Sunday, 10 April 2016
It's still pretty brown here... early Spring is downright ugly 'round these parts and it pains me every year. I'm accustomed to the coast where things simply get greener in Spring (never going brown at all over Winter). Ah well, it is what it is.
I've got some reconciling to do this Spring. I chose NOT to seed a winter cover crop in Autumn because I thought we'd be moving right away BUT that decision is biting me in the rear end now. At least I mulched the garden (which mostly decomposed over Winter). Having a protective cover crop of winter rye in place would have been mighty fine but I can't go back in time so I'm dealing with what I've got.
Yesterday was the first solid day of garden work I've put in in 2016. I picked up plant matter (mostly tomato vines) that didn't fully decompose in the annual intensive beds as well as begun digging the pathways out. We let the hens in here in Autumn and they succeeded in scratching things about (although too badly) all the while manuring nicely for me.
The swale/pathways were 18" deep in wood chips last year and it's all decomposed now.
I can't BELIEVE how lovely the resulting compost is (especially when deciduous chips are used as the nitrogen component is high enough to induce quick rotting). Wood chip swales are intensive earthworm FARMS of the highest order and I've been DELIGHTED at each sweet smelling earthy shovelful I deposit onto the growing beds. I remember digging down into the swale last summer and being astounded at the population of earthworms. They love the rich organic matter (food) and the moisture (swales are designed to hold and distribute water).
This is truly a great system - simply shovel the pathway compost onto the growing beds each Spring and refill the pathways with fresh wood chips. Repeat next year. The compost is created in situ by the earthworms and the shovelling is easy work because the compost is humous-y and light (for the win!).
I'll finish this up today and seed the area to green manure crops of peas and buckwheat (it's what I have on hand). I can't plant this garden for 6 weeks anyway (when our last frost date is) so I'll have time to get a quick green manure crop in then chop it back/work it in in 4 weeks. This will boost fertility and keep that first flush of weeds at bay. Weeds love disturbance and that's just what I have been doing by shovelling the pathway compost up onto the beds...