Digging in a garden is exciting and exhausting work. In February 2012, a friend lent me her tiller, and I spent the next two weeks completely absorbed in the metamorphasis of my garden. In the end, the garden gained 350 square feet of additional space while the gardener gained a bit of salt bath habit and unimaginably filthy fingernails.
The existing garden, which had grown gradually each season I’d lived here, was a large enough space for greens, a few peppers and some herbs. But, I had dreams of squash, beans, and artichoke! Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, I had time (and a tiller!) on my hands. The time had come. I’d had designs on that patch of grass for years and had already taken the first steps to eradicate the Bermuda grass by covering the area with a large pool cover that I found in our shed (you can see blue bits of it in the photo below).
An aside about that pool cover: This garden used to be a big hole in the ground. Our landlord had big plans to make it into a swimming pool with a Sand Castle-themed fence (hence the turrets), but he never finished it. I’m so relieved! Who wants a pool in a drought like this?! Anyway, the pool cover worked perfectly through the summer and baked the underlying grass quite effectively. The only problem came when the wind picked up and blew the sun-weathered pool cover all over the neighborhood. It took several hours to clean it all up and I had to walk further than you might think. I’m so thankful that no one complained! And, the landlord never asked about his pool cover. So, from my perspective, it was an overall win.
Back to the garden expansion.
The first step was the muddy, rainy slog of tilling. Not perfect dig in weather, as it really was too wet to work soil, but a person can’t always wait for perfect. I would advise, though, to avoid tilling any dirt, especially clay, while it’s wet. It does nothing good for the soil structure.
When the tilling was done, I let the rain pass and the dirt rest and then spent several days combing the soil for traces of Bermuda grass. Then, I marked the new rows with string and stakes to measure four feet across with 20-inch pathways. The four-foot width allows me to reach the middle of the row from both pathways. The pathway width was determined by the wheelbarrow, which I desired to sit flat and sturdy. There was more digging and shaping and FINALLY, I added some hardwood mulch in the pathways and planted a few peas.
The space now rounds out to about 450 square feet of planting space! It keeps me out of trouble (sometimes) and provides a substantial amount of our household vegetables and herbs (including squash, beans and artichoke!).