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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Cleaning and Bed Preparation

Spring has finally arrived, at least on the calendar!  We have had an unusually cold March in the PNW, none of the usual days above 60* F.  It has also been rainy and grim.  So it's been nice to have at least a little sun and slightly dry weather to get out and begin the garden clean-up for spring planting.  Here for example is my signature view after winter's devastations and before cutting back dead material-
The wonderful ground cover Ceanothus gloriosus Point Reyes has spread well across the path from the deciduous cutleaf weeping Japanese Maple, and the early-blooming Hellebores, Muscari, and Primula are coming along behind it.
The most pressing chores are to trim off dead growth on the two Tree Peonies, and cut the clumps of Miscanthus close to the ground before they start to grow.  A few species tulips will make their appearance before long, like the delicate ethereal T. batalinii Bright Gem-
The hardy geraniums in the bottom of the photo will also hopefully spring forth into new ground-covering glory studded with flowers like bouquets-
But since I am predominantly concerned with the edible garden, I worked on vegetable bed preparations this week.  This bed was seeded with turnips, collards, and mustards last July to yield winter greens, now ready to pick-

Bed last August

The preparation consists of laying down newspaper to kill whatever weeds might be growing in the old squash, cucumber, and bean rows, leaving the brassicas in the middle for harvest.  Next week I will place some tunnels on the paper to keep out the rain and dry out the soil for planting the crops for this year, bush beans and mostly determinate tomatoes, along with peppers and eggplants, to provide some poisonous roots among the beans to hopefully discourage voles.

This bed was last year's tomato bed, with pole beans along one side, and this year will have squash, cucumbers,  more pole beans, and later in summer some brassicas for overwintering.   To see the tomato house that was here, see here, scroll down.
Preparation here consisted of removing plastic sheeting, PVC poles and structure, chicken wire and plastic trellis used to support the roof, and lots of bamboo poles and horizontal wires and the ties that had attached the tomatoes to the poles last year.   I put the old tomato vines in the trash to discourage fungal diseases that might overwinter in them.  Now I am ready to put newspaper on the ground to shade out weeds, and tunnels to dry the ground, like on the first bed.  Both of these beds are surrounded by welded wire fences supplemented by 8' tall bamboo poles with wires run at various levels to hopefully discourage deer from jumping in.  The newspaper mulches limit weeding, and soaker hoses running down each row simplify watering in the summer.

Vole strategies this year will consist of putting heavier amounts of lava rock in the planting holes, and perhaps installing a few hardware cloth boxes to enclose the root zones of a few squash and cucumbers since I had a lot of damage in these plants last year.

Happy spring!


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