spring plantings

Black Plastic Mulch

This season, we are hoping that black plastic mulch will be a better way for us to control weeds.  Although it is a bit of labor at the start, once in place the fabric should suppress weeds and decrease our labor during the season (so we can focus on our plants, harvest and markets).

Bed prep

First, we reshaped the planting beds (goal was 36″ beds and approximately 30″ pathways).  Compost and minerals were raked into the beds, and the bed surfaces were evened out nice and smooth.

Fabric mulch

Next, we laid down the fabric by hand and used soil to keep in place.  We will be getting more fabric to cover the pathways and staples to hold everything in place.

Template

Jordan made a nice template.  The spacing works out to be 12″ between holes.  This spacing will be used for our market cabbages, kales and greens.  Jordan used a hand torch to burn the holes.

Sunset transplanting

Finally, the plants were transplanted into their beds.  On the right is the red cabbage bed all tucked in.  On the left is the green cabbage bed being planted.  Row covers are used to protect seedlings from bugs, strong winds and heavy rains while allowing air and moisture to get through.

Why are we going with fabric?  We are the only “employees” at the farm, and it is very challenging for us to maintain the garden and work full-time on the side.

The fabric mulch should keep weeds at bay while still allowing water and nutrients to pass through to the soil.  It will keep our beds more intact by protecting them from wind and water erosion, and the mulch should help retain moisture.

Plus – the fabric should last us up to 10 or more years.  The ability to reuse was important to us.  It may be labor to remove and lay the mulch elsewhere depending on crop rotations and spacing needs, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Challenges so far – I am not a good hole burner.  Mine are far from perfect.  Jordan is spot on with the template and torch.

I am still learning about the temperature regulation.  The black mulch heats up the soil and the row covers bump up the inner temperature.

Although the fabric should help retain moisture, the inner temperature of the tunnels have stressed the new transplants a little.  Frequent watering has been necessary to prevent drying of the soil and to cool the inner temperature of the mini-tunnels.  I now open the row covers just enough for air exchange but not enough for chicken invasion.

Is it really supposed to be 80degF in April????

The other challenge…chickens.  They have been free range and can get in and out of the garden easily through little holes in the deer fencing.  In the near future, some electric perimeter fencing will be installed to keep deer, dogs and chickens out.

Cabbages, kales and greens

One of my favorites

We are adding two more rows of asparagus…it isn’t nearly enough!

New crowns

New crowns

A few spears have already come up…and have been harvested…and haven’t been shared. Fresh asparagus is beyond great! We may need more.

Going in…more ‘Purple Passion’ and ‘Jersey Supreme’

The process –

  • order crowns from reputable seed company (in this case, these two year old crowns come from Fedco out of Maine)
  • prepare the soil – re-created the raised beds, applied mineral (lime for calcium, potassium sulfate, boron, and feather meal as a nitrogen source), applied compost, till
  • dig a trench and cover bottom with compost
  • spread crown roots and cover
  • we will cover the newly planted crowns with a thick layer of straw mulch

Yum!

 

Alliteration

Just got a song in my head and cannot get rid of it…which in most cases can be annoying, but in this case, I really don’t mind. It’s one of my favorite songs; fully of alliteration.

It came to me while I sat noshing on my dinner at my desk, gazing out the window. Rhythmic beats of the gutter dripping rain water on the metal roof below. Out the window, a hawk suddenly landed. If it were a little brighter out, I’d be posting a picture of him. Majestic! He stool fearless in the middle of the front yard, unfazed by rain. Glad I got to see him! Which led me to thinking of these lyrics…with a little poetic license…

Wordlessly watching she waits by the window and wonders, at the empty place outside (I’m thinking of my garden blank slate)

Heartlessly helping herself to her bad dreams, she worries, did she hear a goodbye (see ya winter)? Or even hello (hiya spring)?

Anyway. Those aren’t the real lyrics to Helplessly Hoping, but they are my twisted version to apply to gardening.

What exactly is going on right now? Well, a little of nothing, a bit of waiting, a lot of anticipation…and in between…some tillage, some list making, some plans of attack, and some seed starting.

Here is what is in the works: over 5 thousand onion starts, over 4 hundred leeks, over 4 hundred cabbages (with 400 more to go), bed prep for more asparagus, and fingers crossed for a dry weekend so some serious garden work can happen.

Tilling in spring weeds

Tilling in spring weeds

I love spring.