Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Green Thumb is Broken

I have been avoiding posting lately, because this time of year is normally the time that I wax poetic about digging in the earth and growing things.  That bug hasn't bitten yet this year.  Although I have already spent many, MANY hours digging, weeding, and planting, it hasn't been very satisfying.

I talked with my mom about simplifying the garden this year, as I always seem to get overwhelmed by halfway through the summer.  So, before even putting in my seed order, we decided against potatoes of any kind this year (too much work on the harvesting end), no beans (they never STOP producing, which requires endless picking and canning - I still have enough from last year to keep through this winter), and minimizing the root crops (I planted one bed ONLY of radishes, carrots and beets.)

The things we really enjoy every year are the established asparagus, strawberries and blueberries, as well as fresh lettuce, tomatoes and corn.  Since our tomato crops have been disappointing every year, I started 4 times as many tomatoes from seed, so that hopefully we will get a nice amount in the end.

This weekend, I spent 6 hours broad forking, digging, and working the soil in the garden.  I was in tears at one point, as it was extremely hard labor, and so NOT fun.  On the bright side, I did manage to get that one bed of root veggies planted.

JP stopped by when he was finished with his endless mowing, and I told him that I wasn't enjoying gardening this year.  I thought that the no-till gardening was supposed to be SO easy, but for me, it has been torturous.  We did some research that evening, and discovered that we have been hugely under-amending the beds.  Most things I read, suggested 3-4 inches of manure/compost/leaves/grass clippings/straw twice yearly.  I do put 2-3 inches of leaves every fall, but I think at least 50% blow off during the winter.  I also put about an inch of manure or compost every spring, as well as 1-2 inches of grass clippings or straw for mulch around the plants.  It is making the beds more productive, but the soil remains extremely hard.  I don't know where I'd find enough stuff to put on all my beds twice a year!

Imagine this:  I spend 30 minutes broad forking each of the 14 -  8' x 4' raised beds.  This breaks the soil into clods the size of my head.  Next I spend 30 minutes using the cultivator to break the clods in each bed into the size of my fist.  After that, I use hand tools, and work for close to an hour/bed working the soil fine enough to plant seeds into.  At this point, after nearly 30 hours of hard labor, my hands and back are killing me, and we are FINALLY ready to plant some seeds.  That does not even take into account the fact that the 2 strawberry beds, the rhubarb bed,  the blueberry bushes and the asparagus bed are busy growing an insane amount of weeds.  Oh yeah, there is also the 1 1/2 hours weekly that I need to spend meticulously mowing and weed eating the paths BETWEEN the beds so that the weeds don't move INTO the beds. 

No wonder I feel a bit overwhelmed.

So...new plan:

No more broad forking this year if I can help it.  Most of the remaining things to be planted are transplants, so I can dig holes and add manure/compost to each. 

Also, here's hoping the electric company comes through with those 1-2 truck loads of chipped wood for the garden paths this summer. 

I think I'll feel somewhat differently once I start picking those delicious, sweet & juicy, bright red strawberries in a few weeks.

Any gardening tips for this jaded gardener?

1 comment:

Kimberly Long Cockroft said...

I think it is wise to step back if you're feeling overwhelmed! I only grow the things I love and the rest are a good opportunity to go to Farmer's Market!! I still remember SO well how hard and challenging the soil is to work in your part of the world-oh, mama, it will break a broad fork for sure, no matter how many times you amend it! 😘 So give yourself lots of grace...good plan on the no beans!!