30 August 2012

Mulch Update

It's been two weeks since my grand undertaking, and I think a progress report is in order.

First, the good: my garden is relatively weed free.  It is much more attractive.  Walking and working in the garden are a breeze.  Some of the plants, notably the 4/5 yo lavender bush, have perceptibly benefited from the attention.  I'm particularly glad about that, seeing as it was a garden warming gift from PapaBear.

Now, the bad: my garden is only relatively weed free.  Now, I think I want to practice a mildly tolerant form of gardening, especially since I want to avoid non-organic weed-prevention/plant care products, and don't have the pocket book to buy organic products or the knowledge of what to buy even if I did.  So, relatively works for me.  As long as that's the way it stays.  Some repeat offenders are bramble shoots, crabgrass, and mint.  (Of all the plants I had to ignore planting instructions for why did it have to be mint?  I shall have "She should have put down a root-barrier" engraved upon my headstone.  Or tattooed across my forehead.)

Lastly, a caveat: I goofed.  I weeded that sucker on Monday the 13th, laid down what cardboard I had on Tuesday the 14th, laid down several years' worth of figure study newsprint on Wednesday the 15th, forgot that newsprint is very very light, came back that afternoon to nekked peppal all over the yard, replaced the newsprint and weighed it down with the four 1-cubic foot bags of garden soil I could afford that day, and came back on Friday the 17th with three 2-cubic foot bags and one 1-cubic foot bags of garden soil that I was able to buy that day.  Goof #1, I could already see where the weeds were beginning to grow around the cardboard/newsprint.  Goof #2, eleven cubic feet of garden soil wasn't enough.  It covered everything, but just barely. 

Ok, one more thing - it's really part of the last lastly so it doesn't even really count; it's a caveat to the caveat: I really, really hate that I bought garden soil from a chain home improvement store.  Is that a redundancy?  Chain + home improvement store?  Anyway, my point is that I would have much preferred to use my own compost, as Anna Hess did with her asparagus bed (her own compost, my ever-present on board editor says in the back of my head), but I just don't produce that much compost, and I figured buying soil this once would be better than letting PapaBear spray and rototill.  I hope to keep things nailed down enough that the total garden kill mulch won't have to be repeated and I can manage with the minimal amounts of compost that our deciduous tree-less household can produce.

So there you have it.

24 August 2012

The Man Who Planted Trees

Lovely, lovely artwork.  I just don't think modern animation, particularly in the west, has this kind of character. 
As for the message, I think the video (in the dreamy tones of Christopher Plummer no less) speaks for itself.

17 August 2012

Tiger Patch

  Here at the newly rechristened Many Fingered-Pie (a title that is a bit garbled, admittedly, but it fits), I freely concede to the charges of being inconsistent - a glance at the archive dates alone will prove that - scatterbrained, and, included in the new subtitle, haphazard. 

  Who is my accuser?

  Myself.  And by extension you imaginaries reading this ill-advised article.  Hmm, "article."

  Also included in the new subtitle, I tend to really like things, and get excited about doing things, only to sally forth to do whatever latest shiny idea has caught my eye and discover - I like it much more on a theoretical level.  That usually doesn't keep me from trying to do, or, once the shine has temporarily worn off, from coming back and giving it another go once my head of enthusiastic steam has built itself up again.  It doesn't even keep me from gleaning a modest enjoyment and satisfaction from the practical side of the project at hand.  That just doesn't seem to be enough to keep me faithful and true for more than a few weeks, months at the most, at a time.

  I suppose the root of my problem could be considered a mixture of short attention span combined with a real struggle with the expectation of instant gratification. 

  Of course, my problem could also be that I'm a fickle, wishy-washy twit.

  Usually, my spurts and lapses of interest cause no more trouble than persuading me to spend way too much money on something I will not consistently use (and driving my family nuts), but with gardening, it's a somewhat different proposition.  There is a distinct need to be on top of the ball.  Hard work is needed, and often.  If it's time to plant, and I'm not in the mood, I need to either get the heck off my seat-warmer or miss an opportunity not easily regained.  That's what happened this spring with my garden.  I wasn't in the mood, and my seat remained warm.

  There are excuses, naturally, some of them even valid.

  For one, last spring, I planted a beautiful, luscious, lovely, spec-TAC-ular white zucchini - an Italian heirloom, no less.

  It was eaten alive by squash bugs.  Organic product controls listed in my bug reference book, Good Bug Bad Bug, were beyond my means at the time.  The only viable option under preventative action once I discovered the infestation was "hand pick."  I found myself not up to the task.  Yes, I know.  My failings are many.  Sigh.

  An interrelated reason for my lack of enthusiasm was that here in the central Piedmont of North Carolina, we had a winter that was so underwhelming it left us looking at each other and asking, "What happened to January?"  It must have seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread to the local insect population.

  The best excuse for the tendency toward garden deterioration near the middle of summer, even when I do get out there in the spring is that overheating through exertion is a sure fire migraine trigger for me.

  So my poor little garden languished while my "People say I'm easily distra - SQUIRREL!" attitude found other momentary points of focus.

  Well, bugs and all, my focus has rolled around again.  In August.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm a closet masochist...

  Anyway, I'd like to get my garden in shape at least for a meager fall crop of greens, so I set out into the jungle.  I live at home, and while it is my garden, PapaBear has quite the veto power.  When we have different ideas about what should be done, it can get... a bit sticky.  (Another reason I lost interest, an attempt to avoid conflict - because I'm a coward - except, duh, letting the garden go feral caused even more conflict).  He wants to spray everything.  I don't.  So I've been looking for an eco-friendly, quick-result method to tame my tiger patch.  I settled on this kill mulch, no-dig technique from the Walden Effect homesteaders (whose delightful month-by-month ebooklet series you can find here).  My beds are, well, maybe just a wee bit worse off than hers, but I'm hoping it will still work.

  So, here are the ubiquitous before and after pictures:

Before.  *Hangs head in shame*

In between. A good two year's worth of figure drawing newsprint supplemented the cardboard I dug out of the garage.
Aaaaaand after!  *Pats self on back*
  I shall be keeping a weedy eye out, as I've already flagged some trouble spots.  Developments shall be logged as they occur.

13 August 2012

I think I'll go weed OVER THERE

  This is an Argiope aurantia, more commonly known as the Black and Yellow Garden Spider, or the Writing Spider, so called for the dense zigzag of silk, or "stabilimentum," that the females put in the middle of their webs. She's taken up residence in the airy branches of my gigantic Rosemary bush.

  And lest you read this entry as surprisingly complacent, the Wiki article the scientific information was gleaned from states that B&Y garden spiders "are generally considered harmless to humans." Still, I've never gone so fast from "Yay, playing in the dirt!" to "I need biohazard gear like NAOW!"

  When I took up gardening, I knew I was going to have to re-educate myself about culturally engrained responses to useful critters like worms and spiders and less familiar beneficials, but my success has been mixed.  I know, theoretically, that spiders are a good thing, but in practice I still tend to be of the "Getitoffgetitoffget-it-OFF!" school of thought.  This morning when I discovered my tenant I must have stood there for five minutes talking myself into a positive frame of mind about it.  It went something like this:

"It will keep the bad bugs down, it's a good thing, really, it's I think I'll go weed OVER THERE."

And yes, I said it all aloud.  I talk to the weeds as I pull them, too.  Don't judge; it helps!

Wiki article here.  Much better photography, in case you, I don't know, actually want a closer look.