April 28, 2011

April Gardening: A Race With The Rain

I reckon nearly everyone will agree that April hasn't exactly been cooperative when it comes to gardening. This is the month of our last expected frost, and when I can start planting our warm weather vegetables. This is the month when I ought to be working in the garden every day. This year though, it seems as though the ground barely dries out enough so as to be workable, when it rains again.

One thing I managed to do earlier this month, was to transplant the rest of my strawberries...

Mulching newly transplanted strawberries with feed sacks & wood chips

Because of the lay of our land, the garden areas around the house dry out more quickly than the big vegetable garden. I still have to finish mulching them, but at least the job is done. Happily all the transplants are doing well and we have strawberries beginning to ripen!

The vegetable garden about a month ago.

Our vegetable garden, which was freshly tilled and ready to plant in March, became overrun again with the annual rye we planted last fall as our winter green manure crop.

The vegetable garden this month. The annual rye was taking over. Again.

It's grown like crazy with all the rain and mild temperatures. I think we've decided we won't plant annual rye again. It does add organic matter to the soil, but for us, with only a tiller, it's impossible to get it turned under enough to not grow again. Perhaps it's better suited for areas that can be plowed.

The other thing we plan not to do again, is to till this garden. Our new garden plan calls for permanent, companion group beds (all about that in this post.) In discussing the execution of that, we took into consideration that there is a 4 foot drop in slope from the top of the garden to the bottom. Because of that, we decided that the best option for us would be to terrace the beds.

1st terraced bed. Winter wheat behind that.

Going has been slow because of having to wait for the soil to dry out between rain storms. I would have loved to prepared these in the same double dug Hugelkultur method we did in the front yard, but getting seeds in the ground before the next rain storm has been the priority.

Our soil has a lot of clay, but over the past two years we've worked on building it up. I hated to lose that top soil to permanent walkways, so I've been scraping and shoveling the top soil into the bed, down to the clay, which is fine to walk on.

Several terraced beds, created & planted

Eventually, we plan to use cinder or concrete blocks as the terrace borders. We'd need a lot to get started, so we'll add them as we can. In the meantime, we have tons of downed trees in our woods, which can create the terraces for a few years at least.

Because I'm preparing beds and planting in between bouts of rain, I am not strictly following my original garden group companion plan. I am pretty much following the plant groupings, but not where I put them. I'm preparing the beds from top of the garden down, and planting each one as it's ready, according to recommended planting dates. Hopefully the soil at the bottom will be dry enough to be workable by the time I get there! Fortunately planting dates aren't exact. Our first garden was planted late and did just fine. In the meantime, I'll just continue my race with the rain, and hope on the best.


lunalupis said...

Heard that! Here in the Willamette Valley, things are wet wet wet!

Theresa said...

Well, it could be worse, it always could be worse. I'm told the moment I left town the sun came out and the weather turned beautiful. Love the terrace idea.

Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

It has been terribly wet. I keep joking that my first cut hay wont be in until September. I cant even get close to the fields. It has not proven to be a great year so far.

Sherri B. said...

We have 'snow' in the forecast this morning!!! Really?...Note: We do not live in the Mountains!

Your terraced beds will be great and it will look so neat and tidy and, actually,..dramatic, how fun.

Evelyn Oldroyd - painter said...

The terrraces are lookiing great. Amazing how it looks flat but slopes that much.

Tami said...

Thanks for the update,Leigh. I'm always curious as to what you're up to with your garden.

Funny how we're all moving to a no-till model. We HAD to double dig/cultivate just to get some organic material into our "dead" soil. Now that that's been done, it'll be layering and building up from here on out.

Renee Nefe said...

Sounds like a lot of hard work! I hope it all grows plentiful for you.

We got a kick start to our summer garden with two classes in our homeschool group. The first we got 5 tomato plants and a few others and in the second class we got onions and petunias...that one was at our nursery where I was able to get a nice dome to make a mini-green house for our seedlings...they're doing great. I also bought a container garden set...now to buy some potting soil and see if I have pots that will work for these.

