Bed prep… this no-till stuff will kill me

My main method of preparing a garden bed for planting is to hoe the grass and weeds off, put down compost and ground oyster shell, and then lay out the drip tape. This spring I am finding that the bigger weeds such as dock and the big clumps of grass have to be dug out with the shovel. This adds a lot of time and bending over to the job 😦 I spent 4 hours preparing the 2nd half of my greens bed today. Maybe I can get the rest of my kale seedlings in before they die! And plant some zinnia seeds. I transplanted my few zinnia seedlings and my many dills into the top part of the bed earlier this week.

We are having a heat wave but at least the wind wasn’t too bad while I was working this morning and early afternoon. It is 10:45pm and the house is still 77 degrees!

The greens bed in progress
Garden bed with lighter, older compost on the ground and plants growing along the lines of drip tape in the foreground and darker compost that I put out today in the background

 

Coming along… slowly

I think it was a bit less windy today, but around 8:15am it was still 43.5 degrees F outside. The strawberries are not liking this cold weather, which means that I’m having to throw out a whole lot of bad and/or soft berries :(. And the work has gotten ahead of me. I started working on the Chandler bed on Friday and I made it about 5 feet in an hour. The soil is so hard that it is nearly impossible and very painful to pull out all that mature grass :(.

I’m realizing that I’ve been really overwatering the small seedlings. The flowers have hardly any roots. 😦 On the flipside of that, past the area where I noticed a big leak in the Seascape/Sweet Ann bed the other night, we realized today that 1/4 of that bed (half of that row) is not receiving water because the gophers chewed all the way through the drip tape. Sad, small plants and sad, dry berries. I need to get out there with a watering can. And fertilizer. 😦 And another line of drip tape.

I have been trying to transplant my flowers, but I don’t know if any of the poppies (too late for them, anyhow) or Shasta daisies will survive. We shall see… I haven’t transplanted my dill yet, but I think it looks better after spending the weekend out of the direct sun on the bottom shelf in the greenhouse.

Today was Mother’s Day so I didn’t get as much done as I might have on a regular Sunday. T spent some time hanging out in the garden with me. Today he was really into eating pea leaves. I am struggling to teach him to hold the plant with one hand and pull the leaf off with the other! We went to the farm supply store to try to find a hose sprayer for the greenhouse. I also got an extra kneeling pad or two, and a kids’ garden rake for T. And more seedling trays!

Longest garden day yet this season!

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cabbages and kales. the white area at the end of the bed is ready to receive some more plants!

This morning I was trying to extend the greens bed that I filled up last night (it was 25 or 30 feet long). I started hoeing and immediately got into this awful, thick grass that was along last summer’s drip tape line. Ask me how I know that the drip tape had been there. Well, it’s because I pulled it out of the dirt and grass this morning. Anyhow, I had to try both the shovel and my dull digging spade. It was hard work digging around those roots! I realized that I should try to put the grass roots (and dirt) where there’s a low spot on the path along the west side of the garden. Anyhow, the roots are happy to grow sideways — or even upwards! How ridiculous.

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clump of grass roots that I dug up when I was trying to transplant seedlings

So I was trying to hoe the “easy” stuff off of the bed and I found that 1. it was too windy, the soil was too dry, and the soil was powdering out into the air (wind erosion), and 2. a few feet to the north, the soil is too wet. So I put compost over the area that I finished, and this evening I added some oyster shell lime and extended the drip tape to include the new area. I watered with a watering can and hope to get more of my dino kales in tomorrow.

light-colored dry soil in foreground, darker wet soil in back on the left. dried grass stubble around those areas
light-colored dry soil in foreground, darker wet soil in back on the left. dried grass stubble.

One problem with having big seedlings like I do now: the Red Russian and Dino kales that I planted last night were not happy getting blown around the way they were. I should have hardened them off. So I put the remaining incomplete tray of dino kales out where they can get some wind, and I tried to hill more soil at the base of the plants that are in the ground.

