Sunday, June 29, 2008

garden experiment

So, three weeks after putting a tarp on our lawn, it was time to see how the solarizing worked. Bram took off the plastic, and stacked the wood off to the side and this is what we had:

Looked pretty dead to me. But while breaking up the dirt with the spading fork, I came across some subterranean-fungus-white-but-still-alive stuff, connected to long roots. Probably the dreaded bindweed.

So, after spading, I raked all the clumps to the sides. Pulled out the root balls, amended the dirt, and raked it flat. Decided that the wood should go back as edging, at least for now. Figure it will keep the dirt in place a little better. Tested the sprinklers, to see what kind of coverage we got. Pretty good, but some of the logs needed to be dug in lower, so the pop-up sprinkler heads near the edges would clear them. Here's the area, ready for mulch.

I decided to use straw. Mulch is pretty much mandatory in these parts — it's the best way to keep the dirt from drying out immediately. Joa introduced me to using straw my first summer here, while I was helping her with some landscaping at her and Janie's place. Then I got Ruth Stout's No-Work Garden Book out of the library. It's all about using straw as a really deep mulch; to control pests, to keep weeds down, to keep things from drying out, and as it breaks down, it's like adding compost to the soil. It's also pretty entertaining, the book, I mean.

Not the straw. Nothing funny about straw.


Straw bale rides! Yee hah! That's a flattering pic Bram took of of me, eh? Thanks, sweetie. :)

Anyway, Ruth Stout apparently was a bit of a nut, if a charismatic one, and while her technique isn't exactly "no-work" it is, as this essay points out "no-till, no-dig, no-water, no-weed and no-composting." Eh, I don't know if I'd go that far.

After mulching, I grabbed those sticks that were leaning against the back wall (I knew I was saving them for something!) and stuck 'em inna ground as supports. Aaaand, here I am, putting in the plants.

There are 3 tomato plants, 2 winter squash plants, and I put in a buncha bean seeds (I guess those would be "beans") around the foot of that teepee-looking thing. Here's the final setup, and a long view of the yard from the patio:

[click for larger]

Bram is on the intertubes, looking up the kind of tomatoes we got. They are (all 3) Black Krim, which I confess I grabbed mainly because the nursery tag said they were "extremely early." The squashes are (1) Acorn squash and (1) Delicata, and the the beans are (were? will be?) Hutterite soup beans.

I think maybe I'll put in some marigolds, they're supposed to be good for the tomatoes. We'll also probably have to put up some chicken wire or something around the perimeter, to keep out critters (skunks? neighbor cats? chupacabras?). Ah, it's an experiment. I read once that if you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener. My hamstrings are killing me — maybe I should stretch before gardening.

[cross-posted from G2NM]

Saturday, June 7, 2008

killing the lawn

We've been kind of conflicted since purchasing a home with a lawn — no matter that it's a tiny one. We don't really do anything with in or in it, and it just consumes water, arguably our town's most precious resource. Last year, it was less of a question, with rain that didn't even have us thinking about the irrigation system until July. This year it's been drier and we haven't really turned it on, just kind of letting whatever would naturally happen happen (dandelions and bindweed, apparently).

Monica's been reading gardening books and blogs, drawing diagrams, thinking about planting a vegetable garden. I had an epiphany a couple weeks back, just looking over at the lawn, and thinking, "why do we have this? What's it doing for us? Let's just rip this whole thing out." If we're going to be using water, it should be for something that produces something. We'll convert the entire back yard to a vegetable garden and be ready for when the revolution comes and we all have to grow what we eat.

Fortunately, she had been planning for this already. And had a slightly more realistic take on what could and should be done about it. Step one, we gotta kill what's there (dandelions and bindweed, apparently) before we can even think about planting. That's where the solarization comes in. Churning up the dirt, soaking it, and covering it in clear plastic will basically bake anything that's there. It'll be a couple weeks, but should give us something that we can think about planting; it'll be late in the season, but it still might work. In any event, we'll be ready for next year.

The size of the experiment is dictated by the piece of plastic we bought, much less ambitious (and more realistic) than my vision of getting rid of the whole thing. Its position is determined by the sprinkler system and the exposure to the sun. Today was turning over the earth and then covering it up.


More later.

[post by Bram, cross-posted from G2NM]