Spring is here…and has been
Well, my busy season is fully upon me. Today is a day where the clouds look like they’re holding rain that apparently isn’t coming. I actually feel like writing, but cannot shake the feeling of wasting my day.
It’s long overdue that I post about the spring. Unsurprisingly, I was wrong when I predicted a short winter. Instead, it became winter again after an abnormally warm January. I’ve struggled with motivation the whole time, not just in writing, but with everything.
For one thing, I didn’t get nearly the winter reading in that I wanted to, though fortunately I at least read The One Straw-Revolution. To an extent, gardening for other people is getting to me, in terms of appreciating the hobby. Beyond this, my interest in fishing has taken away from gardening time. What I think has gotten to me more than anything, is that strange weather had led to bad gardening years, I’ve struggled with motivation, and more than anything, paid a high price for my vegetable garden experiments.
What’s unfortunate, is with the strange weather it is hard to know what I have done wrong (besides inviting flea beetles by running too many brassicas.) This last fall I kept it simpler. In part from getting more into Ruth Stout. More than anything. it’s because my cover crop rotation system isn’t necessary on the scale which I am growing things. I also think it doesn’t work great without livestock. The main reason I at least temporarily took a major green manure break is that I have unlimited access to goat muck.
If manure is not cost prohibitive to acquire or labor prohibitive to spread, the purpose of cover crops is limited to specific management practices, such as smother crops or biofumigants. It becomes unnecessary for adding organic matter and fertility- generally the main purpose.
So, though I’m discouraged from years of questionable vegetable gardening results, and have seemingly lost some of my passion for doing my main hobby for work, I need to focus and reap the rewards. My beds are mature now, heavily fertilized, weeds essentially gone, and I’m not doing anything weird, for once. So I can only hope for a banner year, as some of this soil is getting very dark, rich, and unbelievably wormy.
Anyway, here are some various other updates:
Some of the bulbs in my new perennial garden have come to maturity this year. It is really the first year of this side garden being anything. I planted more bulbs last fall, and my little bulb patches are becoming full. I have much ground to cover, but at least I have some pretty flowers. Further, I’ve started filling the strip along the side of the house with more perennials as well. Last year, once the bulbs died out, the side yard was depressingly dead and devoid of color.
The main flowers won’t be substantially more exciting this year once the bulbs have died out , but will have some good insect watching. I also bought a white rose to plant over a deceased hedgehog, and moved a classic red rose. Further, my irises and and a couple of shrubs are established, so they will actually do something this year.
However, I think the area will still be beautiful. The plan I’m employing for preparing this area for gardens is letting it go to meadow to weaken the grass and enrich the shallow soil. My mammoth red clover has taken off well, as has Dutch White Clover, and I will be extensively planting buckwheat. I suspect that though it will be messy and informal, with some water through the summer the area may remain quite beautiful.
There is one main thing I’m waiting for though…my Insulinde tulip is being slow as all hell to bloom. It’s my first ever broken tulip and I can’t wait to see it! (Stay tuned…)
The Wife Gets a Green Thumb
This is my truly exciting development. After years and years of nagging for some help, my wife has developed an interest in gardening. I can’t explain it, though I guess nagging works. She’s gotten in a mood to clean up the front of the house and get things good looking.
I had been wondering what to do with the front garden spaces. There are some nice bulbs, and a massive fennel grows in one every year (which distracts the wasps who hunt around it), but overall it’s just a bad spot. The front mound garden area is clearly fill dirt, and contains soil from hell. Beyond that, it was covered in wild roses when we moved in, that I’ve never fully exterminated. Worse still, it’s on a west facing slope, and is northeast of the house, meaning the main slope bed gets terrible light.
It’s been my annual flower bed, but they never do well and it never looks very good. Further, I never have the desire to actually take care of it.
After some thought, I went the obvious route, and decided to cover the area with lavender. It’s the right size for 8 mature plants, which I am putting in a checker pattern.
My wife got excited at this point, and started slowing and methodically cleaning out the neglected bed. She found, for one thing, the obsession all gardeners have with long grass roots. Further, she got caught up with the desire to triumph over a wild rose, one we also all know. She’s in the very beginning phases, but absolutely has the bug. To be honest, I’m kind of amazed at what a long process clearing this bed out has been for her, but she’s just learning I could do this bed in 1-2 hours no problem, but being very fast is why I make the big bucks. (If you want to call it that.)
This is great, because it is hard for me to have self-motivation to take care of the yard. If I can actually do it as an activity with Alexis things I will have fewer responsibilities and be more motivated to do them. I had lost my motivation, but now she is stoked about getting things looking nice.
And she finally sees the joys of gardening!
After this the big project she will help me with is finally making the potting shed I have wanted for years. This has to finally be done, as I have NO real outdoor storage. And also it’s adorable.
