Monday, February 24, 2014

Pallet Garden Placement

Good day to you, dear readers!  What a long and trying winter this has been, hasn't it?  While I normally don't mind the cold and snow much because of the fun it brings with it, this winter has certainly been a lot of work with not so much time left in the day to play.  In fact, it has been so busy that I have been neglectful of you all.  My mother prodded me by gently asking if I still had a blog, lol.  Time flies....

I'm guessing quite a few of you are like me and have started to daydream of green shoots, twittering birds, and any other sign of spring.  The seed catalogs have begun to arrive and the feed store racks are full of garden planning magazines.  I've noticed an increase in gardening posts (and generally anything with the sun in it!) on Pinterest so I thought perhaps this would be a good time to discuss a few of the things I've learned about pallet gardening through my own experimenting.

The considerations on placing your pallet garden in my book are:

  • Sun exposure
  • Wind exposure
  • Convenience
  • Water sources
  • Visual

I have found that having mine along the side of a building (in this case my barn) is a benefit for several reasons:

  • it provides close storage for my tools
  • it shelters one side of the plants thereby reducing wind stress on taller and more delicate plants
  • it provides shade at certain times of the day - important for plants that need help keeping roots cool and conserving water in dry weather
  • it provides an easy way to trellis certain plants
  • in winter it aides the perennials such as strawberries and herbs by reducing exposure and providing add insulation

I chose the north side of my barn strategically (its just coincidence that it covered up a big area that was dug by the dogs and rocky and nothing grew there but creeping charlie...ahem...).  The field side is the west side with the yard on the north and east sides.  

The sun can also be somewhat harsh in the afternoon during the heat of the summer and the barn provides just enough shade late in the day to the plants on the east end of the garden to cool off the plants that are more sensitive.  I did discover that while my tomatoes were healthy and strong this year, planting them on the east side of the garden where they were shaded a little in the afternoon did not give them enough hours of hot sun to encourage ripening as quickly as I would have liked so they will be moved back to the west side this spring.

The wind sometimes comes off the field at a fierce pace no matter the time of year but the barn provides some protection against that - I can plant tall and spindly plants toward the back or in the middle of the garden so they get some wind block from their neighbors.  

My previous attempts at gardening at the edge of the field made me appreciate the convenience factor with placing my pallet garden.  I often had small children tagging along who did not want to stay in the hot, hot sun in the afternoon while I tended the garden - those hose only kept them cool and busy for so long.  I also did not have a convenient place to store my tools and when called back to the house, often those tools were either left in the garden (with best of intentions to go back out...) or brought with me where they ended up on the back deck (unsightly and in the way).  I now have a couple of big pots/buckets in the barn where my tools can be stored while I am doing chores with the critters each evening just steps away from my pallet garden.  This means its easy and quick for me to grab them and do a few things with the garden each evening while I am tending animals and they are much more likely to get put away (which means I can actually find them the next time).

Convenience really matters when it comes to watering as well.  Having the garden where the barn roof slopes toward the garden helps capture the rainwater (really helpful two years ago when we had the drought).  Since I am running the hose out there a couple times a week to water animals, I can usually hook up the sprinkler to run for 15 minutes on the same nights and not have to water the rest of the week (my garden is about 24 feet long so a decent sprinkler can reach the whole thing).  The pallets do help conserve water because the sun is not drying out the soil around the base of the plants so watering does not need to happen as frequently (remember that when planting things sensitive to rot like squash though).  If things look a little dry in a certain area or I am cleaning out the mucky water from the bottom of the stock tank, I can always use a bucket to scoop water from the stock tank to water the garden.  

And then we get to the visual factor.  As I said, this was an area I wanted to cover and pretty up a bit.  I couldn't dig a garden bed here due to the rocks (Ok I could but not without a pick-ax).  This was a solution that took very little time to put together and is very easy to maintain throughout the year.  If you want to see more about the evolution of my little pallet garden, click here, here, herehere or here lol!

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