Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Garden notes

If you've been following my blog, then you know that last July we sold our house in New York, packed up the teenagers and the parakeet, and drove cross-country to California's central coast. We rented a house for six months, and immediately embarked on finding a place to call our own. We found one, and moved in a couple of weeks before Christmas.

It's a fairly new house, and the previous owners had never gotten around to doing anything with the backyard. The front yard had been nicely (if unimaginatively) landscaped by the builders, but the back yard was left pretty much alone. Other than a small lawn, ringed by a row of bushes spaced 20 or so feet apart, the yard is bare.

Well, except for the gophers. We have a thriving population of gophers.

We naively thought that we'd call in a landscaper and hire them to solve our bare yard problem. We have a bit of cash to spend, and figured how much could it cost? Uh, times our budget by about five, and that didn't include plants. We'd really hoped to include plants.

So we figured we'd just do it ourselves. After all, I've already made two gardens; this one is just a bit bigger. My first garden was a city plot, about a sixth of an acre, and a lot of that was house. Our New York house sat on half an acre. This house is on three-quarters of an acre; the front yard is small, and the house is two story, so I'm estimating about half an acre of bare land lies outside of our back door. We immediately decided that we'd go slow.

Today I decided to find out what our dirt is made of. Good news; although it's got a lot of clay in it, there is also some sand, not a lot of humus, but enough to make it fairly easy to dig. Our recent rains had penetrated the top four to six inches, and it wasn't in the least bit soggy. I dug five large holes for trees; our first order of business is to put in some bare root fruit trees. I wanted to dig the holes before buying the trees, just in case digging was harder than I expected. It was much easier than I expected, so that's good.

Unfortunately, four out of my five holes crossed gopher runs. I let the water run, hoping to find the end, but three of them just kept draining. I poured enough water down there to cause them some consternation; I will wait and watch to see how they react. In the meantime, I'm going to research gophers. They're smaller than woodchucks, but I gather they're every bit as difficult to deal with.

Let the battle begin!

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