Monday, 18 April 2016

Annual and Perennial Food

We've been busy prepping the main annual garden beds and although it's a bit of work, it pays off in abundant harvests from a resilient, water harvesting garden that requires almost NO work once it gets past the seedling stage.  It's a bit hard to see in these evening pictures, but to follow up from my last post, the beds are all top dressed with compost and the pathways are refilled with wood chips.

We seeded peas and buckwheat as green manure crops (which are just now sprouting) so hopefully we'll get 3 or 4 weeks of growth out of them before we slash them back, water them and let them rot in place under a protective covering of mulch.   Only then (late May), will we seed the main garden and plant out some seedlings.  

In other areas around the property, I've been busy removing encroaching grass and smartening up edges here and there.  I've planted out a few cauliflower seedlings recently (as an experiment) to see if the weather holds and we can net an early harvest.  Today, I need to get the cold hardy greens OUT of the greenhouse and into the ground.   Our weather has simply been too warm (very early in the season) to keep them in the greenhouse.  Yes, it's early, but part of growing is responding to weather and trying different things.  If I lose them to hard frost, oh well, there's more coming up the ranks anyways.

In contrast to the annual plantings (which are always more work), around front in my microclimate hot spot, the chives are thriving and strawberries are putting on some serious growth.  There's also Good King Henry and Sorrel (which are both coming on gangbusters).

Below, is my favourite Springtime flower (Pulmonaria).  It is the VERY first plant to produce a bloom  for me and for that reason, I love it so (so do the bees!)  :)    Behind it,  the grape vine is coming to life with Anise Hyssop at the root zone (another favourite for hardiness and a delicious fragrance).  

We've picked Sorrel (immediately above) once already and by the looks of it, there's more ready in a few days.    I'm aiming to add to our perennial offerings this Spring - Chicory and Bloody Dock will grow here plus of course Asparagus but given it's a long wait to get anything edible from it, I was unwilling to invest in/plant any last year with our pending move.  We aren't giving up just yet, so I'll wait on the asparagus, I think. 

For fun, in contrast, here's a picture of the same area last summer :)  

I can't wait for abundant, riotous growth!

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Pathway compost?

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...