Spring is finally feeling like it’s here to stay. Some brief warm-ups in February tricked us, then some more cold and even snow brought us back to the reality that the calendar reminded us of. It ain’t spring yet!
Now it’s mid-April. Sheesh! I’m not used to it being March yet, and now it’s April. And the signs are everywhere: Crocuses, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, forsythia, and now our peach trees are (or have finished) blooming. The lilacs are budding. Perennial chives, lemon balm and oregano are growing. Garlic is up. We had a ton of rain a week or so ago, and it had been raining heavily for several weeks prior to that. Here on our little place, last Saturday was a perfect day to do some tilling to get the onions and new strawberry plants in before they dried out in the house. Here is a picture of what I’m going to call “The Spring Garden” this year, because it received all the earliest plantings – garlic went in in the fall, and it is up, onion plants were put in Saturday, as well as seeds for lettuce, spinach, cilantro, radishes, and I think something else… Today I filled in the rest of the beds in that area with kale, parsley, swiss chard, and peas that don’t need to be near a trellis. This is a picture of that area:
I’m about 2/3 done with a second Permaculture Design Course. Though I got a certificate 2 years ago, I wanted some more information – more depth. This year’s course hasn’t disappointed me! I’m still finishing up the section on Soils, and while going through it, I decided I wanted to really improve the garden even more this year by creating permanent raised bed that won’t need tilling. We have a pile of wood chips that we used to fill in paths between the beds. I bought straw from a nearby farmer and used whole flakes of that around the perimeter along the fence line to suppress the grass and weeds that continually plague us. The problem with free-range chickens is that they like to go through the garden, so we fence them all in, but then keeping the edge weed-free is a nightmare. I hope the thick straw will help tame that.
Down at the south end of the garden I put in a new strawberry patch. The “old” one that is adjacent to The Spring Garden is multiple years old and full of grass and other weeds. Production was very low last year. I decided to let that one be for now and get whatever berries we can out of it this year, and then till it and use it for something else – maybe green beans this year, since they can go in as late as mid-June and still give us a good crop. This one was actually our second strawberry patch. The first one was about 20′ north of the current one. We moved it because of A) weeds taking over, and B) ants eating them all. The move was a good one for a while as the ants didn’t follow, but now the weeds are out of control, so it’s just time to change things up a bit. I surrounded the new strawberry bed with flakes of straw again, and a few feet away from it I made one more raised bed with straw in the path. I made only one, because that is as far as the tilling got done last week. The strawberries didn’t take up all of the tilled space, so while it was still loose, I created one 3′-ish-wide bed for carrots. When I ran out of carrot seeds, I finished the rest with beets. It’s supposed to rain every day for the next 5-7 days, so I’m hoping they get a good start without daily watering from me. Though it was supposed to rain all afternoon and night yesterday and that didn’t happen… Here’s hoping!
Once all the plants are up to a few inches tall, I’ll loosely mulch with more straw to keep in moisture and keep down weeds. Over time, as more mulch is added, it will break down and increase the humus in, and fertility of, the soil. Some of our garden soil is already nice and loose and tills very easily. And though I knew this before, the permaculture lessons I’ve been doing over the past 2 weeks, have driven home the reality that tilling really destroys the structure of the soil. Doing it somewhat to get it started can be necessary, but shouldn’t need to be done year after year, decade after decade. With good mulching and adding of compost, you should be able to just separate the soil a little to put in your plants and seeds. I really wish I’d kept with it long ago, but I didn’t really have all the knowledge of HOW to do it right. So – better late than never! As the summer goes on, I’ll try to keep you posted on the progress and results. Since I’m not always good with blog posts on here, be sure to find us on Facebook – Farmer in Odell LLC. I post little notes and comments along with pictures far more frequently there!