December 3, 2007

Hang and Read

The thicket is invisible, shrouded in blowing snow. The coffee in my cup is cold. Baci, the rez pup refuses to go outside. Grace is curled up on a pile of catalogs waiting for recycling. Melting snow on the roof has begun dripping into the house. The wind sounds like a freight train hitting the west end of the house.

There’s only one thing to do on a day like this. Either I can return to bed, pulling the covers up over my head or I can start a blazing fire in the fireplace and read all day. A stack of gardening magazines beckons. Following is a list of headlines (Organic Gardening Magazine) that caught my fancy. And, some tidbits that inspired.

“Eat Fresh for Months, Start Now” One gardener extends her Zone 4 growing season by growing cold-weather crops such as broccoli, carrots, chard, cabbage, and arugula in what she calls a “waffle design.” The sunken areas create a protected microclimate where seeds are planted. The trough also provides for deep watering twice weekly while covered with layers of straw to help retain moisture. Come October watering stops and harvest continues right through the snow.

“It’s Bed Time” Reap the benefits of raised beds. Nothing saves time and labor like growing crops above ground. Plants are easier to access. More plants can be grown in a smaller space in contrast to growing in rows. The soil drains better. You won’t step on the soil leading to compaction. Allow at least three feet between beds to fit a wheel barrel. Don’t use railroad ties or treated wood if vegetables are to be grown in the beds.

“Heart of Stone” We Madison County gardeners live surrounded by gravel, intriguing moss rocks, astounding boulders, and smooth river rocks. Why not create a raised rock garden, another type of planting tapestry? Rock garden hits are: Autumn Snowflake, a tiny August blooming bulb, Gentians, the fall-blooming ones, Pinks, a version of saxifrages, Rock Jasmine, grow in almost no soil, Saxifrages, beautiful cushion plants, and Woodruff, likes to nest in crevices. Consider your rock pile in a different light!

“Made in the Shade” A DIY shade tent to cover salad greens in late July when the sun threatens to fry these cool-loving plants is made with easily found materials. You will need: durable plastic tubing (1/2” to 3/4” diameter), 18-inch bamboo or rebar stakes (2 for each tubing arch), 72-inch-wide, 30-50% shade cloth, cut to length of growing bed, and garden clips from garden suppliers, three for each arch. Did you know that growing under shade cloth will lower leaf temperature by 10 percent, extending your harvest. Shade cloth used over germinating fall crops will keep soil temperatures under 80ยบ, essential to propagating broccoli, chard, lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, spinach, and turnips.

“Get a Clue!” What are weeds trying to tell you? Stop and consider before you rip that weed out of the ground. Weeds are opportunistic plants that thrive in conditions that are inhospitable to others. So, weeds are living clues to what may be missing in your soil. For instance, thistle, dandelion, quack grass, bindweed and plantain all grow prolifically in compacted soil. By adding organic matter to soil it will loosen the soil structure making it more accessible for nutrients to reach plant roots of the good kind.

Well, the wind is still blowing snow around in swirls, all indoor critters are snoring, and the chili is simmering on the stove. There’s nothing like being stuck inside on a crazy weather day for catching up on home front projects, dreaming, and just kicking back.

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