Nearly everything we do in the garden these days is a first-time thing, and so we don’t have the pressures of habit or past experience to help keep things on schedule. Which means that gardening tasks can easily get crowded out by other jobs whose routines are well-established, such as those demanded by the bookstore. So we try to keep an extra-close eye on our garden plans so that important tasks aren’t neglected.
Yesterday was like most others around here; there were more jobs calling for attention than there was attention to go around. But one that had been on our mind for awhile now is getting the garden tilled. We had found time to spread the lime, and managed to till the carrot patch, but then there was a good bit of rain and we had to wait for the ground to dry a bit. Yesterday the ground was still a bit damp, but since there was a multi-day stretch of rain in the forecast we knew we had to make tilling top priority.
Around 1:30pm Chris and I went out and spread the trailer load of composted manure that had been given to us by the Ellises. It took us about ninety minutes, and the compost covered about 1/12th of the garden area. That will be where the potatoes go. We went back up to the house, gathered the family, and came back with the tiller and a bunch of plastic buckets. For forty-five minutes we worked the potato patch—Chris would make two passes over each strip with the tiller, walking beside the tillier on the second pass so as to not walk on the tilled ground, while the rest of the family followed behind collecting any stones he turned up that were about egg-sized or larger. When that was done we still had time left, so we decided to also till the sweet potato patch, which like the adjoining carrot patch did not need to be composted. Once that was done, there was no further tilling possible, because the rest of the garden needs compost spread first, compost we don’t yet have.
Things I liked about that afternoon in the garden: (1) We set our work priorities based on weather conditions. (2) We worked until everything we could do was done. (3) We worked as a family.
Since I’ve had at least one gentle rebuke for not posting enough photos of our ongoing work, I’ve included some recent ones for folks who might want to see them.
We get our agricultural lime from Casey Stone, a quarry about an hour’s drive from the house. Each time we go to fetch some, they’ll weigh the empty pickup, then send us up to wait outside the mouth of the mine. A very large tractor will then go inside, get a scoop of lime, then come out and start pouring it into the pickup bed until we wave him off.
The tedious part, of course, is getting the lime from the back of the pickup onto the surface of the garden. If the ground has been tilled, we will avoid driving on it by circling the area with the pickup and carrying shovelfuls of lime to the spot where it will be spread. But on one trip we were applying lime to a section that hadn’t been tilled, so we just drove the pickup over the ground; Chris would shovel lime directly out of the pickup bed, then I would move the truck a few feet forward.
Our friend and mentor Jerome insists on lots of mulch for the potato patch. One good source of mulch is last fall’s leaves, so for a couple of weeks the boys have been raking and toting large piles of leaves down to the garden. They pile them onto a large plastic tarp, then drag the tarp. If the pile is particularly large and heavy, I’ll help out with the dragging. It works surprisingly well.
Here’s the crew as they tilled the ground and collected stones. We’re very glad that we bought our BCS walk-behind tractor; it seems to be just about the right size for the jobs we need to do around here, and it is pleasantly well engineered. The dirt in the foregound has been tilled; the darker dirt behind has a decent layer of compost spread on the top. On the right side of the picture you can see part of the large pile of leaves that Chris and Matthew have spent weeks collecting; these will be spread on the potato patch.
Maggie and Matthew collecting rocks. Behind Maggie you can see the trailer lent to us by the Ellises, which a couple of hours before was piled high with the composted manure they gave us.
Elizabeth is helping out.
Jerry is also helping out.
Benjamin is content to supervise.