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Addressing neglect in the garden

The neglect assessment  inevitably requires some type of follow-up, because I can’t just leave things in such disrepair. Fortunately, even neglect that lasts through an entire growing season is fairly quickly remedied by a day of hard work. For the past two days I have been a full-time gardener. The enthusiasm was triggered by a delivery of hay from the front field, and the pile of composting cow manure that has been sitting quietly for a few months, just waiting to be used.

Many people dislike hay in the garden, and for good reason. Purchased hay is often full of weed seeds that you don’t want to introduce to you property. Unless you’re willing to spend the money for a roll of high quality grass like bahia, then you might end up with a bigger problem than you started with. My hay comes from my own fields, which I’ve been watching and managing for the past 4 summers, so I have a good idea of what’s growing out there. Last year I described my feelings on hay in more depth. Using hay from my fields offers a few bonuses: It’s free,  I know exactly what it consists of, and I know that it was baled after most of the grass had already dropped its seed. With that said, here’s whats been going on around the Wild Homestead:

I have spent the past two days cleaning out the comfrey bed. Behold the transformation!

Before
After

Obviously, all I did here was mow, pull a few weeds (mostly Solanum carolinse) and add a new layer of hay mulch. I was impressed by how well last year’s mulch held up through the year, and without a lot of weedy growth, so I have much more confidence to keep using the bahia hay.

Comfrey and a new 4′x20′ garden bed

I’m finally starting to work on my sheet-mulched beds, described in my Permaculture Zone 1 post earlier this year. Much like the comfrey bed that is already coming along pretty well, I covered the ground with a layer of hay in March and now I am adding a second layer and covering it with the composted cow manure and a thin layer of peat moss to help hold the moisture while the seeds germinate. You can see the outline of the other beds, still covered in the spring hay mulch. It’s a pretty simple sheet mulch, using what I have available, but I think it will work. The only things I’m worrying about is whether the hay will mat up underneath the compost and cause problems, and that the cow manure may have some nutrient excesses and deficiencies that won’t be well-balanced since I didn’t add anything else to the topsoil. I will keep an eye on this bed and see how it turns out. I already have kale, cilantro, chard, tatsoi, parsley, and a last round of lima beans and summer squash planted. Hopefully the beans and squash will be able yield something before the first frost (around the end of November/early December here).

My other bed is doing well. The kale, chard and tatsoi are in their micro-greens stage (when the plants get their first two “true leaves”), and they are just delightful with a little bit of oil and vinegar. I planted them densely so that I would be able to harvest at a few different stages before I have to nurture a few larger plants to keep over the winter.

Microgreens! Red Russian kale
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