Where do we grow from here? …

unripe berriesWith logging, stumping, and grading complete, it’s time to consider how we want to lay out our planting areas for next year. For now, we’ll adjust the soil pH and put down a cover crop to preserve the rich topsoil we have, and consider what we want to grow. Of course, we’ve already done a lot of daydreaming about the types of plants we’d like to put in: more ornamental shrubs and flowers around the house, lots of interesting and tasty vegetables of all types, some berries, and perhaps some saplings that would replace some of the trees we removed and also give us something to eat, either maple syrup or walnuts.

That type of daydreaming is useful and fun, but the next step is a little more difficult: where do we put what? Some of the decisions are already made for us. We didn’t stump the area to the left of the driveway (as you look out from our front porch), so that will remain a wild meadow. We’ll throw down grass and let that compete with the ferns and other naturally occurring plants while keeping an eye out for saplings that might threaten to crowd the driveway again. I’ve dubbed this the “hippie garden,” a place where we can experiment with whimsical features like a gazing ball, yard art, or even a small pond. We might also use it for an area to put our chicken house, if or when we get to that stage.

To the right of the driveway is the much larger expanse of land that runs from the house to the cabin, with a second “field” further off to the right of the house. This second field was an unexpected but welcome outcome from having the area stumped and graded by our contractor, Bob, who really is “an artist with a bulldozer”, as our forester dubbed him. Bob opened up level, firm, rich soil in an area that I, for one, assumed would be too sloping and rocky to be usable. Turns out it was just a big pile of dirt waiting to be smoothed flat. We might use part of this space for a greenhouse or two, but there will be more room for planting as well.

Still a third area that we need to address is the steep slope directly in front of the house. Currently there are some wild blackberries growing there, along with some sumac and various other native…well, weeds. At first, I was trying to convince Rick that we should dig up the weeds and keep the berries, but after getting snagged in their sharp thorns while harvesting the small, somewhat bitter fruits I think it would be better to tear out all the plants and start fresh, either with a variety of cultivated berry with a better taste, or with an low-growing ornamental evergreen like juniper that wouldn’t get out of hand and crowd our amazing view.

Needless to say, we have some ideas but we’re not quite sure how to proceed. Where do we plant the various crops? How large of a vegetable patch should we carve out the first year? Where will the berries go? Do we have a good spot to grow our own hops? (We both have a keen interest in home-brewing.) Luckily, between Rick’s contacts that he’s developed through the Vermont Master Gardeners, our neighbors who have been gardening on a large scale here for over twenty years, and the knowledge we already have from other gardens, we have some good resources to tap into. It just may take a while before we really learn the quirks of our land and this new growing climate.