Here’s a quick status update on what’s going on in the garden. Well, maybe not so quick. There’s a lot going on this time of year! I’ll get some pictures up later this week. Mind you, I’m doing this all in my spare time while working full time, taking the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) one weekend a month, raising a family and so on. It can be done.
I got the swales dug, the paths laid out in straw, and about 30-40% of the garden plot (about 40′ x 60′) sheet mulched over the last month. I planted the paths and swales in white clover, but haven’t seen any evidence that the seed is sprouting.
I redeemed my “Christmas Cash” at the local nursery for a quince, a clethra and a variegated dogwood. The dogwood goes between the apple trees as a calcium recycler and “sweetener” to the fruit. Then I popped over to another fabulous nursery specializing in Japanese garden stock and materials for some clumping bamboo (fargesia rufa).
I also picked up a flowering dogwood down in Deposit this past weekend, but it was with a group that was devastated by the fungus now affecting many dogwoods in the northeast. So I’m a little nervous having it in the garden, but I’m going to try and keep it at least spatially isolated from the other dogwoods. I’ll also plant it with some lupines and poppies, which I believe have anti-fungal properties.
When down there I also obtained some free blueberries from one of my co-students in the PDC. My 9-year old and I planted these Tuesday night. I’ve been very into scrounging plant material, which is outrageously easy. I want a forsythia hedge (a “fedge”) along the back of the garden to keep the deer out, or at least discourage them. On my drive into work I saw that someone had cut back their forsythia, so I stopped and gathered up the free plant material. Later that night I cut the branches in small sections and stuck them directly into the ridge of the lowest swale. Hopefully this will be enough to get them to root.
Saturday night at the PDC we foraged for garlic mustard, dandelions and chives for a salad. We also boiled up some Japanese Knotweed (invasive relative of rhubarb and asparagus) to put in the desert. I wanted to go after the garlic mustard growing on my own lot this week, but sadly the guy who mows what’s left of the lawn cut them down. At least it looks better.
Another night I went exploring the old railroad tracks south of town and found a bunch of old apples, cherries and plums back there. Having brought along my clippers, I made a few cuttings, stuffed them in my pockets and headed home. I cut them at a bud or branch, on a diagonal, dipped them in rotenone to stimulate rooting, and put them in pots with about half garden soil and half potting soil.
Perennials and re-seeding annuals are coming up and out all over the garden: baptisia, yarrow, comfrey, lupine, bleeding heart, hosta, peony, hydrangea, rue, jacob’s ladder, bee balm, lungwort and pyrethrum. A number of these I dug up and made root separations, a great way to propagate many perennials.
This morning I started another biggish group of seeds for summer planting- tomato, tomatillo, fennel, stevia, purple bell pepper, ancho poblano, cayenne, jalapeno, perennial and annual sunflowers. I’ve been transplanting lettuces, tai sai, brassicas, cilantro, parsley, spinach and sorrel into the raised beds.
Theoretically, you can put pockets of soil directly on top of a sheet mulched bed and plant into these. I haven’t tried this yet, so this is my next test, as I am running out of established bed space.
Structurally, I moved the compost bin much closer to the back door, and started a compost bucket under the sink. I got some Aspen wood shavings from a pet store and I’m dropping a sprinkling of these into the bucket. The carbon is supposed to balance out the nitrogen and kill the ammonia smell that sometimes comes from kitchen scraps left too long. So far, no smell and no fruit flies.
Tuesday night I knocked the concrete off the iron pipes I dug up last summer. These were set as clothes line poles, sometime in the golden age of heavy industry. They were set about 3 feet deep with about 150 lbs. of concrete on each. These were not fun to dig out! Anyway, they’ve been lying there next to the garage with these big chunks of concrete on the end, until this week. The pipe is probably useful for something so I’m not getting rid of that yet. The concrete I’ll use as the base for a small berm which I’ll plant with shrubs like witch hazel and honeysuckle as a screen near the sidewalk and spruce tree.