OK, it’s been quite a while since I posted anything on this page. I don’t have any valid excuses other than letting life get in the way and not making it a top priority. However, this page is far from the only thing in my life that suffered from neglect over the past several months.
After a great deal of anticipation, my annual vegetable garden ended up being a disaster this year. First, my seedlings got fried inside a cold frame by an early spring heat wave where temperatures shot up over 85 degrees for one day. When the planting season was fully underway, I was simultaneously trying to establish three new areas for forest gardens and three sisters mounds while completing my Permaculture Design Course. All of which while helping out with my year-old son (our 5 year old daughter can address her own immediate needs now) and spending 60 hours/week on my job. By the summer, the only successful things in the garden were wild ruderals — weeds. My tomato harvest was terrible (only 3-4 jars of tomato sauce), green beans were a complete failure (no germination), dry beans were planted too late, lettuce and other greens were minimal (fall spinach didn’t even germinate)… you get the idea. Just about the only crops that gave decent production were shallots and potatoes through the summer, and brassicas in the fall (esp. kale).
Still, now that the season is over and I can have some space to look back upon it, I cannot consider it to be a failure — because it’s been a great learning experience. Here is a quick sampling of some of the major lessons learned this year:
- Have planting areas established by the end of the previous season, instead of trying to get them established and ready during the planting season. For some reason, this is one that I have messed up on every single year I’ve been raising a garden, but I think I’m in position to break the pattern next year.
- Planning is paramount. Not only do I need to have planting areas established and mostly ready to go, but I need to have already laid out what I am planting and where for each succession.
- Invest time and resources to building soil. This past year I think that a good bit of my soil was just taxed too much over proceeding years and not replenished enough. It’s also a no-brainer under the permaculture principles — we need to build resources, not strip them. This is a topic I’ll get into more in my next post.
- Observe my surroundings. Take ample time to just sit down and watch nature at work. She will give feedback as to what actions are harnessing various energy flows (wind, water, sun, etc.) and which ones are disrupting them.
- Keep records of everything. I allowed myself to be so caught up in trying to get too many things going at once, I didn’t keep good track of what I was doing. Key to a successful long-term operation is keeping good records, which I can refer back to when planning out my next year’s activities.
Toward the goal of having things ready to go next year, I weeded my entire vegetable garden, the horseshoe garden, and parts of the front and back forest patches. The grass and weeds pulled out were thrown into a compost bin or pile. Any areas not prepared will not be planted with anything next year.
I spread out a bin of cured compost on one of the garden beds. I buried food waste directly in the ground in another. Most of the wood chips on garden pathways were turned onto some beds. I noted that the chips were heavily infused with fungal hyphae, which will help innoculate my garden soil. For others, I mulched all of the leaves in the yard with the mower, as well as those on the roadside along a woodlot, and piled them around trees and on more beds. This will encourage fungal growth as well.
On the subject of leaves, come late fall people throughout town start bagging up the leaves in their yards, stuffing them into paper sacks, and setting them along the curb for me to just pick up and take away! I bring them home, stack them up and mulch them as I have time to do so. Before winter all of my beds in the vegetable garden will be mulched, and I’ll have a good pile of leaves set aside to rot for the summer.