Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Post - Gardening Within Sight of Treeline, by

Today in the News:  Please welcome our newest guest writer, Aspen Bend.  Aspen has been a frind of the family for years and she was one of the first people that I talked to about my blog.  She's a geologist, a teacher, a wife, a mother and one HECK of a barista.  Hope you all enjoy - the season is approaching us fast!

Link of the Day: The Happenings at Aspen Bend



Gardening Within Sight of Treeline, by Aspen Bend 

OK, I admit that we are still quite a distance from the tree line, but at over 8600 feet elevation, we are high enough for the yogurt to explode onto my shirt every time I pop the foil off, for the girls' helium birthday balloons to descend pathetically to the floor within hours, and for the opening of any carbonated beverage to feel like a game of Russian Roulette. If we are at such an elevation as to have our coastal-dwelling house guests gasping for breath merely from the effort of getting up from the sofa, then just imagine how our unsuspecting garden plants must feel when I drag them up the mountain and plant them here. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that planting outside before Memorial Day is a recipe for almost certain disaster. Add to that the problems associated with living in a forest that is teeming with voracious wildlife, and gardening here can be a bit of a challenge.I had absolutely no experience with gardening growing up. We didn't even have house plants. Our yard was a little suburban wilderness where the vegetation fended for itself while having no tangible involvement with the occupants of our house. My husband at least grew up in the presence of well-landscaped yards and the occasional fruit tree, but he didn't really participate in said landscaping. So we were venturing into uncharted territories when we started gardening. We had to invest in quite a lot of infrastructure when we first built our garden in order to protect our little plants from the elk, deer, rabbits, foxes, squirrels, birds, raccoons, bears, and whatever else lurks around here looking for a free meal.

e got a taste of just how ambitious those woodland critters can be when we planted a baby cherry tree two years ago. I had been told that a Montmorency cherry tree would do well at our elevation, so we went to the garden store and toted home our new little tree. We dug an enormous hole, removing mounds of our free native dirt and replacing it with expensive new dirt. Then we added peat moss, root stimulator, compost, and, judging by the cost, probably a bag full of diamond dust--whatever the garden store guy told us to buy. We were determined to give our baby tree the best possible start in its new semi-hostile home. We knew that it would need to be fenced and netted and eventually staffed by armed guards, but we thought that all of that could wait a day or two; it was getting dark and we needed to put Jelly Bean to bed. After we had been inside for no more than an hour, my husband happened to look out the window and saw a small herd of deer eating our new cherry tree. He went tearing out of the house, yelling, arms waving, and still the deer stood placidly munching on our tree. They didn't bother to move until he actually threw rocks at them. He wound up tearing out some fencing from our property line and building a fortress around the tree that very night by light of the car's high beams.As a result of all of this harassment by the local wildlife, we designed the "Veggie Vault" when we started our garden two years ago.It is completely surrounded, including the top, by rabbit wire. It has served us moderately well for two years, but we are expanding this year. As it happens, we chose its location more for convenience of building than for optimum sunlight, so we have now decided to turn it into our greenhouse. We plan to add plastic panels and grow lights and subsequently move beyond the stage of novice gardeners and into the advanced realm of novice greenhouse gardeners. The new garden is going to be out back in the dog's yard. We figured that if we fenced a garden inside the larger fenced area, then we might stand a better chance of defending against the wildlife.We got started on clearing and marking the new plot yesterday. It was a really gorgeous, sunny, warm day--one of the first this year--and Eeyore couldn't resist playing hooky from work and playing outside instead. It was the only day besides Easter that he hasn't been to the office since tax season got seriously under way in late February. We debated the boundaries, marked them with string, and got started raking and clearing. We also took down four rather enormous trees under the guise of clearing a "defensible space" (forest-dweller lingo) near the house, but we really did it because they cast deep shadows upon our proposed garden. Eeyore dearly loves using his chainsaw.
You might be wondering why we are going to so much trouble and expense for this garden, and I wouldn't blame you. Our harvests are pathetic--pumpkins the size of tennis balls, carrots and zucchini the size of fingers, and precious few of those. Last year we were joking about eating a $200 salad after the total costs were tallied (including the 1000-gallon water tank filled by a truck since we cannot use our scarce supply of groundwater outside--did I not mention that yet?). And it's not as if we don't have a ready supply of fruits and vegetable available here. There are two brand new big chain supermarkets ten minutes down the road. The thing is...the kids love it. Jelly Bean is absolutely enchanted when those first green shoots break the soil. She wants to work in the garden every day, and she will eat anything that we grow. I truly believe that growing a garden can teach so many lessons to my children--lessons about patience, delayed gratification, healthful eating, responsibility, good stewardship of the environment. There is an invaluable supply of teachable moments provided by the garden. So keep watch here for updates on the exciting developments in the Veggie Vault and the as-yet-unnamed new plot. If we're really lucky, then we might get a cucumber into the Museum of Miniatures.


Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,

Mike, Oscar, Hotel.....out.


  1. One of the reasons I gave up growing Christmas trees about ten years ago was because the deers ate them faster than I could grow them. That was after being in the business for 28 years.

  2. We have found that white marker tape (basically plastic without the adhesive on a 50 or 100 ft roll) strung out loosely on stakes so it moves in the breeze is quite effective at keeping deer away. Now, of course, its counterproductive when the dog decides to run through , but the white-tail around here are run off by the movement. Oh, another little tip I have picked up over the years is to put a small twig in the ground next to young plants (especially tomatoes when they are about 2 in. tall) to keep cut-worms from destroying the plant. And a little soapy water on the leaves will keep tobacco worms away too, which destroy EVERYTHING you have.

    Have you checked the PH of the soil? We have found that our Blueberries wont produce at all unless the PH is just right.

    I can't wait to see how things turn out! Great to see home gardening is still kicking strong!


  3. Oh, that's interesting, TWT, about the soil pH. A friend sent me some little baby huckleberry bushes late last season, and I've been hoping that they'll do well this summer. I'll be sure to look into their optimum pH since they're a bit like blueberries.

  4. I think our blueberries require a PH below 7 (around 5 actually) and I would say huckleberry's require about the same.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful share!! it was a pleasure reading your post!