Playing in the dirt.


It’s time to tackle Grow Write Guild Writing Prompt #3, which is the first in what promises to be a very interesting series of posts documenting changes our garden spaces from the beginning of the season through the summer.

My garden is dry and brown right now, in part because three days ago, it was under a layer of airy, dirty snow.  We’re also back under a winter storm warning, so it might well be back under a layer of snow by this time tomorrow.  So, while my seedlings enjoy their continued respite from our harsh climate, my garden looks like this:

A raised garden bed with an A-frame cover next to it.

Last year’s bed and cover.

I set the cover on the ground for the winter, deciding that it would be less damaged by contact with the soil than it would be by being continually blown off the bed and into the fence.  (Wyoming is where the wind lives. It just visits other places.)  I wasn’t sure it was going to survive the winter, either way, so I’m pleased to report that it seems perfectly sound and able to withstand a second season.  I pulled chicken wire across the bed and stapled it down to keep the feral cats from using my garden as a litter box all winter, also with success.  The twine strung every almost-foot is broken in several places, but I expected to need to restring my spacing markers anyway.  I’ll pull the staples for that when I remove the chicken wire, and cut it into suitable lengths to leave for birds to use as nesting material.  The robins have started to arrive, but they’re squabbling about whose bright idea it was to return before it was done snowing.

This year, I’m expanding out a bit to the north, where there are few stands of the tough bunched oats to fight through:

Dry prairie with a fence and some assorted junk.

Oh, the places we’ll go!

The dirt pile in the background was pulled off the front “yard” of the other home on the property, after having been soaked in herbicide so the owner could put in a rock garden.  While the herbicide indicated that it should break down into a harmless form in short order, I don’t plan to trust that dirt pile until I see it covered in weeds other than the ubiquitous and invasive Salsola iberica, or Russian thistle, an ironic symbol of the Old American West better known to many people as “tumbleweed.”  The stuff will grow in the absolute worst conditions, in soil still toxic to most other plants.  I usually pull them up in the hopes of keeping their numbers down to a dull roar, but since they’ll help rehabilitate that soil, I’ll leave what grows there alone.

Some assorted trash has blown in over the winter and will need gathered up and disposed of as appropriate, and that ancient CRT monitor marks the resting place of a beloved house cat, for the entirely pragmatic reason of keeping the foxes out of it.

Don’t let the stark brown fool you, though.  The grass is starting to green up around the base, where the dead blades from last year offer a little protection from the unrelenting wind and freezing temperatures.  Since I took the photos, I have scraped off the top layer from the areas for two new beds, leveled out a “bump” across one of them, removed the monitor (it’s been a couple of years, so there’s no remaining risk) and filled the depression in with the excess I scraped off the two new areas.

There’s still a lot of work ahead, but the first bits are done, so there’s that much less still to do.


Comments on: "Ch-Ch-Changes" (8)

  1. I’m so sorry to hear you have more storms coming…here in Montreal we have our fingers crossed that we’re out of the woods. I expect I was too hasty sowing the carrots, and I don’t know how much more my poor onion seedlings can take!

    • As impatient as I am to get into the garden, this is actually pretty normal weather for us this time of year, and this last round of storms actually brought our snowpack up to 100% of average. Since that’s where all of our water comes from and last year was the driest on record, knowing that we’re not starting this year any further behind than we left last year is actually something of a relief.

      I try not to complain, since it’s the snow up on the mountain that will fill the well here in the valley that lets me water my plants!

  2. Wyoming looks a lot tougher than I imagined. I look forward to seeing the progress photos of your garden. You mentioned having to contend with the critters there. While we have a few coyote and deer in the area, I haven’t had to deal with them at our community garden. The deer at my previous house kept me from trying to grow any vegetables at all.

    • Wyoming is pretty tough. Some parts of the state have a little more water, mostly the western edge. And some parts have a somewhat longer growing season, owing to lower elevations. It’s all pretty rugged terrain and harsh climate, though.

      As for critters, we had a family of skunks living under a shed last year, and there’s the feral cat colony that the whole neighborhood kind of…encourages…so they keep the mice and the pocket gophers down. Despite the robust cat population, we do have a large number of rabbits, and the moles seem to be doing a good job of avoiding the feline dinner bell. Foxes occasionally turn up in the yard, since we’re kind of at the point where the territories for three different pairs meet up, and I suspect that they occasionally take out some of the feral kittens each year. Hawks seem to get a few of them, too. The biggest wildlife we’ve had in the yard in recent years are pronghorn antelope, though a lot of acres burned near here last summer, and we haven’t yet seen how much migration that’s going to cause.

      It was bad enough to go out last summer and come face to face with a skunk…I might give up gardening if I come around the garage and end up face to face with a bear!

  3. Wow, looks like you garden has some great potential and lots of room to grow. That’s exciting! Hope you’re done getting snow now. They say we may get some this week here in Minneapolis, but it will be short lived.

    Here’s my response to prompt #3… My Gardens Right Now


    • Yeah, there’s about half an acre back there that isn’t doing anything else, though I am trying to avoid putting a garden bed plunk down on top of any native plants that are few in number. If I can scrape together the money for it, I’m hoping to put up a high tunnel in time to get a good jump on next spring. As for weather, well, it’s snowing right now, and expected to do that right on through tomorrow. It won’t stick around long at this time of year, though, and the moisture certainly won’t hurt my feelings!

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