We moved here last September (2011) and while I had no real chance to do much in the way of gardening I have been using sound gardening practices to get this year's gardens up and running. The first tendency when moving into a new home is to put the vegetable garden in the same place the former owners had it. However, this is a mistake. What you really need to do is determine whether or not that is the best location on your property for the vegetable garden. You need to be aware of any potential problems like poor soil, rocky soil, too many tree roots and critters. So I have been doing a lot of behind the scenes garden sleuthing! Here's what I found:
- natural lighting - The original garden as we saw it was when the sun was getting lower in the sky. I've tracked it as the sun has moved higher. It does get good east/west coverage as well as some south exposure. I'm confident the original garden bed will be a good location for my new raised beds. In addition to the main gardening area, there are several locations around the perimeter of the backyard that get good but restricted natural lighting.
- soil conditions - I'm not too worried about soil conditions for most of my vegetable garden as it will be in raised beds. The perimeter gardens seem to be doing well. The soil is a bit heavier than I would like so I will be using a couple of soil amendments as I work them up for planting.
- drainage - We live in what our insurance company deems a high flood risk area even though we are not really close to a natural waterway. There is a farmer's field behind us so I've been watching it since we move in. During heavy rainfall the field does flood with large pockets of standing water. They just put in a tiling system to help with drainage which will only help us. Our house is elevated a bit from the field and while we have not noticed any drainage issues with our property, it could be an issue.
- rabbits - I knew with the field we would have rabbits. We have at least two. One loves sitting in the front garden bed looking at the herbs on my windowsill while smacking his lips waiting for me to put them outdoors. The other one simply rang the doorbell, baggage in hand ready to move in. My new raised beds will be constructed in such a fashion to deter the rabbits. I'm using 15 - inch raised PVC beds so will add extra protection to keep rabbits out of those beds. I'm still debating what to use as a barrier for anything planted in the ground so will cross that road when the problem occurs. We also have to replace our fence so the new design may help keep rabbits out but I doubt it as they can easily dig under fences.
- carpenter ants - Carpenter ants are not a problem for actual fruits and vegetables but they are a problem for wood raised beds. We have a carpenter ant problem that is being treated so I decided to go with PVC raised beds that will eliminate any problems in that respect.
- yellow jackets - We have four fruit trees. The ripe fruit attracts yellow jackets in large quantities creating a safety issue. I covered all of the openings to the pool filter where they were swarming and blocked holes in the two bird houses left behind. The biggest thing we will have to do to discourage the yellow jackets is keep the fruit picked before it has a chance to become over ripe.