Garden Journal: Week of 8/1

Erica here with the first update of August! It’s been quite a week with trellis construction, material sourcing field trips, and some unbelievable growth in the garden!

We started off our week with a fantastic workday!  With the plants growing so rapidly, there was a lot of routine maintenance to complete in addition to our goal of constructing the passionflower trellises.  With the pleasant addition of a few extra helping hands, we got a lot accomplished!

It's a family affair! Hannah's mom and sister tending to the calendula while Hannah stakes up the pleurisy root.

We retrained the rapidly growing cowpea vines up the corn stalks, staked and supported a number of plants, removed old growth, reshaped some eroded beds, and began the construction of the passionflower trellises.

day 1 of trellis construction - sinking the bamboo into the ground and setting the height and alignment

day 2 of trellis construction - lashing and stabilization -> the final product!

I am really excited about how the trellises turned out!   It was an interesting challenge to make them both elegant and sturdy.  The hour (or two) of experimentation with lashing techniques was both fun and yielded a great result!   It’s also fantastic to finally have this element in the garden, especially as trellising was part of the original design that Chelsea and I created in the spring.  The trellises add an important vertical element – they further define the entry space and create a stronger distinction between the two sides of the garden.  The whole “feel” of the garden has changed with this one addition! The passionflower are also responding very well – over the course of this week, we’ve had some plants put on an additional 2’+ of new growth!

The excitement didn’t stop there, though!

On Tuesday afternoon, Hannah, Rachael, and I took a trip out to Red Brook Lumber to get the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) logs that we’ll need to construct our hops trellis!

Black locust is an incredibly rot-resistant wood and has long been the native wood of choice for many farmers who are constructing fences or structures that are expected to hold up over time. We have chosen to use black locust rather than a more readily sourceable or typical material (ie. treated lumber) due to its native species status, regional vernacular history, the prevalence of the species in the neighboring woodlot and Observatory Hill, and the lack of chemicals needed to preserve this amazing type of timber.

Red Brook Lumber is located on a former cattle farm on Carter’s Mountain Road that has been in owner Bob Howard’s family for decades.

The cattle are long gone, but Bob now runs a fantastic lumber, cabinetry, and custom woodworking company in which he uses new and reclaimed wood, even milling some wood from the woodlots that he actively manages on his own property.  Bob is also incredibly generous – he’s helped out a number of UVa projects to date, including many of the projects constructed in Lucia Phinney’s “Tools for Conviviality” studio last semester.

In our case, Bob helped us out tremendously by donating the materials for the trellises and donating quite a bit of time to head out into his fields with me the week prior to tag appropriate trees, and later, to fell, cut, and size the posts.  On top of all of that, he treated us to a great tour of the shop and his woodworking operation!

images from the shop: Bob's collection of tools and custom blades is amazing!

loading up the truck!

Bob explaining the difference between heartwood and sapwood in our posts. The growth rings were also very pronounced and told us a lot about the climactic variations that each tree had seen during it's lifetime!

Stay tuned for our next adventure – a trip to the Buckingham Slate Quarry in Arvonia, VA!

And, as always, if you’d like to get your hands dirty in the garden or simply come and see our 13’+ tall corn for yourself, feel free to swing on by on Tuesday morning for our workday or contact us to schedule another time for a garden tour!

-Erica

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