While I’ve spent the last couple of days cleaning up parts of the gardens I didn’t get to in the fall–raking and broadforking beds and hoeing the unmulched paths, H has been doing some even more exciting work:
This is the area connecting the northcentral and northeast gardens–it has grown up over the years to weedy trees (mostly mulberries, of course). We’ve been eyeing that space for some time, but with the perimeter fence project a real priority this season, those trees have got to come out before the fencing goes up.
H tells me as he’s working over there that the soil is beautiful–not the hard clay that is characteristic of some parts of the garden space, and that I’ve been working on amending with organic matter for the last several years.
I told him not to tell me that, or I’d be over there sticking seeds in the ground after the stumps are pulled clear. I’m kidding, of course. It’s not my plan to plant that space this year–it will take some further management to make it suitable for growing, and I’ve got plenty of other space to get or keep under control.
And we’ve also talked about making that space into a small orchard, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to start shaping orderly beds for planting annual crops.
It typically takes about a year to take a “virgin” plot and make it into workable garden space anyhow. You can do it in less, but it takes more planning and management time than I have on my hands right now.
The northcentral garden of today was shaped about three years ago, and it didn’t really come into its own as planting space until the year before last. The hilltop garden was shaped two years ago, and last year was the first year I got a decent crop out of it.
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon working a pile of composted horse manure into the northcentral beds with the dog for company. I suppose where she chose to hang out is better than the middle of the road, which despite my rantings is usually her first choice.
The straw I’d laid in the aisles of this garden has mostly decomposed by now (its weed-blocking lifespan is about two full seasons), so I raked it out and used the stirrup hoe to mow down the grass and weeds establishing themselves there.
There’s also a LOT of tiny mulberry trees vying for space along the edges of the beds, so digging those out was a priority. It’s hard to get all of them this time of year, when their grey skin blends into the grey-brown soil. But they are a fast-growing weed tree, and if I don’t get them out now, I risk having to excavate half a planted bed to get them out later.
The top bed (nearest the road), along which a trellis was erected last season by a fellow farmer and I, had been badly invaded by brome and little mulberries as well.
The problem with using trellis in a severe climate is that you have to set it in sturdily to withstand the winds when fully loaded with a vine crop, but then the birds find it an excellent place to perch while the crop is young.
By the time the crop has matured and over-topped the trellis, the birds won’t perch there anymore, but what they’ve left after feasting on mulberries has taken root, and you don’t typically see all those little trees until the fall or following spring.
I pulled most of that trellis yesterday (there’s a few posts yet to be levered out), and used the broadfork to re-establish the edges of the bed. Today I’ll likely get into that bed again to start working through the soil and pulling clumps of brome and little trees–reminding the space what it’s intended for, at least while I’m there.
I did also manage to get in the first potatoes yesterday–Russian Bananas in the west garden. I had planned on putting in some bok choy and broccoli raab as well, but I’d been waiting for a delivery of new row covers.
When I got back from the gardens last night, I found an e-mail saying it won’t be shipping ’til the end of the month, so it looks like time to go through every piece of cover I have out there already and inspecting for what might be used in my current pinch.
I’m glad I didn’t bother to shower this morning–that’s one of the dirtiest jobs out there. I’ll probably bring a dust mask just for that un-enjoyable task.
It’s also my plan to get in a number of other crops today. The weatherpeople keep saying we’re going to get a shower or two in the next couple of days, so it behooves me to take advantage.
So, I’ll fill my seed transporter (which, by the way, is a Wonder Woman lunchbox) with packets of salad mix, turnips, arugula, and other early spring roots and greens and get in all I can.
And then I’ll probably water it all in anyhow: as much as I’d like to think we’ll get the rain they promised, not watering after a rain is a better bet than not watering before one that’s predicted, but may not come.