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Monday, April 04, 2011

Vegetable Garden Project Management

Tulipa biflora
“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare

It occurred to me as I stood on the edge of the recently cleared vegetable garden on Sunday that I only needed to figure out where one of the beds would be and then I could sow seeds for my peas, and lettuce, spinach, and radishes.

So that’s what I did.

I also paid the bill for the garden clearing. Some people have wondered why I am hiring out more of the heavy lifting in the garden these days. According to the invoice, it took two men 7.5 hours to clear out the garden and haul off the rotted boards and other assorted debris. That’s 15 man hours of labor.

I think that would have been about 34 “Carol” hours and I would have still had to haul off all the junk to the dump or wherever they took it. If I kept at it steadily, working 7 hours a day, that would have been three Saturdays and two Sundays.

I just don’t have that much extra time these days.

Not to mention, doing that much heavy labor would not remind me of the spirit of youth that I think still resides within me especially in the spring, but of the old woman at the door. Nor would it have allowed me to plant my peas in any reasonable time, and I was already feeling behind by not planting them on St. Patrick's Day.

It is still a somewhat daunting, though more manageable task, to lay out the beds in the garden, now that it has been cleared and I have a plan on paper. It reminds me of what L.H. Bailey wrote about large projects, in this case, the writing of his Cyclopedia.

“The most difficult part of the making of a cyclopedia is to project it. Its scope and point of view must be determined before a stroke of actual work is done. This much done the remainder is labor rather than difficulty. The lay out of the enterprise cannot be made in a day. It is a matter of slow growth. One must have a mental picture of the entire field and must calculate the resources. The plan once perfected it remains only to work out detail after detail taking up the tasks as they come not caring nor even daring to look forward to the work that piles mountain high farther down the alphabet.” (L.H. Bailey in  "Cyclopedia of American Horticulture comprising suggestions for cultivation of horticultural plants descriptions of the species of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants sold in the United States and Canada together with geographical and biographical sketches”, Volume 4, 1909.)

They sure wrote some long book titles back in the day. The title is almost as long as the quote. I almost forgot why I pulled that quote out of that book.

Oh, right, we were talking about gardens and big projects. Change “cyclopedia” to “garden” and “alphabet” to “row” and you end up with this:

“The most difficult part of the making of a garden is to project it. Its scope and point of view must be determined before a stroke of actual work is done. This much done the remainder is labor rather than difficulty. The lay out of the enterprise cannot be made in a day. It is a matter of slow growth. One must have a mental picture of the entire field and must calculate the resources. The plan once perfected it remains only to work out detail after detail taking up the tasks as they come not caring nor even daring to look forward to the work that piles mountain high farther down the row.”

And so I am forming my vegetable one garden bed at a time, "not caring or even daring" to look any further than that for now.

Here’s a picture of the vegetable garden after I laid out where the one bed will be and sowed the early spring crops.
The bed is there on the left, sort of edged with some concrete edging stones to mark the end and the corners.

Off in the distance you can see the newly placed compost bins.

They are along the side fence now where they won’t be as visible when you are standing at the entrance to the garden, surveying what I hope are some nice looking vegetable plants, interlaced with annual flowers in mid-summer. It was the garden designer's idea to move the bins to one of the sides. Why didn’t I think of that?

Now, some of people will say, "Sure, it would be nice to be able to pay someone to clear out the garden debris, but what if you can't afford that?"

The answer is that for every project, in or out of the garden, there are three factors to consider -- time, cost, and quality, or fast, cheap, and good.

You really can only have two of them at any one time or for any one project.

If you want to save time and still keep quality, as I did, you have to increase costs.

Or, you can keep costs low and keep quality, too, by increasing the time, doing the work yourself.

Or you could have it look terrible, with low quality, by doing it quickly at a low cost or not doing it at all.

Now that the first bed is in place in the vegetable garden, I can look on to the next row and begin work on it. By mid to late May, when we are finally frost free, the whole garden should be laid out and ready for planting.

11 comments:

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Carol,

You are going to have a huge veggie garden. I agree, you have to set your priorities and sometimes bite the bullet and pay to get the garden ready.

Eileen

CommonWeeder said...

No matter what the project - including making supper - the hardest part is making the plan. That seems more and more clear the older I get.

Fairegarden said...

I see Carol, that you are a master problem solver! I hope you will be enjoying those peas right on schedule. :-)
Frances

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Great post. You are so logical in the garden. I'm impressed, and I wish I were more so.~~Dee

Layanee said...

You are the consummate planner. I think it very smart to have hired some strong backs to clean the beds. Now the fun really begins.

JGH said...

Have fun, Carol! It's like moving into a new house and deciding where everything will go -- approaching a new plot is an act of creativity!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Don't apologize for getting some help. Everyone needs help now and then in the garden. It sure makes some chores go faster especially when the youthful spirit can't keep up with the old lady body.

Christopher C. NC said...

No more raised beds or is that a end of season project? My St. Patrick's day sugarsnap peas are getting snowed on again this morning. Your delay may not be a problem since your in my climate zone.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I think you've done an excellent cost/benefit analysis of hiring out the work. It's going to look amazing when it's done.

Katie said...

I'm a big fan of hiring "burly muscle!"

Pam/Digging said...

Great last point, Carol. And I'm with you these days on hiring strong, young backs to do the heavy lifting and clearing.