The weather was been beautiful early this week and we’ve been busy making spring garden preparations. Our garden philosophy can best be described as mostly the Hugel-Perma-Biotensive-whereby-you-pray-that-it-works-When-It-Counts-method. (Thank you my Eastern European ancestors, Bill Mollison, John Jeavons, and Steve Solomon.)
The last few days’ work have focused on seed starting, test germinating old seed and late winter plowing. We expanded the gardens with a 10,000 square foot pea patch (cowpeas or southern peas) to bring us to a total of just about 16,000 square feet or roughly 1/3 acre.
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Yes, I did say plow. Shame on us, some would say, but each homestead has to do what works. Remember, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. We actually find that the plowing we’ve done has had no adverse effect on the soil that we can see. We used a Troy-Bilt tiller for years and that method did harm the soil in my opinion. Diced earthworms aren’t much help to the natural gardener. We also found that with roto-tilling we have more erosion and soil loss after heavy rains. Our homestead is on a slope and sometimes even with strategic ditches and swales the rain gets ahead of us. So now the tiller is used only rarely on a super-shallow setting when we need an especially fine seed bed. Another method that we utilize that those in the know might frown upon is burning off crop residues, but again, it works for us.
Our garden soil is amended with compost, chicken litter and rabbit manure, wood ashes and charcoal. Two smaller beds for edible and medicinal herbs were double dug this week with one bedded down with compost, ashes and straw mulch for another few weeks and the other planted in herb transplants.
We have cabbage, Brussels sprouts and some tomatoes up already here in the cabin. We’re test germinating some older seeds by counting out 10 seeds and placing them on soaked sheets of newspaper that are then folded and placed in plastic bags. I number each bag and make a chart to record the progress of each type of seed. Since it can get fairly cool in the cabin at night, sometimes down in the ‘40’s, I place all the bags in a styrofoam cooler that I can close up at night, sometimes adding a quart jar of warm water to maintain proper temperatures.
We also pruned the grapevine and took cuttings of both it and the wild grapes that grow down by the spring in hopes of expanding our grape production this year. There’s nothing much yummier than wild grape syrup on corn cakes, or so says my grandson Oran.
We have two Hugelkulture-type beds (I say “type” because I don’t always follow the directions to the letter) that we placed in a low lying area to help soak up the excess water and provide a way to use the area without exposing the plants to wet feet. So far the first bed is working as planned as a fantastic comfrey bed and another is under construction. The rocks that form the border are native sandstone salvaged from the foundation of an old one-room school on the next ridge over.
A rough, sloping area near the rabbit cages is slated for planting later his spring in birdsfoot trefoil, a mat-forming perennial legume that will serve both to cover and hold the slope and supplement feed for the bunnies who in turn provide us with meat, pelts and manure – a little permaculture at work.
I apologize for the lack of pictures with this post (and I will ‘fess up that the cabbage transplants pictured are last year’s). I’ll try to post extras next time.