This post is really out of order for what I was planning to reveal about our garden however, it is more relevant to this time of year; gardening season! When we moved here, really, the property had no landscaping done and was in a more natural state. Among the tons of things on our list of getting/adding/building on the property were my raised garden beds. I had 2 corrugated steel beds installed on either side of the front stairs and 2 U-shaped cedar beds installed in the back yard. All 4 of the beds are used to grow food – yes – even in the front yard 🙂
The dream is to one day have our property become a food forest to help us achieve some sort of food security. My hope is that one day the property will be home to my children and my children’s children… but back to the present…and reality for a little while longer. So, I started some seedlings back in February and, after a few false starts (aka late frosts), I was finally able to get all of the gardens planted. The U-shaped raised beds also turn into little greenhouses by way of PVC piping that arches across the bed and 8 mil plastic affixed over top. While this usually made the perfect environment for growing seedlings and encouraging germination of new seeds, the late frosts still decimated a couple of my tomato plants. Luckily, I was able to start seeds again for the tomatoes and they seem to be coming along now.
Hay… you’re probably wondering by now how hay fits into all of this. First, allow me to say that I really don’t have that much knowledge of hay and am sort of using the term in a casual way. Our property is right up next to a marsh area. Because of that, we have an interesting mix of grasses on our property; some makes the best straw and I’ve been able to use it in the animal cages/houses, and some of the other grasses makes a wonderful hay. Most permaculture techniques demand that soil is never left bare. Soil could be covered with a number of things like fast growing ground cover plants, wood chips, and natural mulches. My technique is to grow some of the grasses on our property very long, cut it with the lawn mower, allow it to dry for a day or two and then rake it up. This hay becomes the mulch in the garden beds. Mulch is so important because it helps retain water and microorganisms in the soil, helps prevent compaction of the soil and adds crucial organic matter to the soil.
Some of you hardcore gardeners may be gasping for air now, “Grass?! On your garden?! Aren’t you introducing weeds, seeds, bad things?!” It’s true, grass is one of the most pervasive weeds out there and usually a gardener’s nightmare. However, I see building soil fertility as the main goal so I’m not opposed to spending some time pulling weeds now and then. In fact, I usually use the weeds I’ve pulled to make a fermented weed tea for the garden that helps to return some of the weeds’ nutrients back to the soil. In addition, I’m trying to keep all of the soil amendments in our garden as local and natural as possible; it doesn’t get much more local than 100 feet away! 🙂