Fortress Garden


Here’s the best garden we’ve had–in 2002–and it’s been downhill since then.

A quick update for the 2 or 3 who may remember the ordeal of last summer’s non-garden, an enclosure we referred to with no small resentment and regret as our “Deer Salad Park.”

Frankly, given the less than ideal microclimate combined with the greater than average wildlife appetites, I would have chosen to give up and say NO GARDEN. She would not hear of it, even though it has necessitated taking desperate measures. Those measures thus far have been on paper. Soon, the Fortress Garden will go up. I hope she knows how absurd this thing is going to look. She says she doesn’t care. I’m betting otherwise, but only once it’s too late to relent.

We’re putting up 6 x 6 posts on which we will hang two tiers of cattle panels. The posts will be a bit more than 8 feet above ground. It will have smaller mesh panels at ground level to keep out rabbits (the groundhogs seem to stay over at the barn.) We can bring electricity down if we need to but will leave that for when Plan A has failed.

At the far end (still some 40 feet from where the old garden began) we’ll put up a shed the width of the garden (20 feet) though I thought 10 would do. It will contain a lockable 4′ door. Why 20 feet? We are constrained to use the available space between the septic tank and the county right of way. And lengthways, we can only build length as far as the septic distribution lines for sinking posts. We’re looking at other options for supporting the shed roof at the far end than sunk posts.

On the plus side, the new location is closer to the house (not that today’s deer give a rats acetabulum about people proximity. They look up from their grazing in a bored sort of way when we get closer than 100 feet–sometime less than half that. We will get more sun-hours so maybe the soil will warm a little sooner. Still, we live a growing zone north of most of Floyd County. We’ll need short season varieties because we really can’t get much growth down here until the first of June. The seeds just rot in the ground.

So. In addition to other life features this busy spring, we have a Fort to build. Pictures, as the Vegetable Stockade happens.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  2. Yep – that’s the picture that brought me to Fragments for the first time – and I’ve been here every day ever since. That picture perfect garden was the billboard for your woodland creatures, Fred. Good luck with this year’s plans. I also hope that Tsuga will be helpful in this regard.
    hugs from PA

  3. Fred: Sigh. I have to reline all my beds against pocket gophers. The latest tasty morsel on their plate is artichokes. But so far I haven’t really seen them avoid anything except the salvias.

  4. Fred,

    I believe Virginia Tech Extension has some good information on physical barriers for wildlife. Even though it has nothing to do with groundhogs, I remember some research done on wire spacing and angling the upper part of the fence.

  5. My parents live in Blacksburg and have installed motion activated sprinklers to scare away the deer. If you are closer to the house, this may be a possibility… Good luck!