Row 8: The Trellis
Here I erect a 125-foot-long, 6-foot-tall net trellis for gourmet delicacies like pole peas and pole beans. The bean vines block almost all water that would to on beyond it and so this row gets more irrigation than it otherwise might. The peas are harvested early enough to permit a succession sowing of Purple Sprouting broccoli in mid-July. Purple Sprouting needs a bit of sprinkling to germinate in the heat of midsummer, but, being as vigorous as kale, once up, it grows adequately on the overspray from the raised bed. The beans would be overwhelmingly abundant if all were sown at one time, so I plant them in two stages about three weeks apart. Still, a great many beans go unpicked. These are allowed to form seed, are harvested before they quite dry, and crisp under cover away from the sprinklers. We get enough seed from this row for planting next year, plus all the dry beans we care to eat during winter. Dry beans are hard to digest and as we age we eat fewer and fewer of them. In previous years I’ve grown entire rows of dry legume seeds at the garden’s edge.
Row 9: Cucurbits
This row is so wide because here are grown all the spreading cucurbits. The pole beans in row 8 tend to prevent overspray; this dryness is especially beneficial to humidity-sensitive melons, serendipitously reducing their susceptability to powdery mildew diseases. All cucurbits are fertigated every three weeks. The squash will have fallen apart by the end of September, melons are pulled out by mid-September. The area is then tilled and fertilized, making space to transplant overwintered spring cabbages, other overwintered brassicas, and winter scallions in October. These transplants are dug from nurseries on the irrigated raised bed. I could also set cold frames here and force tender salad greens all winter.
Row 10: Unirrigated Potatoes
This single long row satisfies a potato-loving household all winter. The quality of these dry-gardened tubers is so high that my wife complains if she must buy a few new potatoes from the supermarket after our supplies have become so sprouty and/or shriveled that they’re not tasty any longer.
I am an unusually fortunate gardener. After seven years of struggling on one of the poorest growing sites in this region we now live on 16 acres of mostly excellent, deep soil, on the floor of a beautiful, coastal Oregon valley. My house and gardens are perched safely above the 100-year flood line, there’s a big, reliable well, and if I ever want more than 20 gallons per minute in midsummer, there’s the virtually unlimited Umpqua River to draw from. Much like a master skeet shooter who uses a .410 to make the sport more interesting, I have chosen to dry garden.
Few are this lucky. These days the majority of North Americans live an urban struggle. Their houses are as often perched on steep, thinly soiled hills or gooey, difficult clay as on a tiny fragment of what was once prime farmland. And never does the municipal gardener have one vital liberty I do: to choose which one-sixth of an acre in his 14-acre “back yard” he’ll garden on this year.