I am thinking that I should try to prepare the bed next to this one, on the off-chance that the southern end of it is usable like the 1st bed is. That will put me up against last year’s Chandler strawberries. I really need to clean up that bed. We have been debating mowing a strip down the middle of that bed to improve acccess. T he problem is that our mower blows the stuff out the side, and the string trimmer doesn’t work anymore. Fortunately it has an overkill “brush blade,” but can you imagine the smashed berries blowing everywhere?”

summer strawberries in May! Cracked earth nearby is called reactive soil. It is a great place for slugs and bugs to hide out!
summer strawberries in May! Note cracked earth (reactive soil). A great place for slugs and bugs to hide out!

Today I also hacked weeds out of the purchased compost, did some seed inventorying, and pulled weeds in part of the snap pea bed. Wow, what a productive day!

Maybe I need to rethink things…

I’ve been trying to decide if I should order more strawberry crowns (bare-root plants). I keep forgetting how many of the ones I planted this spring survived. More than 30, maybe even closer to 40? That’s enough for one family… and I have some Shasta Daisy seedlings and can try to start more… so maybe I should focus on adding flowers to that bed, and consider putting more berries in there this fall/next spring, if I can. For the Integrated Pest Management class at the Junior College, I did a report about Lygus bugs, and learned that Shasta Daisies are supposed to help keep them away. I think I found one in last year’s Seascapes a couple of nights ago.

I’ve been saying that I want to focus on flowers (at  least as a first enterprise).  I have those shasta daisies and like 10 zinnias started. Also some poppies that are probably rootbound. I need to start more stuff! Meanwhile, last night’s entire garden time was spent potting up my greens seedlings. Not the best use of my time, is it? I did the cabbage (green), red russian kale, and some of the dino kales. The plants already look like they should be potted up further. I also divided up the shasta daisies into their own cells in new sixpacks. I hate using all this single-use plastic. I don’t really have the means to wash dirt out of pots and bleach them. Can’t put dirt down our drains and I don’t have a dedicated farm sink. I need to buy more 4-inch pots so I can do more of those greens, and I need to prep the bed(s) where the greens will go. And start more broccoli and cabbage.

I have a problem about my anticipated greens beds – it turns out that they are immediately next to last spring’s. I wasn’t able to get the old plants out this winter/spring, but I did get a bunch of them out last week. There are still a few that I need to pull/cut out. But the bugs that were in them could still be there. I had a few of the bad bugs, you might remember. Is there a way to search hashtags on a blog? I think that my posts about bugs are under #IPM.

This morning I did some mowing around strawberry and pea beds. The other night I took down the posts from the rest of last fall’s pea trellis. Have not had time to try to wrestle the trellis netting out of the grass. It’s going to be so much work. The plants that I tried to train to the trellis in the heat last week are shorter than all the rest. Hm. We did water a bit on Sunday, so that might be helping the other plants. Maybe I damaged the growing tips when I tried to move them…?

This evening it was back to the strawberries. The ground is now too wet to be able to pull individual huge grass plants out of the ground. Fortunately I had my Felcos with me (I hardly ever use them for some reason) and at least was able to cut 3′ high grass down to 4 inches or so… and I picked about 2/3 of a basket before I was summoned to the house to comfort my sick child. He’ll be home missing a long preschool day tomorrow. I feel bad that I had left a bunch of bad berries along the edge of the bed, intending to pick them up when I finished picking, and never got back to put them into a compost bucket. Sigh! #farmingmum

Made my first sale

I’ve been keeping busy out there in the garden. I’m still working hard on the painstaking removal of old plant matter (and weeds and slugs) from last summer’s strawberry bed. Meanwhile, there are strawberries to pick and eat every time I go out there. I’ve done over 7 hours of work (over the last week or so, I think) and I have only made it about halfway down the bed. I don’t have time for this! I need to get my June-bearing bed cleaned up, and today I noticed that there are strawberries rotting in the 2016 summer strawberry bed.

