|freshly spaded and raked garden bed|
It was even more satisfying, given that until a few days ago, the garden area was covered with pieces of rock, now seen in the retaining wall in the foreground. There are still plenty of pieces of rock laying about in the yard, but not on the garden bed. Those will have to be dealt with evenually, but not right now.
My hope is to have a finished patio at the back of the retaining wall by mid-summer. Given all of the other projects we have going on, that may or may not happen. I will post photos eventually, but until now, the whole project hasn't looked like much and I would have been embarrassed to post the photos as it was.
So the soil is broken, raked and ready to plant. We tried going no-till for two seasons, and my dad has been experimenting with that as well. The results have been mixed. One the one hand, I like being able to simply rake off the detritus from last year's garden and plant directly into the untilled soil. It's fast and easy and supposedly doesn't let the seeds from previous years germinate, since new soil isn't being exposed. It certiainly was good for the tilth, or texture of the soil, since it seemed to hold up really well, except for the spots where we had garden paths.
And it was good for the mycelia in the soil, I think. My initial reason for taking the no-till plunge was the discovery of morels in our lawn. Yes- morels- the gold standard of wild mushrooms in our little city yard. I couldn't believe it at first, and looked them up online, thinking that they must be false morels or some other horrible thing-- but no- we had 5 bonafide morels pop up in our lawn, and I (being the only brave one) at them in scrambled eggs and they were fantastic.
I don't think I would have believed anyone else if they had told me that they accidentally found morels while mowing their lawn in St. Paul, but it was impossible not to believe my own taste buds. Since then I've spotted morels growing in the front yard of another house in our neighborhood-- many more than we found in our yard. They never picked them, and they didn't appear in following years. It presented a bit of a moral (sorry) dilemma. Do I knock on the door of a complete stranger and inform them of what they have growing in their landscape bed? Do I point out the fungus in their yard and risk having them spray fungicides and destroy the morel bed forever? Would they not care and let me pick the morels for my own use? I never found out- the morels just dried up and disappeared. I never picked any, and as I mentioned, I haven't seen them again. But I look for them every morning on my way to the bus stop this time of year. If I see them again, I may have to knock on the front door this time.
But back to no-till gardening. The downsides were the actual appearance of more weeds than there were when we had tilled. This may have to do with my applying compost that hadn't fully broken down and which was full of weed seeds the previous year *lesson learned* or not. What was clear was that the weeds got an earlier start, and were way ahead of the seeds planted after they had appeared. Gita called it "Tharu farming"- comparing it to the no-till farming methods of the native Tharu people in the region where her parents had moved to after leaving their village in the mountians of Nepal. Her ethnic group used farming methods more familiar to westerners- tilling multiple times per year, and sucession planting a variety of crops in one year. They farmed intensively. The native Tharu people didn't till, and grew one crop per year.
Now, the Tharu have been farming the land of the Inner Terai for thousands of years and the newcomers have only been doing it for decades, so it remains to be seen who really has the best farming method for the region. Given that it is a tropical climate, exhausting the soil is a real possibility- where that is less likely,or at least a longer-term prospect in Minnesota. In any case, I will keep lightly tilling my garden soil for the foreseeable future, but being sure to till in lots of compost and uncomposted leaves and stems from last years garden.
|our kids on an easter egg hunt at my parents' house|
We were making muffins the day before- on Saturday morning- muffin morning- and my daughter asked me why our eggs were brown. I started to say that it was because the eggs were organic, but stopped because that's not actually true. Gita had bought the cage-free but not organic kind that time, and in addition, the color of the shell is an indicator of the breed of chicken, not the quality of the egg itself. It's another of the kid-zen moments where a parent is confronted with a question that he or she has not asked for a long time and struggles to formulate an answer that is true, and also immune to small-child scrutiny.
So we will continue to buy brown eggs and I will continue to consider whether or not we should raise chickens or ducks in our yard, then I will re-consider that idea when I think about how much work raising poultry is, and could we really handle another responsibility at this point in time? Probably not. I really enjoy reading about other people raising poultry in the city. See one here.