Last fall we decided that this year we were going to greatly expand our garden. We wanted to grow more vegetables and herbs, and if possible expand on the "mini-orchard". Well, I'm sure you've heard all the old sayings about people who make plans ...
Early in the spring, Big Guy put in a raised bed along the side fence. The bed is two feet deep, and about thirty feet long. He even bought what was supposed to be really good topsoil for it - didn't even need compost dug into it, according to the seller. We planted peas, green beans, wax beans, zucchini, pickling cucumbers, pumpkins, and onions along the fence side, and in front of those we put in basil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, garlic, thyme, and sage. As always, we filled the long planter with tomato seedlings, and the round planter got new rhubarb rootstock to replace what the squirrels killed last year. We even got two hazelnut tree seedlings from his brother and put them in the sunny side of the front yard, near the old Gravenstien apple tree. We fertilized the young fruit trees in the back yard (Queen Anne and Van cherries, Italian prune plums, and Bartlett pears) and the blackcurrant bush, and I sowed lavender under the front windows. The weather was shaping up nicely and it looked like we'd have another good long growing season - just like the one we failed to take advantage of last year.
And then it got cold. And it rained, and rained, and rained ... and it stayed cold. And it rained some more.
Almost everything drowned ... and the few seedlings that didn't drown first were eaten by cold, wet, hungry squirrels.
When the sun finally came out again, we replanted everything. Well, everything but the fruit trees - on which almost every single blossom had been battered to death by the rain before they could be pollinated, since the poor bees couldn't fly through all that nasty weather. And we rounded up all the spare tomato cages and wire hangers we could find and twisted them all into frameworks to keep the local wildlife from eating our efforts again.
If - and it's a really big "if" at this point - the weather and the local fauna cooperate, we might just get a modest harvest this year, but it's not looking good. As far as I can tell, right now we can expect a grand total of five apples, about two dozen plums, eight hazelnuts, and a liberal supply of chives. The tomato plants have only just begun to blossom, the green beans are about six inches high, and the rhubarb looks like half a dozen spindly green sticks with palm-sized leaves at the ends.
Everything else got an inch high and gave up. We were totally baffled, since according to all our gardening experience we'd done everything right. It wasn't until we got talking with a neighbour who was having the same problems that we found out what's wrong ... and we are absolutely livid, especially since this late in the year there's not much we can do about it.
The neighbour had bought his topsoil from the same place we got ours. When his second plantings died he got suspicious and had his soil tested, and discovered that it's not good topsoil at all; apparently it was "fill" from a construction project. The supposedly reputable garden centre had found a chance to make money on the same dead, worthless dirt twice - first they got paid to haul it away, and then they sold it as "good" growing soil! We were all able to get our money back, but it doesn't begin to make up for what we won't be harvesting this year. I can't even begin to describe how disappointed we are right now.
We're planning to dig in all the compost we can muster this fall, mulch the raised bed and planters, and dig in more compost and peat moss in the spring. With that, judicious use of Miracle Gro, and cooperative weather and bees, we might coax some good crops out of the garden next year.
Now, if I can only figure out how to get the squirrels, raccoons, possums, and blue jays to stay out ... the wire cages by themselves just aren't doing it and we can't keep critters out of the fruit and nut trees. But at least the chicken wire over the soil keeps the cats from using the garden ...