Beating the rains
Give me a few good days with low humidity and I can get a lot done.
That describes the Memorial Day weekend. I set a few planting deadlines and met them all before the rains (and chill) came back.
My brother grows several acres of peppers. I think he counted 60,000 plants in his greenhouse. He set aside six rows of plastic weed-barrier mounds inserted with drip tape for me. I prefer to plant directly in the ground but after several years of drought and a September flood last year I’ve got 1/3 of my garden in the mounds. Normally the rows are planted with two workers sitting on a planter inserting plant plugs while a third worker drives the tractor. . . at about 2 miles per hour. I was impatient so I grabbed the bottom half of an umbrella stand (with a pointed tip) and poked holes in the plastic, inserted plants, squeezed a little dirt around the root structure, and moved on. This I did late in the afternoon so the plants wouldn’t be stressed by all that strong daylight or wilt onto the plastic and die. It happens. Overnight the plants perked up with the cool air and had a healthy start. The overcast sky on Monday was also a help.
A few days earlier I planted cucumbers, summer squash, and okra. The black plastic absorbed the day’s heat and the irrigated water helped the seeds sprout quickly.
I finished rototilling the rest of the garden, which I started over a month ago. I planted a few more rows of snap beans to add to the beats, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, collards, peas, rapini, kohlrabe, cardoon, onions, garlic, leeks, herbs, and dye flowers.
There’s still a small patch of ground that needs to be tilled. It’s a low spot and a bit too mucky to work. I’m afraid by the time I get to it the weeds will be out of control and the ground will be like cement. I’m thinking of throwing a few inches of compost to help work the soil but with the recent rains I’ll have to start paying attention to the weeds. I don’t use any chemicals, instead I go through each row by hand and break up the soil a bit with my hand cultivator (like a hoe but with prongs) and carefully pull out all the weeds with their roots intact. I throw them into the wheelbarrow and feed the sheep with them. I don’t dare put them back in the rows in case they grow again!
Some of the rows I will mulch with year-old straw (over layers of newsprint). It depends on the crop and how much time I have for this task. I still have a few thousand tomatoes to stake and tie up. Every once in a while I’ll run the rototiller through the rows to help keep weeds down. I have two tillers for this task, one large and one small for when the plants get larger and block out most of the weeds on their own. By late August or September I get to a point where I spend so much time harvesting that don’t care about weeds anymore and just let them go.