Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weeding as art, science and meditation: a series

With less space and a more established garden, weeding was pretty straight forward in my old suburban location. A lot of the gardens were also started from scratch so no serious issues had festered.

Dandelion Demo Bed Before:
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Here is a before shot of the dandelion demonstration garden*. Honest there are dandelions in there. No not the Taraxacum officinale that is so boldly blooming. Other ones too. P.S. I was unable to garden as much as I wanted to last summer due to paranoia about touching soil while pregnant.

All that's changed now!

I live on a large acreage with huge gardens, some of which I have started from scratch and others I inherited along with their problems. I am also trying to limit inputs to avoid importing pests, diseases, weeds and chemicals.

Loosening soil with shovel - quick and dirty:
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Most of the weeds in here are annuals including a very prolific flanders poppy which I prefer in more moderation than it likes to grow. I removed the perennials with my trusty shovel then quickly went around loosening the dirt beneath the rest. It had recently rained so the soil was easy to work.

Weeding has become a whole new experience for me. I've learned to love both my little hoe and my large digging hand-plough like hoe. I've also been experimenting with growing mulch in situ and putting in gardens using a method I am calling 'rough beds' though it is more commonly known as the bastard bed. Speed is of the essence though when I can take the time to get down to ground level and hand weed, I remember the meditative and exploratory beauty of weeding. Yes really.

Raking away weeds - imperfect but pretty darn good:

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Then I raked up the weeds. Okay so not all the weeds release their grip on the ground but most of them do at this stage. I then went in with my baby hoe and scratched up the rest leaving them there to dry up (poor things).

All this to say that I have been extremely busy putting in and maintaining gardens for our families needs and for my slowly developing business but instead of ignore this blog, this is the first in a series on weeding.

Dandelion Demo Bed After:
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Then I re-mulched the paths as they had been in disarray from the chickens that attacked the earwig invasion last year (thank you chickens). Now you can see that there are two garden beds here. The front one is planted with some unusual dandelion varieties, some violas, rock cress and a few other things and the back garden has a small plum, zucchinis and more. P.S. Please don't look beyond because oh yes there is more to be done. Oh so, so, so, so much more. 



Size of garden beds: two beds 3x9 feet more or less with a 1foot wide utility path
Tools: shovel, rake, wheel barrow
Level of weediness: 3 out of 5, lots of annual weeds but still small**
Time: Approx. 1hour and most of that in hauling mulch.
Number of Gardens to go: Well, considering this is one half of one garden out of around 12, there is more though I have done some work no them already.

Next Time: Getting to Know You: a primer on weedy ways

*No I'm not being sarcastic. There are some cool plants in there!
** Though one thing I have noticed is that weeds have a way of thinning themselves out. If you ignore baby weeds for awhile, often I find that when you go back there are fewer big weeds rather than a whole mass of stunted ones. Lots of self weeding going on. Depending on the weed (some are obnoxious if left to get too big), I sometimes wait until there are less of them to deal with then I can pull out a whole swathe of green weediness in one yank.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Flowering Fruit

The fruit of the garden has burst into bloom.

Among the first to break bud are the nanking cherry and the haskap.

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Haskap - an edible honeysuckle with very early fruit.

Plums were frilly with blossoms though there are starting to fade now. Same with the serviceberry. Not sure where to find these treasures in the wilds? This is a good time of year to spot them sticking out in their white finery often while the tree leaves are just unfurling.

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Serviceberry blossoms are falling.

Ribes has burst into its pale green blossoms such as the flat faced flowers of currants cascading. (say that five times fast)

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Prolific red currant.

Pears break out before apples have left the pink stage.

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Pink bud stage in apple tree

Strawberries are blooming and grape is nearly there.

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Drought (of 2012) tolerant grape

Also in bloom are strawberries both wild and cultivated. Tonight we have frost. As buds swell and open in spring they become less frost tolerant so we'll see how they all do.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Red leafed apple baby

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Geneva Crab Apple 2010

Gardening is an exercise in optimism: that things will be better, that visions of the delights of a gentle earth can become manifest, that tomorrow will happen. Like many a person has said, you plant a tree not only for yourself but for the a future you may never see: for the creatures, for shade, for fruit, for children to dare to climb up to a strong limb and dangle their feet into the thrilling air below.

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Seedling tree roots

Nearly three years ago, my daughters and I were walking in the Arboretum at the Experimental Farm when we found a tree with unblemished apples. Picking one from the ground, we opened it to find red flesh. I brought another home and extracted the seeds. Some of these sprouted and now I have one with bright red leaves.

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Digging it into its permanent home, I discovered what look to be the remains of an old compost pile with egg shells and squash seeds.

I don't know whether or not it will have the tasty red fleshed cider fruit of its parent Geneva or be what is unfortunately called a spitter but I hope to find out one day. Now it is a small seedling planted at the back of the old greenhouse demo garden. As I was placing its roots into the soil, I imagined it growing gnarled and craggy like crabapples do. I saw it covered in pinkish blossoms in the spring, red leaves in the summer and fruit in the fall. I saw its bare limbs covered in snow. I imagined a future of plenty.

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The leaves remained red all summer last year.

Some other things that are going on:

If you follow me on Facebook, then you'll know we like to hold Tree Thursday. Ephemeral walk coming up soon.

I've been helping out at the Canadian Organic Growers Demonstration Garden at the Experimental Farm. If you are interested, let me know.

Also, Aster Lane Edible's first workshop 'The roots go down (mostly): A veggie garden workshop for the complete beginner' will be held May 16.