Hurdles

Sometimes I feel I should just stop putting pictures on my blog, because I tend to get hung up on them–usually the fact that I either haven’t taken any, or they aren’t very good, or I don’t have the time or inclination to upload them, or something goes awry with the uploading process. Then again, I enjoy having the images, too.

Spring has really come to my part of the world, and the out-of-doors is calling me loud and clear. I have been planting seeds galore inside and am starting to plant them outside as well. So far only the ‘Green Wave’ mustard has sprouted, but I expect the beets and peas and so on will not be far behind. This is the first year I have had a garden plot in which I could plant ‘as early as the ground can be worked in spring’, so I have tried all sorts of things: ‘Rainbow Blend’ and ‘Chantenay Red Cored’ carrots, ‘Detroit Dark Red’ beets, bachelors’ buttons, the aforementioned ‘Green Wave’ mustard, ‘Rainbow’ Swiss Chard, and a few others, including some shallots that accidentally overwintered in the plot.

I had my big new vegetable garden tilled over last Friday, and am now in the slow process of hand-picking out all the clumps and roots of the former pasture I can. My most noxious weed (so far) is quack grass, so even though it is extremely time-consuming to sit there and the ground and pull out clods, I know that the better a job I do now, the less I will have to worry about in the future. Quack grass is one of those plants that has far-ranging rhizomes, any little piece of which can root. Being turned upside down with root tips experiencing the full glory of a Maritime winter’s freeze-thaw cycle seems to have killed most of the other plants … but not the quack grass. That I will be dealing with for years to come, though hopefully less and less each year.

My ploughed plot is approximately 45 feet square, which is huge! (This is fortunate, because I, er, possibly was a little over-enthusiastic with my seed ordering this winter. It’s my first garden.) I’ve decided to divide it into slightly raised beds with paths between, rather than long rows as is more traditional. This is partly because I don’t want to compact the soil I am so laboriously digging over in my search for quack grass roots, partly because it means I can do a bed (or half a bed) at a time and feel that I am accomplishing something, and partly because I hope it will make crop rotation easier in future. Although because I am including flowers–for cut flowers, for seed production, and for growing on to plant in my permanent gardens–the genera and families I will be rotating are more numerous than if I were just doing the usual suspects of vegetable gardens.

Apart from the quack grass and the soil composition (high in iron, low in some other important elements), the other main limiting factor of my property is the wind. I have full sun … and what feels like full wind. There are some  trees along the northern property line, but the summer weather comes from the south (usually southwest), and apart from some young spruce saplings, I have an empty field on that side. The wind is relentless.

After some thought, I think I am going to try making hurdles to go around my vegetable garden. My woodlot has grown up after being cut down about twenty years ago, and is basically coppiced as a result. I like the effect of a coppiced wood, and I also like the principle of managing my woodlot to provide all sorts of useful things–including the withes and zales (uprights) for hurdle making.  I may not have the traditional English wood of hazels and primroses and snowdrops–though I will be planting all three–but the young-growth rowans seem to be flexible enough to work.

I spent some time yesterday playing around with poles cut from my woods, and although I can see (a) that I am going to need a lot of them in order to make a woven fence running around my plot, I can also see (b) that it should look neat and be effective both against the wind, the curious explorations of the dog, and also the incursions of the poultry I am hoping to get later this summer. (And, I suppose, being made of rowan, any more supernatural threats that may be hiding in the local countryside.)

Pictures will come once I have practiced a little more …

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