Thursday, August 2, 2012

My new planting system - all grown up!

So I've given up crop rotating and even digging my veg plots now. After ten years, I was more than ready to see the back of it. I didn't mind the digging (until I realised how much damage it was doing to the soil structure) but never kept up with the weeding, didn't really enjoy the experience as a whole and the output wasn't worth the input.

This year, in early Spring, I covered the weeds in a thick layer of green and brown mulch and planted through that instead, the seedlings higgledy piggledy and close together, to mimic a typical weed plot. It was the end of May by the time the weather was consistently warm enough (night temps of 10°c and above) for me to plant out, so they were all quite big by then. But they still looked a little spartan planted out in the field beds, given that I was aiming to try to create leaf canopies to keep weeds down and moisture in, etc.

Here's the same bed at the end of May, again at the end of June, and finally at the beginning of August:

And another bed, on the same three dates:

And we've got two more like that. So the system worked: the plants grew really well in such competition with each other, and the weeds didn't get much of a look-in.

I've really enjoyed the veg beds throughout this season, for the first time in years - I'm even inspired to build more veg beds now! Cropping has been little, varied and often instead of bigger harvests of a more limited range, which I never did quite manage to get properly on top of in the past. I've let things flower and seed, knowing I won't be digging up and fully replanting the beds in the next few years, so the seeds that fall will stand a chance of propagation next year, and will keep the gaps filled with extra seeds and plants as I go along.

I'm not quite sure how the beds will fare in Winter. I need to think urgently now about plants for that time.


Blogger Maire said...

Love this post, just about to give up veg planting so to abysmal failure this year, but I will give this a go. Could you write about watering.

August 3, 2012 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Maire, I haven't had to do much - the leaf canopies seem to keep the soil a bit more humid, plus I think the natural structure from not digging the roots and the mulch and the deeper roots all help. As does the typical English excuse-for-a-summer we've been having!

But I do collect water by the beds, and have tipped the occasional bucket on them. Some weeds go into that water to steep, which seems to inure the soil from needing to grow that weed.

I've also had hosepipe sprays on the beds - not very often though.

August 3, 2012 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger OrganisedPauper said...

How do you manage with slugs? Not killing them, but the mulch being a habitat for them so increasing their numbers. Our garden is not so much slugsville as slug city. I think any kind of mulch would encourage them here.

August 3, 2012 at 1:05 PM  
Blogger Gill said...

I've resorted to organic slug pellets in the end, having been plagued with them for years - they flourish in the grass borders and stone walls here.

For a long time I was trying to pick them off, but they always won the war and we had very little left to eat from the field. We tried using both grit and coffee grounds but neither had any effect. I've even used beer traps, but of course they kill the slugs and then need emptying, which is a truly disgusting job.

Then this spring time we had a home ed trip round a local permaculture centre (the Incredible Edible project) and it was the first question I asked them! They looked at me as if I was stupid and said "Organic slug pellets.."

August 3, 2012 at 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm working on winter purslane and lots of mustard greens like "green frills" for the winter garden.
Definitely struggling with the slug problem!!!
I'm loving how liberated I'd felt since I read your first post on the subject. Have still not got a lot to show for my efforts due to slugs and wild rabbits ,,, but I'm fencing the rabbits out ... And now certainly going shopping for org slug pellets. Where do you get yours?

August 3, 2012 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Gill said...

Thanks for the winter garden tips Sally, am logging all those for when I finally feel ready to tackle more planting! Has to be soon, doesn't it?

So glad you're feeling more liberated now! I've just been out and weeded and harvested my 4th bed - one wheelbarrow full of weeds and one basket full of food, LOL - about a 10:1 ratio! But it doesn't feel like weeding, it feels more like foraging and just clearing the way for more good stuff to grow.

I must admit, I didn't realise there were quite so many weeds etc when I wrote the post. It wasn't all that obvious until I took a closer look. Loads of balsam this year.

We used to have a rabbit problem, but now we have foxes! So there's still the odd rabbit around, but not a problem for veg growing. Here's hoping you get one too - unless you've got chickens :-/

Slug pellets you can use for organic gardening are ones that only contain ferric phosphate (which breaks down to iron in the soil) - not the ones containing metaldehyde. The ferric phosphate ones are easy to find in garden centres etc - I even bought one from Asda a few weeks ago.

Just a few pellets round each plant seems to ensure its survival. A bit faffy and expensive, but the only method I've found which actually works and leaves us something to eat for ourselves!

August 4, 2012 at 11:45 AM  

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