Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sheet mulch, growing, chicks, composting, musing and planning

Sheet mulching!  It's great, but also not without its flaws:  as in the bed above, I used paper feed sacks as the sheet part of the mulch, and it's not exactly pretty!  But underneath was a bunch of weeds and grass, and this is a much quicker and easier way to get a new garden bed than straight up weeding/digging.  Just slap on some cardboard or thick paper, wet it down, put on some compost/soil/other good growing stuff, and plant away.  I don't pull the weeds first, or even cut them down, and I don't pierce the paper;  I just make sure it stays pretty moist, and the plant roots will pierce it as they grow.  If it's cardboard, it may need a pretty thick layer of soil on top, but with this paper, I only put about 2-3 inches on.  Interplanted with soft pak choi, mizuna, kale, broccoli, lupin, and crimson clover.  We've already had a couple salads from the pak choi and mizuna.

After some good rains, and even more sunshine, the garden is off to a raging start.  I have vegetables all over my new veg patch (already I'm out of room before I'm out of plants!) and elsewhere.  Weeds (a.k.a. chicken food) are big and lush.  Flowers are coming out all over--my two apple trees, pear tree, almond (above), and two cherries are all forming little fruits.  The pear tree seems to have at least one pear, and the oldest cherry--planted December 2011--while still shorter than me, has hundreds. 
Even my tiny fig tree, now planted out, has six figs!  And growing quickly.  The two jugs are a little heat sink for it:  they heat up in the sun during the day, and release the heat slowly overnight.  Another instance of "not pretty" but I'm cool with that.  There are a lot of not pretty things in my garden, and I tend not to show them here.  However, I kind of think that's a bad idea;  misleading people to think my garden (and life) are perfect all the time.  Not the misleading thing exactly, but setting an impossible standard, which I think some bloggers do, intentionally or not--I think that's a bad idea.  I don't really want to be seen as perfect.  I'm normal...  Ok, I'm not normal.  But I'm also not perfect.  I'm not even trying for perfect.
Our chicks are fast growing into chickens.  The white ones are indeed male, and are bigger and more aggressive than the brown females.  They're growing cute little pink combs and wattles, unlike the females who still have smooth lizard heads.  Thankfully the chicks are outside in their new house, and out of mine--they were so noisy and smelly and rowdy;  and they even escaped their hutch twice, leaving little bits of poo all over my kitchen floor.  Outside, they have a small patch of ground and a nice big house with lots of straw.  They're still about half the size of the adult hens, so not quite big enough for integration. 

Catching some rays
We lost two adult hens in the last month to old age, and buried both under the newly reinstated compost bin.  I'd given up on making compost, as the chickens get all  compostable materials now, and turn it into lovely fertilizer the next day.  However, having ten hens in a coop over winter accounted for some serious manure build up, and though I could have spread it around a bit more, I decided to fill up the bin and start making my own potting compost.  I'm tired of buying bags of it every year to start my seedlings.  Along with the manure, there's also soiled straw bedding (the bulk of the compost material), a few kitchen scraps, and some paper scraps.  And one more thing which I first learned of on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2, a respected daily talk show.  At the time I was shocked and amazed, but I have since been converted:  I've been peeing in a bucket to pour on my compost.  Yes, I pee on my compost.  Even Partner's willing to try it, though he can add it directly from the source.  It adds both moisture and nitrogen.  And luckily there's no smell, probably from all that straw. 

I used to pick vases of flowers from my garden every week.  I slacked on that in recent years.  I'm committed to reviving this tradition.  Speaking of traditions, I want to start a new one, for celebrating Midsummer.  Did I mention this already?  I want it to be a bit like Christmas in summer, but less about the materialism.  Celebrating the longest day, shortest night, with flowers, BBQ, decorations, gifts (handmade).  I'd like to make it a good long celebration;  maybe we can pair it with the 4th of July and make it a long celebration.  I can at least leave the decorations up.  I'm thinking lots of bunting.

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