Chapel Hill Treehouse

A decidedly mixed bag of musings by andrew reynolds, professor of political science at UNC Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Secret Garden


One of the greatest unfulfilled yearnings resulting from moving from town to town (London-Cape Town-San Diego-Stockholm-South Bend-Chapel Hill) was always moving on before getting to see the flowers that I had planted acually bloom. But now, after a year in the first house I have ever owned, you can imagine how joyful it is that the Treehouse came with a beautifully planned, rugged, sloping garden of dogwoods, redbuds, magnolias, azeleas, bulbs and ferns. To this I have already seen the fruits of my daffodil enrichment, tulip festival and soon to be poppies (Afghan?) and glads.

But the real pizza restistance has to be my embryonic vegetable garden which lives behind the green shed in a glade of tall lush trees that let slivers of hot Carolina sun through to bathe the dirt in warmth. The vegetable garden is a folly of love on a number of levels: a) I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, b) the site may not be sunny enough, c) I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.

I began after the last frost churning up a 10x15ft square and clearing out the red clay, dead pets and metamorphic rocks that lay within. After getting The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (Ed Smith) suitably muddy and creased I prepared two raised beds of topsoil, fertiliser and hope. I had visions of building a delightfully crumbly brick wall around the whole thing and staging vinettes of Room with a View (with my ex-gf Helena Bonham-Carter) but my neighbour Coulter wisely pointed out that I should see if anything grew first before taking out planning permission for the Great Wall of Carolina.

So today the raised beds are surrounded by mesh and green posts - leaving enough room for adventrous gophers, rabbits and snakes to dig up the seedlings while keeping out only the most disabled deer. It is not very well fortified but now has a very scary scarecrow named 'Sophia' which actually keeps me away, let alone the animals.

Like any virgin gardener I have planted every vegetable know to humanity. The photo above shows corn, radishes, Brussels Sprouts, lettuce (mix), leeks, basil, tomato plants and a pepper. In the unseen bed to the right are cucumbers, spring onions, eggplants, more corn, a melon, pumpkin, carrots and a strawberry bush (dying). But all in all everything is doing great...neat rows of greenness and we will be feeding the 5,000 during one week in the Fall at this rate.

It is all very exciting and I go out and do detailed study of the garden twice a day at least. Updates will follow.


My one issue is with thinning (see radishes and lettuces above) I know I should be taking a chainsaw to the 1cm apart sprouts but its so HARD to murder them! (But I do understand that I must :(

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