Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Winter Cover

Every year spring has me wanting to get planting as soon as possible.  After all, it's another couple of months before you're able to eat anything you've planted, right?   Incessant drizzle keeps me from the garden in January and most of February, so by the time I can get outside, it's too late.  Over the winter the beds get choked with chickweed, or buttercup takes over.  So there are hours of weeding to be done just to find the soil.  In the rainy northwest, "sow seed as soon as the ground can be worked" can mean May or even June.  I always push the limits.  The soil is wet, forming huge back-breaking clods that no fragile veggie seedling roots would ever want to penetrate. 

I've tried cover crops.  I have yet to find one that doesn't require a rototiller to work into the soil.  Last time I tried, I had a huge grassy mess with roots that took forever to break down.  And there were still huge clods, and the soil took forever to dry out.

This fall I tried something new.  I knew that the rain was pummeling the soil something fierce.  I could step on it in places and hardly leave a dent.  I figured that if I covered the beds with something, that the covering would take the brunt of the force of the rain.  If I made it of a dark material, hopefully it should keep the weeds down, too. 

I thought about black plastic, but hated the idea of having to dump it in the garbage after a few seasons.  It also has the disadvantage of having to purchase it.  I thought about grass clippings, but didn't like the idea of any grass or weed seeds in my veg beds.

Then I thought about all the leaves from our maples.  Hmmmm.  Free, biodegradable, dark.  Maybe this could work.  So I had DS1 dump all the leaves onto the veg beds instead of the compost pile.  I worried that they might all blow away, but once they were wet, they stayed in place. 

And then this week came the moment of truth.  I really needed to get the peas planted.  I had waited since the weather was so changeable (we had snow last week).  So I pulled back the leaves, just enough for the area I wanted to plant.

And I found the most amazing soil!  The worms had been working it like crazy.  I took a handful, gave it a squeeze, and easily broke apart the ball.  Perfect workable soil in March?  Right after it snowed?  So I grabbed my garden fork.  Normally, I would have to step on the fork with all my (considerable) weight, and I could maybe get the tines three-fourths the way into the soil.

 I could push the garden fork, with my hands alone, two inches past the tops of the tines.

I had stumbled on something amazing!  Hardly any clods, and those very small and easy to break apart.

Best.  Idea.  Ever.

Time to get planting!

Edited to add:

And weeds?  What weeds?  Okay, there were exactly five dandelions in the 16 square feed I cleared out.  One was a full grown monster that the leaves didn't cover.  The other four were pathetic, puny shriveled things.  All came out without the use of tools.  Now I realize that the weeds may come back now that they have light, but at least it's at a time of year that I can deal with them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dreaming of Gardening

Lookee what came in the mail this weekend!

Okay, maybe you can't lookee because I can't get blogger to post a photo right now.  So you'll just have to use your imagination.

Picture 22 packets of seeds from Territorial.  Oooh!  Aahhh!  What did I get?

A half pound of Maestro peas
Red Ace beets
Blue Wind broccoli
Roodnerf brussels sprouts
Derby Day cabbage
Mokum and Yaya carrots
Double Yield pickling cucumber
Giant Musselburgh leeks
Flashy Trout's Back, Red Sails, and Salad Bowl lettuce
Cherry Belle radish
Bloomsdale Savoy and Olympia spinach
Oregon Spring (slicer), Striped Roman (sauce) and Sungold (cherry) tomatoes

Basil, Coriander, Marjoram, and Parsley

I just realized that I forgot to buy scallion seed....  I'll get some when I get onion plants/sets.

After no gardening last summer, all my seeds had seen better days, so it was time for major seed renewal.

It's so cold here in summer that I have a hard time getting sauce tomatoes to ripen.  I'm hoping that Striped Roman will be early enough that I can put up loads of sauce this fall.  The broccoli cultivar is new to me this year, and I've never grown leeks or brussels sprouts before, though I love to eat them.

Anybody get anything new they're excited about?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New Goals

A Happy 2013!  It's been a little over a year since I last posted.  Much has happened, but not in the way of postable material. 

An extended vacation left my veg garden a disaster.  The fruit trees pulled through, and I had enough pears for a couple of canner-loads for the first time ever.  But we were gone for cherry season, and the weeds took over the strawberry bed and all of the veggie and herb beds.  All I had time for this fall was to try and clear the beds as best I could, and keep up with leaves.

So what are the plans for 2013?

Knitting:  I have started my first knit-in-the-round sweater.  I have sport-weight wool from Imperial Yarn in Oregon, and I have finished the body up to where the sleeves join, and 1-1/2 sleeves.  It has a stranded yoke, which I also have limited experience with, but I am determined to plow through.

House:  We fixed up the boys bathroom two years ago, and I still haven't painted the darn thing.  Same thing with the powder room downstairs.  The shed needs a coat desperately, too.  I'm tempted to add all of the bedrooms as well, but I'm trying to keep my list under control.

Garden:  I'm just about starting from scratch here.  The backyard beds are in deep need of composting.  We have a pile, but it's totally out of control.  Get the beds composted and the pile gone.  In the front yard, prune the prunes, roses, and generally renovate the eastern bed.  Spend 30 minutes a day as weather allows weeding and/or deadheading.

Health:  Yeah, okay.  I need serious work here.  Be more active.  Walk a lot.  Start hiking, say, twice a month.  Our family will not purchase soda for the year, even at restaurants. (The restaurant part is easy for me, because I usually drink iced tea.  But I do love my Coke.  And Dr. Pepper.)  Eat more veg.  Take vitamin D daily.

Mind:  Outside of the books I read for the library reading group, I'm reading a lot of, frankly, crap.  You know the free books that Amazon has for Kindle?  Yeah, that garbage.  So I want to read at least two books from this list.  I have knocked off eight of them already.  Yeah, I'm a bit past 30, but it's a good list.

Household:  Less time on the computer (games, facebook), more time doing chores.  The level of dust in here is atrocious.  Doing laundry would be easier if I wasn't working around mending and ironing.  Make a major dent getting photos into albums.

Okay, ambitious list.  Wish me luck!