Experimenting in the kitchen garden
People often ask me at what time in the spring I start planting my kitchen garden. It's a very good question, as the weather and temperatures vary greatly from year to year. Sometimes May is icy cold, like this year, and sometimes spring comes early. As a rule the ground should be about 10 °C for seeds to germinate, but I'm not one to go and measure soil temperature. Instead I use an old farmers trick, and start sowing seeds when the Thicket shadbush (Amelanchier spicata) and wild Bird cherry (Prunus padus) starts to flower. Living so close to Mother Nature, I find it easiest to just follow her lead.
This week then, the soil is finally warm enough to start planting the vegetable garden at Stensund. I begin with the potatoes, and plant seven rows of Purple Queen. Digging is heavy going because although the soil is excellent, I have left the bed undisturbed during the last two seasons as the crops I had there didn't need digging deep. It was an experiment in using the no-dig approach which is so popular nowadays, but I must admit it wasn't entirely successful. Turns out the whole bed filled up with roots, the origin of which I am a bit uncertain. Perhaps it is the big aspen trees (Populus tremula) next to the vegetable garden that is sending out feelers for colonising more land, or perhaps it is something else. It's hard to tell, but they are dense and strong and it takes for ever to get them out. I'm sure no-dig works a lot of the time and I do make new flower beds along those principles - but it just doesn't work here!
Then I start with the beans and peas. First I sow the broad beans in the middle of the bed, then climbing beans Carminta and Blauhilde to grow up the thin metal obelisks followed by Klevedon Wonder early peas in the other end of the bed. This year my neighbours at Bovik farm had a stack of silage bales that they couldn't feed their animals with as they had gone old, so they offered them to me. I was delighted to the extent that I almost can hear their breakfast conversation:
"Odd one, that neighbour of ours. Happy as a bee to get some half rotted silage."
"Whatever is she even going to use them for?!"
"Some crazy new garden project I think..."
I'm definitely going down the crazy new garden project route, but that is for another blog. Happily for me there was enough of the good stuff to see me through all my garden needs this year, and so I'm experimenting with using the silage as mulch around the plants. I think it should work delightfully, but I'll keep you posted. With new experiments in the garden, I never know which way it goes!
Meanwhile at Humlegård my rhubarb got swamped by couch grass, so I decide to give them a break from the pesky weeds by covering the soil with newspaper and mulching on top with grass clippings. I find the best way to do it is to wet the newspaper in buckets of water beforehand. This prevents them from flying off in the wind and glues them to the ground. For best results I spread them out in layers, as I found it needs to be quite thick to last the season. Then I just spread the grass clippings on top, all the way to the edge, and leave it. Usually I renew the paper-grass mulch each spring in areas that have tough grass or perennial weeds that return, and so far I've found that after a few years they have given up. Couldn't be simpler!