Meanwhile, my seedlings are begging to be planted or potted up. I sold 2 sixpacks of Broccoli (Waltham 29 iirc) today! A woman drove over and took them home for her raised beds. In addition to my not having time, the beds that I wanted to use for greens. I have cabbage, dino kale – 4 sixpacks – and way-too-leggy red russian kale, plus some dill and a few zinnias for those beds. I also have marigolds and poppies. I need to get those poppies into the pea bed asap. I’ll have to hand-water first, though! I tried planting some sweet peas for flowers this spring and got zero plants. I need to just start them in the greenhouse.

Speaking of peas, we got our longest section of trellis moved from one of last fall’s pea beds this week. I set up the trellis this morning and tried to train the plants to the netting. By about 11 or 11:30, the plants were shutting down and stopped reaching. This evening it looked to me like the casual observer might think that I had, in fact, trained them. 🙂 There are still a lot of weeds, including volunteer tomatoes. Hopefully next winter will be a bit less rainy and I can remove my debris in a timely fashion.

I’ve been doing a lot of mowing and weedwhacking. I have uncovered most of the path that goes down the middle of the garden. Unfortunately there is a row’s worth of drip tubing stuck in some really tall grass on the west end. 😦 Tonight I realized that my planned new greens beds were immediately next to last summer’s greens beds, which I had only just mowed. I tried to pull the chopped up brassicas out and take them to the compost pile. Didn’t quite get to finish since it was getting very late…

We need to water soon, even though we had a few rainy days earlier this week. The ground has crusted over wherever it’s bare. Hoping to start more seeds real soon.

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Photo taken by my partner Z this evening. It shows me at the north end of the garden with the mower, which had likely stalled due to trying to eat too much grass at a time

I need help! and more time.

I’ve been spending 1-2 hours in the garden each day, usually in the evening, which puts a lot of domestic pressure on my husband. It’s so weird that I call him my husband now, because I fully intended to always call him my partner. Things are a bit more conservative here in Sonoma County, as compared to where we got married – in Oakland. Anyhow, he doesn’t really have any time or energy for the garden these days. This is frustrating, since taking down last fall’s pea trellis has been a lengthy process for me (sickled and cut grass back from the trellis a week or two ago, and today I pulled the stakes out, but the trellis is twist-tied on at the base, and some of the trellis past the last stake is really stuck in the grass). I need this trellis for this spring’s peas!!!

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Crappy photo taken at sunset of the part of the strawberry bed where I’ve been pulling dead leaves, runners, and fruit off and killing whatever slugs I can. Note red strawberry on plant on left. Some of them have cold damage, which I think is because I’ve pulled the weeds back a few inches from the strawberry plants and made room for cold air to enter and hang out in the bed.

 

Over the last 3-4 days I have spent (at least) 5.5 hours on pulling off dead/dying leaves and fruit and killing slugs and other bugs in the Seascape/Sweet Ann (2016) strawberry bed. I’m almost halfway down the bed. I really did not clean up the bed at the end of last year.

Also, I mowed 1.5 hours yesterday (around most strawberry beds, where new greens should be, around field edges, and a bit more of the mound that goes along the neighbors’ fence, which I spent about 2 hours on on Thurs or Fri). Mowing the mound last week was slow going because the plants were so tall and the bunch grasses were so thick and damp at their bases that the mower kept stalling. I want to plant perennials for foliage and filler up there. It’s over 200 feet (probably more like 280) and is over 6′ wide in some spots. The previous owner reportedly tried to plant bushes there, but they didn’t do well. The grass is always very happy there, and the curly dock, too.

Seedlings in greenhouse are doing well (no sign of lemon balm, only  1 onion germinated, not sure about the larkspur or the lavender or rosemary). The greens are ready to transplant. I guess I need to get some 4″ pots or something :/ 

Some rain is predicted for Monday and Tuesday. We have already received 60.05 inches of rain since October 1st. Our average annual rainfall is 36.28, so this is pretty catastrophic. Be glad you can’t smell my neighbors’ septic system, the vapors from which get blown into my garden. I have multiple chemical sensitivity, so the combination of their personal, laundry, and dish products (along with poop) really kicks my butt.

Meanwhile, there’s a gathering of an agricultural organization that I’ve paid to be a member of on Monday. It starts before my husband should be home from work (hopefully he can leave early), and my child, who I was hoping to bring with me, has a cough.