I know I have been very quiet here this spring. I didn’t mean to be. I would keep thinking of things I’d like to write down, but then I got so, so busy and picked up by the driving, whirling, greening spring – I couldn’t ever get around to sitting down and writing anything.
So much has happened, that after awhile it’s hard to know where to begin again. We are making a new garden this year – a project we have talked about for many years and never been able to make happen until now. I have filled up the garden space I have, until there is simply not enough room to plant any more of anything, much less grow cover crops to enrich the soil.
My garden has suffered from not being able to run the pigs through all of it before planting again. I could see the difference this year between one side of the garden where I have hand-weeded and re-planted three years in a row (because of delicate seed-saving projects that were still in progress, and would have been disrupted by pigs – in fact they have plowed through electric netting and gobbled things up before), looked stagnant and weedy beside the half that had been plowed by pigs.
I think the animals encourage the beneficial bacteria, and stimulate the soil. Inspired, I asked my friend Adam of Three Rivers Plantation to help me prune my fruit trees. It’s hard for me to do this kind of thing – the pruning, the thinning, the plowing, the killing. I like things to stay the way they are, but change is stimulating to life. Life, one could say, thrives on a certain amount of change.
Our neighbor helped us a lot by plowing our new garden space, which was very helpful to break up the tough grass roots. The big pigs were pretty lazy and hardly did anything in the few weeks we had them there, unfortunately.
So my days have been full to the brim of caring for little animals, and cooking and cleaning and rolling heavy bales of moldy oat hay over the plowed earth. Rose, Clothilde, Ethan, and even my little nephew all helped too! I wanted to cover it as quickly as possible, to help with weeds and keep the bright spring sun from overheating the soil, burning off the carbon and damaging the soil life.
It’s really like starting out with two left feet, starting over from scratch with the garden. I didn’t imagine it would be so hard! I actually drew up a beautiful garden plan, on graph paper, precisely measured out – and I have hardly followed it or even glanced at it (this is why I never bother to do it usually – but I got so excited about a new garden). Because as I was working in the garden, things started to happen. I realized the shadows and light moved differently across the garden than I had thought they would. Things I had thought would work in one location actually worked better in other locations. Sometimes I had more starts than I thought I would, and had to move things around, or sometimes less.
It all is working out in the end, but I am realizing that while I thought I was a pretty good gardener before, it really was that I had a really good garden. All those years of pouring mulch and compost and leaves and hay and manure in made things easy. At least this new garden is too far for the horrible chickens to come and ravage. They would have scratched everything up by now if it wasn’t. The downside is that it is too far for the cats and dogs to keep the wild rabbits away.
I had a hard time with my starts this year. Back in January, when I was starting everything, the hardware store was out of the usual organic potting soil I usually use. So Ethan bought me whatever “normal” organic brand they had – I think it was Miraclegro or something awful like that. And all the starts I started in that soil died. All sorts of things – squash and cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers and flowers. Everything. It germinated, and tried to grow, and then turned yellow and died, even if it was fertlized, transplanted, moved to more sun, less sun, more warmpth, less warmpth, etc. I got a good kind of soil later and started more starts that are doing wonderful – same cold frame, same treatment, same kinds of pots. I think the first kind of soil was contaminated. There are so many herbicides that can show up in animal manure now – I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an issue.
Still, this new garden is coming along well – I have this dream of having four garden spaces one day. One for perennial herbs, one for growing vegetables, one for grains and staple crops, and one to be in cover crops to regain fertility. I would love to plant cover crops and then run the animals in to eat them and drop manure. I am planning to give my first garden a nice, long rest this year under different cover crops.
These pictures are all of my first garden – the new garden is still underway – I will post a little tour of it soon! I had some gardening friends come over a few weeks ago – back when it was in the infant garden stage – mostly little rows of teeny tiny plants, still suffering a little from the transplant, or empty rows seeded with things. They wanted to see the new garden (they requested to see the new garden). They were not very impressed!
The interesting thing about taking so long to write again is that I have a lot of pictures to share from different times. Here you can see the growth of the back of the garden. This was where I planted all the flowers this year. The flowers have been so beautiful this year! So many things re-seeded themselves! I am curious what will grow when I’m not here planting it. Already there are big sunflowers, tithonia, cosmos, and zinnias blooming that have planted themselves – as well as some millet!
The poppies! Oh my goodness, the poppies! They have been so lovely and abundant this year, appearing in all sorts of unexpected corners. I guess someday I might hate them as a weed, but I can’t even imagine it, because they are so beautiful. ( TonyTomeo – if you still read here – I did manage to grow forget-me-nots after all! They are beautiful and did well being planted in fall – thanks for your advice! They are such lovely flowers).
The flowers in general have been so pretty.
The ruby red buckwheat and scarlet flax – there are lots of blue and red colors in the garden right now.
The grains have almost all been harvested and bundled up – the onions are now on being pulled and dried inside. I had three kinds of barley, and oats, and purple daikon for seeds. The purple daikon often has purple flowers too! The seeds are now almost dry and ready to harvest.
I am also growing oilseed flax. The flowers are so beautiful! They only open in the morning before the day gets hot. I hope I have enough time this spring to try processing the fiber too.
I had a lot of losses to frost this past winter. Anything that died in the frost, I pulled and re-planted in potatoes. They are ready to start digging, and we’ve had potatoes for dinner this past week.
There are also edible things in the garden, not just flowers! Here are the carrot beds, the parsnips and salsify. The Black Nebula carrots have gone to flower, and I’m going to save seed from them. They grew beautifully, and are such a beautiful dark blue. We used them for dyeing eggs this year. They are like beets – they will stain your teeth and hands purple. The salsify is putting out flowers for the first time ever, so I guess I might save seed if I can spare any.
We also have strawberries this year! I tried to plant a lot of them, and I bought a big box of 500 bareroot starts leftover from a local organic farm. Unfortunately, they were not in good condition, and only maybe 20 plants were fresh enough to grow (I am of course not very happy about this! I’m planning on ordering my own bareroot plants this fall). Still, that’s quite a bit of strawberries. They are still producing well, even if the chickens have had their way with them early on.
The beautiful purple-podded peas are did well – they are nearly dry on the vine by now. This variety is called “Carruther’s Purple Pod” (I think) from Adaptive Seeds. It’s my favorite shelling pea. The peas themselves are fat and green. It grows well and has pretty flowers, and the purple pods make them very visible and easy to harvest. The green ones can get lost sometimes. It’s been a good year, and we’ve had plenty of peas, and extra to save for drying.
The lettuce is all bolted now, and I am planning on saving seeds from it. I grew all my favorites this year – Drunken Woman, Ear of the Devil, Red Oakleaf, and some new varieties.
Well, that’s all, folks! Still working – and I have some recipes to share with you soon.