02 January 2011

New Gardening Techniques

The gardens of Stratheden Farm are lush, filled with flowers, and producing exactly the right amount of food at the right time and in the perfect combination. There are no weeds. The deer fence is festooned with hops, grapes, roses, and hardy kiwi vines. There is a smallish fluffy yellow cat napping under the rhubarb bush until an edible plant predator appears. Maybe it'll actually happen today, she hopes. If not she'll chase butterflies a little later.

Yes, dear reader, Mrs. Fuzzy's garden is perfect. It's also completely fictional inside my head and the pile of seed catalogs sitting on the table beside me. Ah, yes, a gardener's most blissful time of year. I did not understand it until just now. The perfect season: Catalog Time.

As part of my Total Garden Rehab project I am sworn from ordering any seed that is not a cover crop or to be grown for selling or gifting as starts. That's one thing I do know how to do: grow gorgeous baby vegetables. Still, I can dream my impossible dream of growing tepary beans next to pole beans without getting mosaic virus everywhere. Some day I will figure a fix for that problem. (Teparies tend to be carriers.)

The thing I am allowing myself to do with all these "perfect-garden" resources is plan. I have re-read Elliott Coleman's Four Season Harvest and last night completed the useful parts of Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza. (It's mostly in the first 20 pages.) To a great degree they are talking about the same thing: compost in place, minimal tillage, and wide bed methods. Mr. Coleman's farm has many of the same conditions as Stratheden with the exception that his soil is coastal and therefore too sandy whereas ours is clay mixed with rock. His soil's Ph. was even lower than ours!

What I am formulating is to use a fairly traditional approach in the lower garden where I can use the new tiller Mr. Fuzzy gave me for Christmas to work amendments into the soil. My gut tells me that plants prefer not to be cut off from the soil and a barrier of paper over the ground would do this for several years.

In the walled garden I'll be implementing something much closer to Mrs. Lanza's method because the roots of our apple and peach trees preclude much use of digging tools. I'll use the roosters to denude the soil of the weeds that grow so prolifically there then start to lay out a whole new design for a pretty cutting garden. Once the paths are marked I'll lay down the compost layers to rebuild the depleted soil and plant a cover crop. Next autumn I hope to move out the over sized bushes and add more suitable perennials.

This "sheet composting" method will, I think, also work well in awkward areas that need tarting up like around the greenhouse or the blueberry patch. The trick will be making it look nice while excluding the chickens. Perhaps movable picket fencing is in my crafting future?

1 comment:

SarahB said...

I'm impressed! The furthest we've gotten is discussing how to preemptively deal with a vole invasion. The voles just chomped down all our pretty vegetables last year.