The Hugelkultur Beds
The Hugelkultur beds are disappointing me. It’s my own damn fault, having been cheap about buying soil. My theory that mixing fill dirt with organic matter would be fine was just plain wrong. But, I wanted to keep in the spirit of hugelkultur, which is to use what’s available. In my instance, I had hauled off some fill dirt and left it in a pile, so on it went, instead of buying new material.
This hydrophobic clay means that though it was the second winter, the big one did not properly absorb a winter’s worth of water as water bounced off the soil. And so little grew on it last year there were very few channels down.
At least stuff is growing this year, even if it’s mostly wheat. The roots are the only thing that will give me channels through the soil. I’ve resorted to a somewhat drastic solution for the interior dryness: forcing a sprinkler through the outer soil and into the wood below. It’s clear to me this method will never be effective, and I will have to accept another year of the hugel beds not holding water as they are supposed to. My theory that having organic matter on both sides of it would break down clay quickly has been entirely disproven.
At this point, I practically want to just erode all the clay off, figuring the upside down sod and goat muck that was put on it 18 months ago is mature enough to just be the soil.
Fortunately, the garlic I planted in the beds took at least. But there’s just no capillarity. I’ll be watering it all the damn time, which is depressing, as it’s a permaculture thing that is supposed to avoid watering.
In some good news, I did get a bare root peach planted in the peach hugel bed. Unfortunately, I’m concerned I didn’t water it sufficiently figuring the logs would be reducing more water than they are. However, the leave appear to be open. Hopefully it’s fine. I need my peach tree to begin the process of breaking new tulips!
Naturally, like I do, I kind of messed up my behemoth compost pile over the winter. I turned it during a kind of dry time in December, then of course all of the rain came and it lost the heat from having been turned. I got a few views of it burning snow off, but not many. It did somehow heat repeatedly over the winter, but not like it would have without my always ill-advised intervention.
Anyway, the old compost pile got surprisingly hot again, with the spring weather. I wasn’t sure if it had another heating in it until it got hot. Since it did, I gave it a full turn after quite a bit of wetting. At least some of it was seed-killing hot, though only the very center. Hopefully that’s the last one before I feel good letting it go into slow mode. Maybe I’ll split it at that point. I’m tired of turning that huge thing!
The spring compost pile was built yesterday, taking the stuff I had accumulated since making the last pile and adding six wheelbarrows of goat muck and two of the neighbor’s grass clippings. The goat muck is already hot nasty stuff. It’s basically the old hay they don’t use stamped down and mixed with water, urine, manure, and hair. It’s clearly has great heat potential. Since it is the first collection of spring the muck especially wet and potent. Good moisture to hold through the summer, which is necessary in this climate.
Surprisingly, the compost pile actually does have heat already, just over 24 hours later. Pretty impressive. It’s still smaller than last year’s behemoth even at its young age, and compost piles lose a great deal of size as they break down. Turning it will surely be far less of a nightmare, at least.
What I care more about is having that sweet homemade black gold in large quantities. I have no shortage of places short on soil. And now that my wife cares about the appearance of the yard, finished black compost mulch is crucial.
I’d Rather Be Fishing
This has been my real recent gardening problem. After a couple of years of gardening professionally and it also being my only real hobby, I began to grow discouraged. And disinterested. It felt little like having a hobby, and my hobby felt a lot more like work.
Once I actually started fishing by myself last summer I got into it really fast. For some reason, I had been hesitant to go alone, despite that I work by myself without electronic noise all the time. Anyway, my obsessive nature caused me to want to learn everything about fishing rapidly. The great amount of research and time spent fishing essentially took over my interest in gardening as a hobby for a period of time.
At this point, I realize I have learned the basic things to know, and can stop obsessing with research until I have specific problems…or at least have become better at the things I already know.
Anyhow, after a massive winter skunk streak, I finally caught my first big spring bass, and it was extremely exciting.
It is certain to remain a major interest, but my interest in my home garden is actually coming back in a strong way. Which is good, since I keep a gardening blog 🙂
Moving into Summer
It sure looks to me like it will be a long, hot, summer which starts early. This is unfortunate for me, as it shortens the rapid growing season. It’s not really great for anything if there isn’t some reason in May and June (there has been some rain, but the warmth is coming rapidly.)
I’m letting myself get a bit overwhelmed with responsibility. It was slow for a long time, and I did a poor job at staying busy. Now, for the brief period of the year where the work comes in faster than I can do it I am failing to stay focused.
It’s been a time of transition in my life. My wife and I are both taking more control of our lives in different ways, and our motivation, drive, and organization is at least marginally improving. Staying in the habit of being busy is the most important, and is also a challenge for me personally.
But, with some actual help and enthusiasm from my wife, I think I can get back into the swing of things and make the cottage garden of my dreams. Just to stay focused, not become overwhelmed, and prepare for the hot summer ahead.
Hopefully I do better than I did today…the storm I didn’t work because of never came, and it got nice part way through writing this. At least I got the older compost pile flipped..