Monday, 9 April 2012

no dig beds in the second year

Last year I created some no-dig beds in the field. It seemed easier (at the time) than digging through all the thatch since I don't have any equipment. In the early spring before the grass had started to grow I started by laying flattened cardboard boxes on an area about 20 by 40 feet. Then I covered the cardboard with compost. I used these new beds for last year's potatoes. I remembered reading a novel set in Newfoundland where they "planted" potatoes on rocks simply by laying them out and smothering them with seaweed. I figured if that worked then surely I could plant my potatoes on cardboard. The previous fall I had collected about 10 bags of leaves (from the dump) and used them to mulch the potatoes as they grew throughout the summer. It worked! I got a great crop of potatoes.

So this year the project is to turn the soil in the no-dig beds so I can plant right in the ground. That was the process I started this weekend. The cardboard had completely broken down and the leaves and compost yielded a nice "crop" of earthworms. I know that earthworms are not native but in a pretty down-to-earth activity like vegetable gardening having a few exotic helpers is very welcome.

Removing the perennial weed roots was relatively back-breaking work - milkweed, bindweed, goldenrod, quack grass. Sooner or later the piper has to be paid - in this case the no-dig beds exacted their price a year later...

The one bed I have worked on so far is devoted to leeks. First I dug wide trenches. I added manure  and then gently pressed the seedlings into the bottom of the trench. As the season progresses I pull soil down into the trenches to blanch the leeks. I'm hoping all the hoeing to hill the leeks up will help keep the weeds down. I tried transplanting about two thirds of what I've been growing in flats in the porch. They look a little flimsy - or maybe very courageous.

The first transplanting of leeks

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