Getting back on track, my friends. We have almost finished mud season and actual spring is just around the corner. We are expecting temps in the high teens (18C) with possible highs in the 20’s by next week. Soil in the beds has finished thawing, for the most part, so I will be able to plant some peas and other cold weather crops.
Rhubarb and some herbs- rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley and the like- are starting to show signs of life. The one on the right is garlic leftover from last year. I will use them for spring yummies.
Here are some pics of how my beds appear first thing in the spring. Last year I scored two round bales of hay for free. They were rotting, so they were happy to load them (two trips) on my little trailer. I like to cover the gardens in the fall. I think it gives things a head start. We have a lot of snow in the winter and a whole festival of life happens down below with rodents and the like searching for food. I leave sunflower heads that did not meet the cut for seed and other debris on top of the soil to cut down on erosion, so the mice and voles are happy to munch on those. I lost two small fruit trees this last winter to mice, but that was because I neglect to put wrap around the trunks. Live and learn.
I show these so you know I am not one of those “everything needs to look perfect” gardeners. There are people who will say this kind of approach will attract disease and pests. Disease and pests are nature. If you want to grow a garden without involving nature, you will be disappointed. But I have found that healthy gardens, build on a solid foundation of healthy soil, produce plants that are likewise healthy and are resistant to disease and pests. I refuse to use chemicals on my garden, including some of the “organic” formulas.
Sometimes healthy plants get sick, of course. There are remedies for those problems, but I have yet to see a potato beetle, squash beetle or any of the other pests I remember from other places. In three years I have never had a serious pest or fungal problem, other than an outbreak of aphids in the greenhouse (an unnatural environment) which were dispatched by some parasitic wasps I ordered. Do not panic, monster hornet worriers. They are not invasive. They are about the size of fruit flies and do not bite or sting. I do not know if they survive the winter here.
Below is a bed that I began conditioning for a garden. The first year I make a bed, I really do not expect a lot of crops to do very well. Many plants do better in a rich, non-compact soil, but there are others that will grow almost anywhere. I am a “slow” gardener, which is a permaculture idea. I will talk more about these things in future articles.
So I planted a lot of “low maintenance” stuff in there. Sunflowers are amazing, grow great and help bust up the clay with their root systems. I get seed and the stalks are terrific in compost. This year I will take the bed to step two (again…more on this later).
I was taught about mulching, of course, but so much of composting advice points people to containers or piles. I like to get that stuff in the gardens when it is still breaking down. I have compost heaps for fertilizing beds, but why not do it right in the garden? This is how many piles look…this is garden debris leftover after harvest, along with kitchen vegetable scraps. It makes beautiful compost if properly structured, but plenty of people have had problems with this method. Insects (fruit flies) and odours can be deterrents and many people give up.
Do it in the garden. If you read my other articles then you know my greenhouse is a huge compost bin. I bury huge amounts of plant matter in there and the ongoing heat keeps it cooking just fine. You know. Where the micro-organisms live in abundance. Where the nutrients are needed. Why move piles around when nature is more than ready to help out?
The above bed is a garlic bed covered with leaves I raked up from the pathway in the woods. Some people will say not to do this unless you compost the leaves first, to get rid of weed seeds. Weeds will grow in your garden. Yup. And every time you dig it up, you bring more weeds to the surface. I do not walk in my gardens, the soil never compacts and I use mulch. Weeds are a small problem.
Another aside here…if you do not like physical labour, do not garden. Of course you will need to pull weeds. Of course you will need to tend the beds. If you want a “no-care” garden, there are other sites which can help. Giggle. Usually they want you to put a lot of time in effort to get their “no-care” garden going. Or it depends on their “special” mix of nutrients. Bullshit. It is ok to get dirty hands and the sweat is more than worth it when you are eating the results.
And two piles…leftover soil and hay from last year, happily warming up. More to come soon, as the beds are warming up well and some stuff can be started outside.
Be patient with me and you might learn something, lol
St. John of the Asylum