Idea capture

I just had what I think might be a great idea, and I feel excited and energized by figuring it out.

This is good because I’ve been feeling not very interested in, hopeful about, or excited by anything at all, which is always a worrisome place to be if you have ever suffered a past major depression episode. You find yourself wondering, “Is this a normal stress/grief response to a pile-up of loss in an isolating time of general stress due to a basically unchecked pandemic and its fall out, or am I about to get taken down by a black wave of depression?”

I’m not big on raised beds for various reasons, but largely because I don’t care to source the amount of soil needed to fill them.

But, this gardening season I have faced some challenges and had some realizations:

  • I have the garden design taste of someone with a much larger budget for garden maintenance staff than I have (which is none). I can deal with a messy tangle of things ok, but what really pleases my eye and soul is structure and order and neatness. It is always a relief when I plant in the well-defined areas I’ve already established as beds.
  • Having random chickens and a wild turkey around make so much extra work in the garden. If I want mulch to stay on an area, I have to fence it in with at least a 6″ high chicken wire barrier so the chickens can’t kick the mulch out.
  • The chickens and Lurkey really like to eat any sprout or fruit, so I have also spent a lot of time creating taller fence barriers and covering tomato plants with netting. I put 2-foot tall fencing around the blackberry-and-strawberry patch bed to protect some of the fruit from these birds.
  • The guinea fowl are much less likely to eat seedlings or scratch a whole bed up, but do have a proclivity for creating dust wallows in inconvenient areas and trampling things while they chase each other around the yard.
  • Making individual cages to put around seedlings is time consuming and annoying and, if you forget to remove them in time, can be a problem later.
  • All the fences and netting make it difficult to get at the plants inside them to harvest, weed, or remove pests. I need to sit or kneel on the ground to do this kind of work, due to a hip problem that prevents much bending, so even a low fence blocks my reach.
  • Cabbage worms decimating my collards and kale, squash borers and bugs, etc. I have read that insect barrier over the plants can be a helpful deterrent.

So I had been pondering several questions:

  • What can I do to introduce a more structured look to planting areas without hiring a hardscaper?
  • How to install insect barrier securely, especially as crop
  • Is there a way to make easily removable poultry-blocking fence panels that I can remove and replace quickly and easily as I am maintaining beds?
Photo on page 86 of The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, by Niki Jabbour

The above photo sparked my idea!

My idea is to build modular low bed frames with 2x4s with the dimensions all evenly divisible by 2-feet. (4×4′, 4×8′, etc.)

The key thing would be to install on the outside edges, at regular intervals (every 2′) pipe straps or some other hardware. The purpose of these would be so I could easily slide in/out fence panels created by attaching a length of dowel or pvc tubing to each end of  a 2′ length of fencing. Or, if I needed a row cover, to secure the ends of a bent-over longer piece of pvc tubing.

The low beds would create visual structure and some mulch containment without requiring any significant fill soil. They could also possibly be moved around if I decided to redesign an area.

The fencing attached on the outside of 2x4s would not be very strong, but I think it would stand up ok and be a deterrent to yard birds. For some extra stability, I’m sure there’s some kind of clip I could use to attach each panel to the next.

Creating the fence panels would be time consuming and annoying but is easy enough to articulate that I have options for finding help with it. And having a plan to deal with this moving forward feels less annoying than the ongoing jury-rigged solutions that make maintenance more difficult.

I don’t know if this will really work, but it’s worth trying a prototype, maybe later this fall of into winter when there are less pressing tasks at hand. (And fewer biting bugs!)

It is nice to feel the brain clicking into plan-experiment-solve mode again, rather than just feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.