would be required to justify the the labor of growing our own and protect the reward of harvesting it.

At first, we used a 4 foot high frame of 1x2's on top of the raised beds, with bird netting draped over, tied at the corners. I only did this for 2 of the 4 raised beds, in order to see if the plan was a viable solution. It was awkward, and wasn't quite dog-proof. It also dissuaded the gardeners a bit, not a good thing. The bird netting snagged on you if you glanced at it.

So I doubled-down and made removeable chicken wire panels to fit inside the 4 foot high 1x2 frames. Dog-proof, yes! But still a decided disincentive to garden if everytime you want to tend it you have to unlock and remove these ungainly and unsightly jail cage panels. Meanwhile, the other 2 raised beds were planted with veggies the dog hasn't developed a taste for; kale, chard, onions, spinach, herbs, potatoes. However, the cats decided they liked those 2 raised beds for their own purposes, which do not mesh well with the concept of vegetable garden.

I realized I'd have to protect all 4 beds if I was to have a garden sanctuary safe from predators and despoilers. But the dubious aesthetics, expense, work to build and functional awkwardness of the 4 foot high panels argued for a new approach. Then it hit me...A 2 foot high panel on top of the raised bed would certainly work to keep the dog out, and I was fairly certain that the cats would not be inclined to negotiate the 40+" jump to get in to the confined space of the clean dirt merely to, well, it would be easier for them to just find a place out in the open. If I cut the existing panels in half, I could finish all 4 beds with panels only half as ugly and more than twice as easy to garden around and need hardly any new material.

The nice thing about this idea is that there are additional advantages that were not even apparent at the outset. Like, it's not even always necessary to remove the panels to tend the garden; I can easily reach over them to weed and harvest many areas. The reduced height makes the panels much less of an eyesore, a more efficient use of material, more functional in terms of actually gardening, while still fulfilling their purpose of keeping out the varmints. I'm looking forward to a re-energized motivation to gardening home-grown veggies.

1 comment:

Suzenne said...

Mark, I am always amused, entertained, and educated by your entries -- and now I'm waiting to see the results, and hear about, hopefully, your harvest!