Saturday, March 29, 2008

The BIG Bed

This is the large garden bed we are working on. We have had it for several years. But this year we didn't weed it or till it. We are sheet mulching or sheet composting. Over the winter we scattered our compost over it and then covered it with cardboard and builders paper (much easier to come by but more fragile when wet) covered it with a layer of leaves and then a thick layer of straw. This is it in progress. You can see the layers. I edged the perimeter with the straw after laying the paper and before filling in with the other layers.

We have quite a few vegetables started already to go in it. Under our grow lights we have: yellow summer squash, zucchini, pattypan squash, a bush butternut squash, green and purple tomatillos, German green tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, black from Tula tomatoes, Moonglow tomatoes, red pear tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes and two bush cucumber varieties. I need to figure out how we are going to combine everything and what we are going to plant where. I have some vining beans that I want to put on a teepee but I am not sure yet where I want to put it. I'd love for the kids to be able to get in it. But if I put it in the vegetable garden they will compact the soil and cause trouble. I'll probably end up putting it in the bed on the hill behind this garden if we can avoid the zipline.

Straw Babies

Please don't call them Nasties!

Aren't they gorgeous? They look like exotic lily pads. A Seussian forest!

New peas and polyculture

I am doing a form of polyculture in this bed. Polyculture is about growing multiple crops in one area rather than the usual monoculture. We started the bed by just laying down the frames from 5 old garden beds that were 4 by 8ft in dimension. It wasn't necessary to use frames but I had them and wasn't using them for anything else and it made it easy to shape the bed evenly. We had save quite a few garbage bags of paper to recycle and newspapers. We wet them and lay them all inside the bed to smother all the existing grass and weeds. That was topped with a thick layer of leaves. And that was topped with a thick layer of straw. I limed the bed and added some bone meal. I made pockets in the straw that I filled with composted manure and planted with the large brassicas we bought. This bed won't do as good this year as it will in the future while the straw and leaves are broken down but this should eventually be great soil full of humus!

We then topped the bed with a few inches of composted manure. Throughout the bed I have seeded a variety of plants. They all mature at different rates so they will be harvested at different times. The quick filling in of the plants should help keep the soil moist and keep down weeds. We are in a level 4 drought right now so all water saving measures are helpful.

Yes, that is a tree laying on the ground! The right side of the bed is a double row of peas along the length of it. They are sugar snap and regular vining peas. The bed is 4 by 40 ft. The plants you see in it are about 45 brassicas: collards, green cabbage, red cabbage and broccoli that we bought from Home Depot. And yesterday the boys helped me plant about 140 other plants we started from seed. They were swiss chard, turnip greens and beets. Here is a close up of the bed:
Between all those plants I planted mustard greens, two varieties of baby carrots, more turnips and a variety grown just for the turnip greens, two varieties of radish, beets and an assortment of lettuce and mesclun. When it gets a little warmer I am going to add some calendula. I also plan on starting some leeks under our grow lights to plant out in here. When it warms and we harvest more of the radish, beets, lettuce etc we will start to fill in with dill, basil and a variety of beans and bush limas as well. This bed should stay full of vegetables for many months with something always in season to pick.

Volunteer Johnny Jump Up. One of my favorite flowers.

Here are some peas we have coming up in the bed on the side of the house. I love the delicate tendrils on peas.
We put some more pea seed in a bowl of water to soak this afternoon to help them sprout sooner. Tomorrow we plan on preparing a spot in our large garden bed to plant them in. The kids absolutely love picking fresh peas and eating them right in the garden. We've learned that we can't plant too many for us. This is one thing everyone here will eat. And there aren't many of those options!

Tons of Easter Pictures!