We are beavering away at the task of putting in a garden. Priority one: attention to food. Even though we have no illusions about productivity this year, it’s important to start.
We got off to a poor start- an unusually late frost took out all the tomato starts we’d put in.
We’ve tried a couple methods: 1) digging small holes to put a plant in, and surrounding it by cardboard and mulch. Over time and continued mulch-piling, ground around will soften up into a bed. Saves time, but no good at all for seeds. Good for squash. 2) plastic mulch. Pure experiment. Neighboring farmer offered us the waste plastic off of his hay bales – those ubiquitous white haybales that dot fields in the fall – and we spread it around to see if it would knock back the sod cover. So far, the results are not conclusive, nor impressive. The plastic,is multiple layers of white plastic like saran wrap, only layered up a quarter inch thick on a finished bale, and cut off so the waste plastic has an open clamshell shape. It’s heavy and insulating, but may be letting light through because it’s white. 3) digging. We have our labor-saving, painless technique down pat now, with this wicked sod-breaker from Lee Valley.
H.W. goes through with the sod breaker, standing on it and tipping it back and forth, three widths of the tool wide and as long as the bed.
H.W. has to do this part, because I can’t. I’ve tried, and I’m not strong or heavy enough to plunge the tines into the dirt. I jump up and down and get it a whole three inches deep in the ground and teeter there on it, and H.W. laughs and laughs, and calls me a “little feather”, which I can’t say I’ve been called before. One of many things it emerges I can’t do without him. Then the sod chunks fall apart and we shake the soil out of them with our hands and digging fork, and shape the bed. Makes a picture perfect, sod and root-free bed of soil that you’d never guess was just broken from ground unworked for 15 years. Then we seed it. If we maintain our beds compaction free, heavily mulched, top-dressed and cover-cropped, we will never have to till again.
It’s not horrible work and doesn’t take very long. Well, after rain it’s much less easy and fun – the sod is heavy and matted; yet it’s still doable in the rain, and we are aiming for steady continuity, not to do it all at once and burn out.
We are aiming for four garden beds a week in June, and that will break a respectable area for this year, easily on top of all the other work we need to do. Next year we can do the same and double our garden. So far, six beds.