Monday, September 1, 2014

a summer to test a gardener's mettle

late august rain garden.  this is one area that did really well this wet and cool summer
It would have been a hard summer for gardening even if my focus had been completely on it.

It wasn't and my garden showed it.  Both my backyard and my community garden space look worse than they have since I started them.  The rain garden (above) looks great.  Not because I did a lot to maintain it, but because it gets most of the water that comes off the roof of our house, and half of the water off our garage.  There's some happy ferns in there, and some phlox and a (new this year) japanese maple.

There's the newish job and the winery startup, and this Saturday a surprise with a plugged sanitary sewer line at our rental place that resulted in me spending most of a beautiful day in a dark basement with a wet-vac slurping up fecal matter. 

That aside-- it was a gorgeous weekend-- with kids getting their last swim of the summer in our neighbor's front yard.  The neighborhood kids and ours decided to bring all the pools and waterslide all to one yard and make their own water park.  So they did, or the dads did, and it was fun.  Dads (and a mom) also having beers while kids play.  It was nice to be in town and have others in town as well- a wonderful end to a rainy, cool and really busy summer.

Cool and rainy enough that we never used air conditioning this summer.  We have a couple of window units I install in the bedrooms each year on the first really truly hot and humid day of the summer in order to be able to be able to sleep.  But they were never really needed.  We spent a night or two in the basement, but that was it.  No AC-related backache for me this summer.  Thanks global weirding! 

Of course, I may have to install them during a heat wave in November now.   You never know. 


So I dug out my purple potatoes and onions this last Saturday, after marking out paths and plot boundaries for 20 more plots at our community garden.  The garden is doing well, maybe even better, without me being at the helm, and that's good to see. 

As one gardener commented last year- "This is becoming less of a community garden and more of a gardening community."  Which I think is a good way to be.  Gardeners have stepped up and filled vacant roles and taken charge.  So I get to do more actual gardening- at least in theory.

I had a great crop of crabgrass in my plot this year.  I finally dug over the entire plot this spring, and I can say with confidence that the tilling allowed a lot more weeds to grow.  I haven't had crabgrass anywhere close  to this in the first two years there.  I did a no-till experiment the first year- tilling only half of the plot, then did minimal till the second year.  Relatively few weeds both times.  This year- a thorough turnover and a crabgrass explosion! 

For anyone interested in the results of the no-till experiment- the no-till side had soil that was a bit denser, and still compacted, but not to the point that I had expected after two years.  I could dig to about 6 or 8 inches on the no-till side, and 8 to 10 inches on the tilled side.  Both sides had improved organic matter, and both had earthworms.   The sides were remarkably similar, for having been treated so differently. 

So I guess I'll continue with minimal tillage and layering  on organic matter.   I think a balanced approach- that roughs up the surface soil, but doesn't deep dig, at least not every year seems to work.  Weedier in the early spring, but over the course of the summer, less weedy if I can get at the May weeds. 

I have no idea where I'll be at next spring and summer with my garden.  If all goes well with the Kickstarter campaign, I'll be equipping a winery next April or so.  Which won't leave me a lot of time for planting stuff.  Although, in theory, the idea behind this is to allow me to spend more time as an urban agriculturalist, or at least the producer of value-added urban agricultural products.

There is beauty in the busy-ness of starting a business.  Hard to see the beauty sometimes, but I'd be busy with something else if I wasn't doing this.  I apologize to you if you've been disappointed by my lack of updated posts here at eighth acre farm.  I never intended to let this blog go dormant, but other things pulled at my time- particularly that other blog- the Urban Forage one- that has had a bit more urgency to it, given all the other things going on.

I will keep posting here- maybe not often enough, but still here.  Cheers.  And happy fall.