Wild Ain’t Always Pretty

As an organic gardener, I employ the art of crop rotation in my garden. Basically, after harvesting a bed of glorious bounty, I till the soil and follow the crop with something that is amenable to improving the soil, or at least not depleting it any more than it already has been. For example, after harvesting my corn, I follow with beans in my simple easy-to-follow rotation mantra beans-leaves-roots-and-fruits. (Makes for an easy singalong with kids.) Beans-leaves-roots and fruits! Beans-leaves-roots and fruits!

You get the picture. However, sometimes during my rotation process after my husband mows down my garden with his handy dandy tractor attachment and I amend the soil with my lovely compost, I find some leftovers. Hangers-on. Hold-outs. Call them what you will, but my peanut row–the one that followed my corn–is inundated with clumps of corn and squash.

While they do make decidedly nice companions, this scene ain’t pretty. Definitely not pretty. Now mind you, I prefer productive over pretty, but I’m not sensing these corn are going to be very productive. Too much, too close. Ordinarily I’d pull the unwanted plants from my bed, but this time, I’ve decided to watch and wait, and see what happens. Never know–maybe I’ll get some squash out of the deal! (You probably can’t see them, but there’s squash and that row, too.)

And yes, those are weeds you see all around. But I’ve been out of town for a bit over the last two weeks and weeds are an unwanted consequence. I find it much easier to convince my son to water my plants while I’m gone than to weed them. **sigh** It ain’t pretty, but so long as I can reap the bounty of some fabulous peanuts this summer, it will all be worth it. I’ll keep you posted!

Motorcross in the Garden?

This weekend was my big spring start to the season!  While exciting and invigorating, it was down right  exhausting.  Weeding and tilling three rows in one day (the old-fashioned way with hoe and woman-power) reminded me of why I normally “stagger” this kind of garden duty.  Talk about good exercise!  No wonder you don’t see very many obese farmers.  It’s not because they eat only the fruits and vegetables they grow (remember: Mama makes great pies), it’s because they do hard labor!  Ugh.

Which is why I devised my own personal shortcut to tilling.  I refer to it as “tilling as you go.”  Basically, as I plant each row, I sit (more comfortable on my old body) and use my hand cultivator (check Prize Picks section of my website for details) and till only the area where I’m planting my seeds.  I mean, the seeds don’t care if the five feet of dirt around them is tilled, do they?  

I say no.  They only care about having fresh, soft dirt, amended with compost where they reside, preparing to germinate.   Sure, I realize it’s cheating.  But sometimes….   It’s just plain easier.  Besides, as time passes, I make it a habit to aerate the soil within my beds and around my plants, stimulating root growth which means eventually, the entire bed will be tilled.   

After my daughter finished burying the beans with our compost, I gazed down to the newly expanded area of my garden and sighed.  Unfortunately, I have no energy for that section today. 

As luck would have it, my husband walked by on his way to his “man castle” (tractor shed) and the alarms sounded:  ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!  Tractor, tiller attachment, new section needs tilling…. 

Are you with me?  “Oh, honey!”

Ten minutes later with a breath of fresh attitude, I watched with deep gratitude as my husband mechanically tilled the last three rows for me.  Yes, I”ll still have to form the beds and replace my walkway ground cover, but it will be so much easier now that he’s done the hard part.  If only ALL my rows could be done with the benefit of technology. 

But they can’t.  Unless I invest in a small hand-driven tiller that won’t disrupt my neatly formed walkways covered with hay.  Which still sounds like manual labor.

“Hey, Dad!”

I turned to find my son, bicycle in hand, helmut on head. 

“Can you build me a jump so I can catch some air?”

Excuse me?  I glanced at my husband who, to my surprise, nodded. 

“Make it high and pointed.”

Watching the two construct the jump with the dirt piled next to my garden (the excess from the original expansion process), I thought, well here’s an injury waiting to happen–to my son AND my garden!

Sure enough, once the mound was formed to his satisfaction, my son rode his bike up and over the jump.  Eventually–with air!

Kids.  Go figure.  Give em a pile of dirt and they can play all day.  But if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll steer clear of my freshly tilled rows.