New Happenings at Terra Nova Gardens

Reader Contribution by Nebraska Dave
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So I’m sitting at the picnic table at Terra Nova Gardens one day just soaking in the quiet and resting from building fence. Along comes a well-dressed man with a camera walking down the road taking photographs of my property as well as those that are to the north and south of mine. Curious about what was going on, I sauntered out and inquired if I could help him with something. He informed me he was contracted by the local power company to access the value of easement rights for the power company. It seems that they are replacing the poles and upgrading the power lines that run along the road in front of my garden property. The power company wants an easement right to use when they need it for equipment and tree trimming if needed.

When I inquired about how much would they want, he indicated it would be 34 feet from the road. I thought, oh no, that’s half my garden area. I was comforted when later that day I received a phone call from someone who worked for the power company who said my garden was safe because the power lines spanned the garden and no work needed to be done there. The pole that they will be replacing on my property just happens to be where my parking area is and so 34 feet for equipment use is not a problem.

My garden fence is 6 feet high and as you can see it’s dwarfed by the power pole. Last night I received a call from another guy who wanted to come and talk about how much the power company’s offer for the easement rights would be. I really didn’t know what to expect. When he arrived, we chatted about what the power company had in mind to do. The current pole is a 60-foot pole. They plan on digging a hole right next to that pole and erecting a 90-foot pole for not just the power lines that are already there but for more lines up higher. That’s massive. The big shock was the offer. Those of you who have followed this blog over the years know that I bought this property from the city because it was in foreclosure. They offered me a sum of money that was more than 10 times what I paid for the property. Duh, that was a no brainer. I couldn’t sign fast enough. Some of that will be invested back into the property for improvements.

Bindweed is the curse of Terra Nova Gardens. Now that the tall nettles have been cut down and the wild grape vines have been chopped out of the ground, life is good, right? Wrong again. I noticed this year that first some kind of tough strong-growing weed come up. After they were destroyed, the tough prairie grass came twice. The bindweed set in for the rest of the summer. It’s a constant battle with different weeds at different times of the year. Bindweed and grass just never come to an end until the killing frost. In the photograph below you can see a cute little fella that’s just a little sprout. It really kind of looks non-threatening and docile, don’t you think? After all it’s the wild cousin of the Morning Glory. Well, some think Morning Glory is a pretty flower, but I’ve pulled enough of that weed vine out of the cultivator shovels when cultivating corn that it’s become a noxious weed in my book. Same as the bindweed.

Or if you want to wait a month then you can deal with this for bindweed. Yes, the whole mess was just from a hand full of bindweed roots. The whole left side of the photo was carpet under the bindweed. It all came from three or four roots along the fence line. So what have we learned here? Pull out the cute little fella above or carry away two big wheelbarrow wads of foliage. It doesn’t take long to go from one to the other. Good intentions don’t seem to slow down the bindweed growth one bit.

Two hours of blood sweat and tears later. It looks a lot better but still needs a little bit more tidying up. It’s just never ending this year with weeds. The rains of April through the middle of June gave them prolific growth. The effort of weeding will be overgrown in just a couple weeks if regular maintenance isn’t given to the area after the weed eradication.

The next section to tackle was the sweet corn section. As you can see the corn is long gone and weeds have taken over. After the raccoon came visiting and stripped the corn before it was even mature enough to eat, it just wasn’t in me to care for that part of the garden any more. This is a wild vacant lot that is bent on taking back the land. This is probably four weeks of neglect. So, now it’s time to tame the area again.

A couple hours of hard work in high humidity is about all I can muster any more. So this section will need about two more hours to finish up and cover with carpet. I’m using carpet extensively for weed control. When it’s time to plant next spring, the carpet will be rolled up and these areas will be mulched and planted. It’s the best way for a part-time urban farmer to tame a wild and crazy vacant lot.

This is where the corn fortress will go next year. What, you might ask is a corn fortress? The wooden fence that I’ve been working on for three years is finally complete. The deer will not be able to get inside the fence so now the challenge becomes raccoons. They are a bit more challenging than deer. Raccoons will climb, dig, jump, or do just about anything to get to what they want and it seems that sweet corn drives them crazy.

So my plan for next year is to put up a 4-foot chicken wire fence around the 28-by-28-foot corn patch. Three wires of electric fence will be at 6 inches, 8 inches, and 24 inches and attached to the outside of the chicken wire fence. I’m hoping to have regular power on the property by then, but, if not, battery-powered electric fences are available that work on a different principle. The plug-in electric fence will shock as long as there is a ground connection. The battery-powered electric fence works like static electricity. It will give the critter a static jolt, but then needs a recovery time to charge up the wires again. I don’t know what that recovery time is, but I’m hoping not very long.

Then the last thing to foil the critters will be a couple of live traps set close to the corn patch baited with marshmallows. Well, then the question becomes what if I catch some critters in the live trap? It’s illegal to relocate them in Nebraska. My first thought was send them to the death chamber. The death chamber is to put the trap inside a plastic trash bag and shoot it full of ether. But then my conscience says, “You know you are the one who invaded their space.” (Big sigh.) I suppose I’ll just ether them enough to put them asleep and tag their ear to see if they return and cut them loose. I hope they would stay away after a few zaps. If that doesn’t work, then I might have to put them in happy raccoon heaven.

Here’s the nearly finished fence. The last three panels had to be pallet fence. The nice used cedar fence panels were not available from the fencing company any more so free pallets had to be used. This section is now finished and the garden is closed to deer. It’s been a long struggle, but I’m glad it’s complete and phase two for the raccoons can begin.

There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments. – Janet Kilburn Phillips

Nebraska Dave
Urban Farmer
Omaha, Nebraska

For more about Terra Nova Gardens, go to Old Dave’s Garden.

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