Putting the Beds to Bed: Farm Edition, Part One

According to MSN’s Careerbuilder page, farming and ranching is the fifth most dangerous occupation in the U.S.

Rest assured dear readers, I am not in that much danger–I don’t use big machinery that could tear off my arm (well, maybe the chipper-shredder could), and I’m not going to get trapped in a grain bin.  I’m also not using dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.

But I am using horse manure, and it looks like I’ll be able to get a good amount of it next week.  That means it’s time to start clearing and cleaning off all the beds to ready them for their blanket of good, fertile sh*t.  If I can get the whole garden top-dressed before winter really sets in, I will be a happy farmer indeed.

I headed out to the farm this afternoon at about 4:30, and didn’t leave until the sun was down (which was only a couple hours–seasonal day length and all).  Still, I managed to get most of the thirteen beds in the west garden ready for their dressing.

The west garden is kind of my baby–it’s the part of the gardens I started in, when H and I were simply decade-long friends and he offered it to me when I was looking for a higher and dryer area to grow for my CSA.  Before we fell in love and he let me take over the whole garden area, then added a few more to satisfy my planting addiction.

[Happy sigh break.]

OK, so out of those thirteen more-or-less permanent beds in the west garden, only three are still sporting green growth.  Well, maybe three and a half.

The one long row that spans the edge of the garden is in perennial green onions, so that’ll stay just as it is.  Then there’s the leek bed that’ll be cleared this week before our final farmers market of the season, and the bed of random reddish onions I’ll probably dig for the last market, too.

The half-bed is one that has a couple much-munched kale plants that may make a comeback now that the bug pressure is lighter.  It would seem a shame to rip those out when they’re still alive, so I simply scattered that bed with seeds from a marigold plant I dug up to encourage volunteerism next year.  It’s the smallest bed anyhow.

The rest of the beds got a clearing and raking today, and all the trellises were relieved of their vines–pole beans mostly, but also the Red Currant tomatoes.  The tomato vine and hot pepper plants went into a burn pile that’ll be the future home of compost once the diseased or questionable plants are reduced to ashes.

A few of the lower beds were already cleared of vegetation–two that were fingerling potatoes, one that held yellow onions, a spring lettuce bed, the Brussels sprouts garden.  The lower ones are a little harder to rake–the soil down there is really clay-ey, but at the top of the garden it’s a more reasonable loam.

Those beds just got raked and relieved (AGAIN) of their sprouting Canada thistles.  I didn’t mind so much about the thistles today because there’s a decided lack of green material for the compost pile–they’ll do nicely.

I found myself wondering just how many buckets of thistles have got burned up in the compost pile this year–I just keep digging them every month or so, thinking they’ll eventually stop coming.  I know I’ve thrown at least a dozen packed-full five gallon buckets into the pile, and that might be a conservative estimate.

Anyhow, that garden is pretty much ready for the manure, but there’s still several to go.  The big drag will be cutting out and dragging out all the diseased tomato vines from the east garden, plus yanking out and hopefully chopping the rest of the broccoli plants.

At least the northeast garden will be a simple task–half of it is strawberries and I weeded those out a couple of weeks ago, so only okra stalks, and very few tomato plants, and kale stumps are left.  I’ll cover all that in the next couple of editions of putting the beds to bed.


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