Preparing for Spring

Spring may seem and feel like it is a long way away, but we start our preparation for the gardens in the late fall.  After the last crop is harvested we immediately start preparing our growing beds and rows for spring planting.  We address two concerns with our preparation,  augmenting the soil and protecting the soil.

We start by removing all plant waste from the beds and rows.  Some gardeners like to leave plant material where it is in the garden over winter and have it rot into the soil.  In our area it tends not to rot completely over the winter and it would be necessary to till the plant remains into the soil or remove it entirely.  We prefer not to till excessively so remove the plant material to composting bins in the fall and clean up the growing areas.  Removed plant material will one day return, but as rich compost.

The soil in New Brunswick tends to be acidic.  Pelitized lime was added to selected areas based on middle and late summer soil analysis and crop observations over the summer.  We use the lime sparingly so the pH can be gradually raised over the next few years.  IMG_9182All other augmentation used our own compost and shredded leaves.  All raised beds and raised rows got  a generous one inch layer of our home-made compost plus a layer or two-year old leaf mold.  Each fall we gather and shred leaves from the property and add around forty to fifty bags of leaves collected from nearby towns.  A ride-on mower is used to clean up and shred the leaves on the property and a 5 HP shredder tackles the bags providing enough leaves to replenish the leaf mold bins and provide protective mulch for the soil.

All growing beds and rows are either planted with annual rye and or covered with a six-inch layer of shredded leaves to protect against winter erosion.  The IMG_9181annual rye is cut and incorporated into the top layer of the soil in the spring.  By planting time next spring, the leaves will have started to decompose and all we do is pull them back “scratch till” and plant.  Wait for seedlings to develop or set out your hardened off plants then push the shredded leaves back as mulch for the start of the growing season.  All non growing areas of the garden are protected with a generous layer of old hay or straw, whatever is available.  By using old hay we have avoided problems with weed seed germination.  This layer protects against erosion and builds a mulch layer to stifle early weed growth.

Our fall preparation for spring is done and the gardens put to bed awaiting the first blanket of snow.  Seed catalogs are arriving and the gardening planning for next year begins.

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Raised Rows, Straw Bales, and Plum Blossoms

Well it has been a cold, wet spring here in New Brunswick.  Yesterday was very cold with wet 031snow in the afternoon!  Despite all the bad weather, the orchard is sweet with the aroma of plum blossoms.

Today hit 24C and at last the lower garden (old section) is dry enough to start some planting.  Later than previous years, but beets, carrots, turnip and onions are all in the ground.  We also added twelve new strawberry plants to the strawberry patch.

The new section of the lower garden now has new raised rows, two planting mounds for our squash, pumpkin, and zucchini.   The straw bale experiment is well under way and ready for planting this week if the weather forecast holds.

Blog Garden 022The planting mounds are constructed as “compost heaps” right in the garden.  Brown material, (leaves, dry grass clippings, old straw) plus finished compost were piled up and will be covered with straw mulch before transplanting the winter squash, pumpkin, and zucchini.

The “new section” of the lower garden is wet ground.  Last year the area was completely covered with straw and black plastic.  This spring the black plastic was removed and the raised rows were constructed with alternating layers of straw, compost, shredded leaves, garden soil and top dressed with more compost.  After planting the rows will be mulched with straw.    The method was successful last year despite the wetter soil under the raised rows.  The straw and leaves may have acted as a “wick” to draw the moisture as well as the plant roots seeking the moisture.  Either way it was not necessary to water any of the rows last year.  A major plus to a low maintenance garden!005c

The straw bale experiment is set up in the new section as seen in the picture.  The ten-day “conditioning” routine was completed using blood meal as the nitrogen source.  The use of a weeping hose made the process less painful.  In the future, we think we would prepare the bales in the fall for use the following spring.  We will keep you updated through the summer on our SBG experiment.

In the upper garden, a new asparagus bed, new cucumber trellis, and finally grids for Square Foot Gardening.Blog Garden 002

We have been posting relevant gardening information on the Creative Garden Facebook Page.  Mainly the re-posts are articles that we have found useful or interesting and want to share with you.  If you are not following on Facebook, please check the page out and follow for more gardening information.

Looking forward to planting this week. Time to get your hands dirty everyone.

Tom and Di