October in New England is all about transition: from brilliant flaming leaves all around to subdued russets and bare limbs; from verdant final zinnia, verbena, squash, peppers, tomatoes, leeks, and potatoes to frost and empty garden beds. Right around now I start reading to remind myself how to put everything to bed for the winter.
The change-over inspires me to pause and think about what I can do with a winter’s rest. What dreams light me up? October– which ends with the Celtic New Year Samhain, better known in the states as Halloween –is a time to set intentions that will carry you through another growth cycle.
This year I was inspired to create garden structures. I wanted to expand my vegetable garden and to create a traditional kitchen garden. Both of my garden spaces felt disorganized; to me the appearance of my garden is as important as the health of the plants and what they produce. So I wanted to spend time this year creating beautiful structures for my vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
The vegetable garden is an area that was once a horse’s pen, adjacent to our stable. It had an irregular shape and was too small for the rows I wanted to plant. So we started there, drawing a plan – actually we made several drawings, debating the merits of each, before settling on one and on the size of the garden. We measured it, looked online for fence posts, settled on 9 foot posts at lowe’s since we have deer that jump through that space, and installed them using a small sledgehammer. We put wildlife netting on the top portion and a heavier gauge wire fence on the bottom for deer and rabbits/woodchucks, which had mixed effectiveness since a rabbit got to my carrots.
I used some old boards and pavers I had collected to help managed weeds between the rows, and Jon moved our compost pile to the back north corner. We created a box to house strawberries and created new beds for squash, pictured here in the forefront of the picture. Beds of cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, radish, asparagus, and green beans are seen here further away.
This project started with a feeling early last winter that I wanted an installation to garden in. It will carry on for a few years as I buy pavers and lug them out back to level the ground and seat them. I do this myself and it’s time consuming but it gives me a feeling of satisfaction to construct the space with my own hands.
Below, a photo of a few weeks later — the structure was hard to see from outside the garden but the walking paths all made getting around easy and pleasant:
The vegetable garden produced a ton of food this year. It’s not exactly what I want it to be, yet: the walkway between the asparagus and what was green beans and peppers this year is too narrow. I’ll figure out how best to fix that for next year and I’ll tune the design and lay walkways and more trellising to support tall tomatoes and peppers.
Long winter nights bring a kind of mystery and magic that lends itself to connecting with hidden, heart felt desires and creative urges. There’s time to imagine how projects and ideas will come to life when the days lengthen and warm and the asparagus, bulbs, and forsythia are emerging and blooming…