Mr. H. said...

Wow, I love how you have set your garden up with the terraced beds, what a great design...and a lot of work. I am so looking forward to seeing it full of green growth later in the year.

Anonymous said...

Last year we had so much rain I didn't plant anything until the middle of June and my garden did well. Your progress is looking great. :)

Lynda said...

Leigh your terraced garden is really going to be great! I'm really going to enjoy watching your garden come to fruition!

Leigh said...

Lunalupis, isn't it terrible? Fortunately the last storm missed us except for a few drops. Of course, when this summer's dry spell comes along, I'll be complaining about not getting enough rain!

Theresa, this is so true. We've had lots of rain but no tornadoes, not loss of power, and no damage. Funny how we're never satisfied with the weather.

Jane, I know how you feel. It often seems to be touch and go one way or another. I'm hoping this is better than drought(???)

Sherri, snow?!?! Oh no!

I'm really looking forward to how my terraces will look once everything is growing and blooming. I'm hoping the effect will be really pretty.

Evelyn, the photos don't usually show the slope, it's true. It's over about 75 feet, so it isn't terribly noticeable, until it rains and washes the soil down the hill!

Tami, I thought the same thing about going to no till gardens. I only wish I could have dug our terraced beds deeper and worked in a lot of organic matter this year. Hopefully we can do that in the future.

Renee, that sounds like so much fun! What a great homeschool activity.

Mike, yes it is a lot of work but I am so hoping that in the long run, it will be less work! I'm encouraged because I've got seeds just starting to sprout!

Renee, we did a June planted garden two years ago and I was really pleased with the results. Sometimes I think we plant early just because as gardeners, we're impatient to get our hands into the soil!

Lynda, thanks! I'm thinking it should work out really well for our yard.

Mama Pea said...

Wow, what a whole lot of work and lookin' good! I think you're doing remarkably well considering all the rain you've had to work around.

Another reason we gardeners have to remain flexible. The best laid plans have to work with Mother Nature and other unexpected influences!

Love the pictures!

trump said...

I hope you folks didnt get hit with those storms that have hit about 5 or 6 states. Im not sure which state that you live in. Richard from Lebanon county's Amish community.

Woody said...

I've used my walkways as an area to layer compost between my raised beds. It has helped in keeping our feet dryer, beds stay where we want them and it is a short shovel ride onto the beds when they need amending. We have a steady and cheap supply of bark mulch from our local saw mills. Our weeds get tossed to the walkways and get a shovel of old bark mulch in their face. Works good for us.

Benita said...

I so understand about the rain! I will be mowing part of my yard for the first time this year (I wish I had a bagger!). While everything is green, the ground is soggy and squishy. If I wait longer before I mow, though, for the ground to dry out some, I'mm be able to bale it.

I hadn;t thought of terraces, but that is a great idea!

Woolly Bits said...

with us it's the other way round, we had hardly any rain in april! and I know all about making great plans and eventually just putting things somewhere, because they have to get out and the planned space isn't ready:(( gardening... it's surprising how well a lot of things grow even if they are not where they are supposed to be:)) great pix of your kids, they look so lively and fun!

Judy said...

Okay, I will quit whining about my garden. It is not nearly as big but with the same problems. Today I think I can get into it to re-tear up everything I had tilled and maybe finish the rest of it. I'd like to plant something too!

Leigh said...

Mama Pea, agreed. Learning flexibility has been something of a challenge for me, I admit!

Richard, thanks for your concerns. Fortunately, we've been okay here, and I'm very thankful for that.

Woody, that's a great idea. Thanks for mentioning it. I admit I've been wondering how to deal with them. Wish we had some local saw mills here too!

Benita, oh gosh, you should see our yard! We don't have your soft ground though, because the house is higher than the garden. Maybe you need to get a sheep! LOL

Bettina, that would be equally frustrating. And yes, I've noticed that as well, about things growing where they're not supposed to be!

Judy, I reckon we all whine about our garden, LOL.