Last year I fully intended to do a "lasagna garden" after the initial breaking garden ground. I know the benefit of a no-till garden~ better soil life, better worm life, less replanting of weeds...
I hauled hay bale after hay bale and spread hayfork after hayfork of hay. And this spring, the garden was STILL crazy weedy. We needed TWICE as much rotten hay than we had.
Our neighbor, the kind gent who tilled last years' garden for us, tilled the garden again this year for us when I conceded it would be easier on me just to get it tilled. I hauled all the hay BACK OFF the garden (in retrospect, it probably would be have been easier just to get the weeds out.) and hauled a TON of rocks out- but the end result was beautiful, airy and light soil.
I don't know what to think about lasagna gardening. In theory, it is perfect. In practice, for our family anyway, it isn't probably practical. The fact is- I don't have access to as much hay mulch as I need to maintain this vegetable garden, a strawberry patch, a pumpkin patch and an asparagus patch. I don't even have as much hay as I would need to maintain this vegetable garden. Finding free hay is difficult. Finding transportation for that hay would require borrowing a truck/trailer which is a bother. Spreading out that hay in the quantity that it requires is hard work.
But hay mulch REALLY helped keep the weeds down last year (which is VERY important to me.)
I am not sure what to do or where to go from here. I can't depend on the kindness of my neighbor with a tiller tractor forever. But I can't depend on borrowing trucks to pick up free hay either. Yeah- we are SO FAR from living a so-called 'self sufficient' life! HA!
The end result of a plowed and tilled garden IS beautiful, isn't it?
This week we are taking off of formal learning in order to get the garden in. We are so close to being finished school for the year, I don't mind pushing back one more week at this point. But, as any homeschooler knows, just because you aren't behind the books doesn't mean you aren't learning. Gardening is one of the greatest scientific/horticultural learning opportunities there is. So, yes, there will be learning going on.
Not just for the children but for me too. Gardening, no matter how many years you have been doing it, is always a learning experience and a constant form of experimentation. About this time, I always try and look back to see what I did right and what I did terribly wrong from the year before to try and get better results this year.
Last year's garden I purposed to grow more food storage type things...STAPLES, if you will...and it worked out so well! Not only did I have less canning to do with winter storage foods, I had a constant supply of food with which to cook all winter. It was very exciting to use my own beautiful onions all the way through to the end of March! So I hope to do that again this year.
Here are some more thoughts I have come to about this year's garden, based on last years' results:
* The onions were beautiful and stored well last year- but I did run out. This year's goal is to get enough onions to last until next onion season so we planted about 250 onions (I stored about 140 last year). That should do it.
* Potatoes didn't do that great last year. I tried growing them in hay and there were some real beauties- but many of them were half eaten by moles/voles. The end harvest was very small compared to what it could have/SHOULD have been. We finished our homegrown potatoes within a month or two of harvesting them. Also, it was a lot of work to constantly be putting more hay on them (and I kept running out of hay). This year I will try to plant them in hills and see how they do. If they do well, I hope to next year add to the collage of gardens at Hopestead a new POTATO PATCH. The long term goal is to have enough potatoes to last through to the next season as well, and that will require a lot more space than I have been devoting to them so far. PLus, potatoes don't really like neighbors.
* I had a volunteer Delicata sprout up from nowhere and was super excited about it and let it grow. Turns out, though, that volunteer Delicata's are not that "delicata"- they were hard as BRICKS! I don't think I will let volunteers grow anymore because the end results are unreliable.
* The carrots grew well but some of them were seriously funky looking because I thinned them out too late. This year I am going to try this seed tape method
and see how it works.
* I didn't grow cilantro last year and I completely and utterly regretted it. This year I will.
* I forgot to get the garlic in last fall. Garlic grows much better in the fall than in the spring- BUT, I am going to grow it this spring anyway if only to HAVE SOME. And come fall, I hope to actually GET IT IN THE GROUND.
* With all the perennial bits and bobs I got at yard sales/ given to me by neighbors, etc. I have forgotten what some of the names are! In some cases this spring, it was hard to know what to weed and what was a plant! I hope to mark them this year. Maybe using these
* Last years' tomatoes were AMAZING-but I lost a good portion of them because I didn't stake them up until it was too late and many were fallen over. I had intended to try this clothesline-type stake
but it never got done. This year, instead of hoping for a complicated, intricate staking system, I am just going to stake them with poles so it actually gets done
* Cabbage is great fun to grow- and they actually store well too! I doubled the amount of cabbage I am growing this year.
* Our corn crop was beautiful last year, for the first time ever, but not knowing how to tell when to pick, I often picked it when it was a bit starchy. I must look into when the best time to pick corn and how to tell when it is at its' best.
* Last year I planted in rows (because rows are pretty!) but this year I am planting in more of a square foot style. Every four feet I am making walkways, too, in hopes to keep the soil from being trod upon too much. So far, little feet have followed the little paths. We'll see how it fares over the long haul.
* I LOVED LOVED LOVED having a separate pumpkin patch last year. If you grow pumpkins and you plant them in your garden, I HIGHLY suggest you try to plop the seeds in a different area and free up some space in the garden. You won't regret it!
* I need to figure out a good weeding system for the strawberry patch. It is OVER RUN with weeds and when you pull them, up come strawberry plants!
So I guess that is about it.
For you gardeners out there... What did you learn from last year? What will you be doing differently this year?