Yesterday I had a car for the day, and took advantage by hauling a bunch of starts out to the garden, and spending a solid few hours cleaning up my plot and getting some new things into the ground. Over the last few weeks of warm weather, my plot had blossomed into a veritable chickweed plantation. It looked very scruffy and unkempt, and with a community garden there's a little bit of social pressure to keep things tidy!
I pulled up all the weeds-- about 15 gallons of them--and cut down my patch of vetch and tilled it into the beds where the tomatoes and peppers will go. I'm fairly new to this idea of green manure, but I like it. Essentially, cover crops (mainly nitrogen fixing plants like legumes) are grown in rotation with food crops, and then are cut and tilled into the ground to decompose and create additional organic matter in the soil. Wikipedia has a good description of green manure here.
Before. I think you can be more effective with green manure if you till the crops in at a certain stage in their growth, and I probably let them grow a little too long for optimum nutrient content. But certainly it will still be very beneficial to the soil.
After. It will take a few good tillings to get it all worked in. This is where the beans were planted last summer. This year it will rotate to tomatoes.
I've written about it before, but I definitely preach the Gospel of Good Dirt. Without healthy soil, a garden is nothing. Paying attention to soil is one of my favorite things to do in the garden. Tilling, adding compost, cover cropping, letting the soil rest, and in the case of this particular plot, pulling out many many rocks.
In the process of weeding, I found that a few veggies I had planted many moons ago and given up on ever sprouting were in fact growing, but had been hidden by the taller weeds. I won't try planting so late in the fall again, but it's nice to find little surprises like these!
A few beets hidden between some of the self-seeded purple poppies that were so magnificent last year.
And a little patch of New Zealand spinach.
Once the weeds were taken care of, I tilled up the rest of the beds as well, and planted my broccoli and cabbage starts and set up little reemay tents for them. I don't have anywhere to harden off my starts now, but hopefully they'll be alright outside, even with the chillier weather this week.
From under the lights...
To out in the garden...
I get a type of fulfillment from garden-y tasks that is a different kind of satisfaction than what I get from other achievements. Whether transplanting my teenage tomatoes starts into bigger pots or setting up a (admittedly slightly wonky) bean teepee, there's a goodness about the work of turning seeds into nourishment --and being outdoors-- that is very unique.
Working with what I have: bamboo poles appropriated from the garden free pile.
With the chard finally taking off like crazy and the parsnips shooting up, I can really start eating from my garden more, and saving money that way. I can't ever seem to get enough of the chard- steamed, added to stir-frys, chopped fresh--it's always so good.
It was rather nice to be the only one in the garden. The weather has been stormy and blustery, but miraculously it didn't rain on me until just as I was packing up to head home. By myself in the middle of a huge area devoted just to growing things, digging and planting and enjoying the physical work of gardening. That's pretty much my ideal Sunday afternoon. At the end of the afternoon, things were shipshape and I was feeling rather proud of my little garden.
Call it a romantic notion, but sometimes when I'm kneeling next to a garden bed with my hands in the dirt or my back is aching from half an hour spent with the turning fork, I feel like I am connecting with all gardeners throughout the centuries who have taken pleasure in working the earth after a long winter and weathered the sweat and bugs and gophers and hailstorms and experienced the immense satisfaction of the harvest. Gardening is in my blood and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.