As you can see we still have snow after the Bomb Cyclone a couple weeks ago but it’s warmer and the soil moisture level is perfect for bed preparation. First action is to remove any weed block still covering rows and also any watering drip lines still buried. Then we pull out any left over plant material left from last year. Then it’s ready for row building.
The Grillo has been worth it’s weight in gold. What used to take 3 weeks takes less than 3 hours! It was purchased last year and took a little getting used to but this year only required 45 minutes of run time to build beautiful, smooth rows. The soft soil resulted in higher rows than we wanted but they will probably shrink during the resting period. The resting period should be a minimum of 1 week and a max of 3-4 weeks. After that weeds start to take over and make it difficult to maintain.
After the rows were built we used a rolling hoe to create a furrow to re-lay the subsurface drip lines. Before covering the drip lines we tested them to be sure they were still working. A couple of the drip lines in the carrot beds were damaged. Most likely from digging out carrots! Sometimes it’s difficult to know where these hoses are buried until it’s too late! Luckily we had extra line from last year and replaced it.
We ran out of working time so were not able to cover the rows with weed block. Crossing fingers weather improves the next few weeks.
Garlic was planted in October last year and is coming up faster this spring so a good sign that the bulbs will be bigger this year! We also have broccoli transplants that have been growing inside that are now too big for the soil blocks we planted them in. We had to transplant the plants into larger pots, waiting for the weather to get better. We wanted to get an earlier start with the broccoli this year since it matured so late in the season last year, potentially losing us customer sales. Growing these transplants earlier gave us an extra month so we’ll see how it goes.
Now all we can do is wait and hope the infamous weather in our area cooperates so we can start fully planting soon!
Watch the Grillo in action on the farm’s YouTube Channel:
The biggest inefficiency we’ve had since we started growing vegetables is the amount of time spent pulling weeds. Since we manage the plot naturally we do not use herbicides. It requires pulling by hand with small tools or a hoe. The stirrup version we purchased this year is now our favorite method. While the straw we used last year significantly reduced the weeds, we now have a plot 3 times the original size to tend to!
The biggest decision we made to save weeding time was to purchase weed blocking fabric for the first time. It was actually cheaper than we expected, even for the heavy duty version which is supposed to last for 3-5 year. It’s a little more complicated to use than you’d think. Rows aren’t perfectly straight but the fabric is so laying it down by hand can be a little awkward. There are a lot of metal clips you need to push through the fabric into the clay soil. Then there is the question of how do you put plants into the ground under the weed block?
I’d seen farmers take a knife and cut an X in the spot where the plants would grow, pull the folds up to expose the soil and pop the plant in, folding the fabric back down around it. After doing research online we found the best way to create the holes without doing a lot of damage to the fabric. Burn holes leaving no sharp edges that could easily tear.
We started with a spare piece of plywood and drew circles with a compass spacing them the distance we wanted our plants to be apart from each other. For instance, in intense gardening tomatoes are planted 9 inches apart. We drew one circle and then measured 9 inches from the center of the first hole to find the center of the next hole, using a yard stick to keep them in a straight line. We drilled the holes out and now have a template or stencil for the holes. This 9 inch template can also be used for zucchini which is planted 18 inches apart. We even added a second line to the template to plant beans 4 inches apart or by burning every other opening, making holes for basil planted 8 inches apart.
Burning the holes is easy. Using a small propane torch, we laid the stencil down on the row and rapidly burned the fabric showing through the template. I say rapidly because we don’t want to start the template on fire!
We didn’t put any fabric down on the rows with lettuce or root vegetables because it would be difficult with the intense gardening method (I’ll explain in a future post). Those rows will still require a lot of weeding.
Now that the holes are burned, it’s time to start planting!
You can see how we burned the holes in our weed fabric watching our YouTube Channel:
It’s finally feeling like spring! The apple trees are blooming along with the wild blue bells. The lilacs are starting to form flower buds and the garden rows are finally finished! The back section of the garden will be mounded for vine plants. Which reminds me….I need to prune the grapes that grow around the shed.
Spending the evenings planting more transplants into trays has been relaxing. Tomatoes and peppers filled up their own trays. The list of herbs is long including lavender, rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley and lemon balm.
Tomorrow will be flowers. The focus is xeriscape flowers to reduce water usage. My top picks are sage and blanket flower.
Looking forward to planting seeds and transplants outside!
Snow is almost gone, transplants are getting big, so it’s time to prepare the bed! It’s been a long winter so I will probably be sore tomorrow. I completed about 1/2 of the rows by double digging and forming by hand the wider, deeper rows than last year. This should reduce the erosion we had last year. I also spend time with a yard stick and string to actually make them straight this year! An irritation for my better half who tried to lay the drip irrigation.
Hopefully I can get the other 1/2 done tomorrow because we are running out of growing time!