Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Slow Day of Garden Musings

Ever so slowly the cold to warm day ratio is turning around to where now we seem to be getting longer warm periods to every cold storm that blows in. Today happens to be another storm day with rain (over half an inch so far) and another possible frost tonight. It looks as if this year anyway we are seeing a return to actual seasons as opposed to the mild Winters and hot Summers we had gotten used to. The last few years everything has bloomed almost all at once whereas this year all the different stages as each variety bloomed were apparent starting with the early fruit trees, elms and maples. The plums, chokecherry and redbuds are blooming out now and the real hardwoods like oaks and hickory are budding as well.

We still can't get out into the garden for any real planting. It had almost dried out enough yesterday to begin thinking about it but we knew more rain was coming today anyway. No point in getting our hopes up. The raised beds surrounded by the woodchip walkways have proven themselves as I expected. They allow more than enough drainage and the walks remain useable no matter how much rain we get, allowing us to plant and grow the early crops that this Midwest climate usually makes impossible due to the rain and mud. So far this year I am definitely seeing an advantage to the combination of open till and raised bed design I am working on.

As things stand right now I am still a large fan of grass clippings for mulch over solid woodchips in the garden area. The clippings are a bit more labor intensive but amend the soil quicker as they completely decompose over a season which allows me to add extra soil amendments like manure and wood ash during the Winter months and then till it in come Spring. With our open fields and large yard area grass clipping are also more sustainable although if one of the tree trimming companies is working in the area they will unload on our property. Sadly none of them seem to be working out here this year.

I cannot discount the disadvantages from last years drought however. The raised bed and woodchip covered areas took heavy mole damages as every little underground varmint from miles around relocated like a pack of hungry refugees into the protected zones. It looks as if the Asparagus and Strawberries are bouncing back this year but it is going to take a while to get them up to the lush growth and production they had achieved in 2011. Also wood chip covers are not a morning glory deterrent at all. In fact the morning glory LOVES those areas to the point of trading one type of weed control for another.

I do have to admit though that covering the entire garden with grass clippings is very labor intensive for the first month or so after planting. It would help if I had one of those pull along grass catcher type mowers but I also like to let the grass clippings dry a day or so before putting them on the garden to cut down on the nitrogen that leeches out. Also this year I will have much more time to devote to the endeavor and I am looking forward to seeing how that works out. The last few years it has been a constant job that I had to work on almost every possible free minute as I juggled work and planting. This year I will be able to get the entire job done in one or two mowings and have the entire process behind me.

Let's just pray for a normal growing season this year. I believe the Good Lord presents us with opportunities and has given me one this Spring. Time has always been a very limiting factor in many of my sustainable experiments and projects but this year I will not be so shackled and so far things are coming together nicely.

Time to see how it all fits together.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!



  1. Sounds like you're doing well with what's been given you - and that's the best that can be said of anyone.

    1. RP - Yes of course the trade off for having all kinds of time is having less money. Luckily I have few bills and cheap tastes but you never know when things might force me back to the grind.

  2. We have started to work on our Eden garden. I hope it woks out. I figure in a few years I will not be wanting to till anything and yet I think we will have to grow our own or starve.

    No fruit for us except for a few blueberries. All of our tress had blossomed out and then we had a couple of freezes. I am going to get another strawberry bed going soon.

    1. MB - As I have said before the eden garden has some real potential and is a good idea but really it would be impractical for large scale production and does have other draw backs. The various bindweeds and chokeweeds or any suckering plant is very very hard to control with the method. In fact those weeds thrive in it. Tilling makes those weeds spread as well but can keep them under control better than allowing the sucker roots to grow unchecked under your mulch.

      My long term plans are to be able to put some 15 or so acres into corn/bean/wheat and fallow rotation eventually. There is no way you could sustain the eden method on acreage that large.

      The decomposing of the wood chips also takes years before it does much for claylike soils. In the end I prefer to mulch with grass clippings heavily and then still have the option to till and amend as I can. I will say the eden method works miracles on fruit trees that I have seen so far.

  3. This planting season looks to be promising with all the moisture we received. Later this week I'll be able to get more stuff in the ground. It's going to freeze tonight and Thursday temperatures are going back to a comfortable temperature.

    I was able to get our property cut before all the rain, placed grass clippings into the compost for use in 8 weeks or so.

    I'm happy to hear your strawberries and asparagus are bouncing back. Hopefully you won't have a little mole and varmint problem this season.

    1. Sandy - I am not real sure what to do about the moles. I tried trapping them in the runways with no success at all. Poison is not an option as the dog and cat sometimes manage to get one and I am unsure if mole poison works like rat poison. I don't mind the mole hills but I can't have em tearing up my plant roots either.

      Yes it is cold tonight but I think it is already warmer than it was a few hours ago. The forecast shows another warming period coming and no cold storm predicted again (yet) after this. I am hoping we are past the frost period after tonight. It is still going to be at least a week of drying out before I can think about planting my seedlings though.

      The garden plot is a mud flat that will suck you down to the knees right now.

  4. On the plus side moles are insectivors. Granted they are eating earthworms as well.


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