One of the biggest mysteries of gardening I have never been able to solve is the dirt under my fingernails. Oh, I know how it gets there even when I am wearing gloves. The mystery is that even after I scrub my hands with soap and carefully clean the dirt from beneath my nails, I will settle down to read or do something not dirty and fifteen minutes later notice my nails have dirt under them like I never cleaned them. How does that happen? Are there little dirt reservoirs hiding under there? Does is seep from my skin? A mystery I tell you.

After this weekend it will be days before my nails stop looking dirty. Yesterday I spent several hours in the cool, breezy sunshine removing a few layers of winter mulch from the flower beds in my front yard. Now I am a lazy gardener, or rather, a gardener who believes in allowing nature to do most of the work. The mulch was all leaves, maple and oak mostly from my tree and my neighbor’s that had fallen in October. Nature was kind enough to cover over the beds for me, why rake the leaves up and use some fancy store-bought mulch? I left most of the perennial flower stalks and grasses uncut and it all holds the leaves in the beds quite nicely with no work from me. Thanks Nature!

My work comes in now, pulling off some of those leaves and cutting back the grasses and perennial stalks. I don’t remove all the leaves, a light layer remains to continue mulching duties and breaking down into nice compost to feed the soil. Even so, I cleared quite a lot of leaves from the beds. Since I am still feeling guilty about the bare ground beneath my apple trees after we did rake up all the leaves in the fall because of apple rust, instead of dumping the maple and oak leaves into my compost bin I dumped them under the apple trees. There is still a bit of bare ground but not as much as there was so I am feeling a little better.

I had Easter Monday off from work earlier in the week and Bookman took the day off to spend with me. It turned out to be a gorgeous day. We planted all of our cool weather vegetables. The polyculture bed is now planted and our fingers are crossed. What we planted in the bed:

  • Parsnip, Half Long Guernsey
  • Beet, Bull’s Blood
  • Radish, Early Scarlet Globe
  • Radish, Purple Plum
  • a mix of sweet leaf lettuces
  • Spinach

Polyculture bed with row cover fabric

Polyculture bed with row cover fabric

These are scattered throughout the bed, not in rows. Next we watered and then put a length of fabric row cover on top to keep critters from digging. So far the row cover is working fabulously. The pesky squirrels, finding nothing to do in my garden, have been instead eating everything in my nextdoor neighbor’s. He’s been complaining about it. I was all sympathy on the outside and smug inside. I had better be careful though, I am not out of the woods yet when it comes to potential squirrel troubles.

Also planted in the blocks of the polyculture bed is Bouquet Dill, Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, and Slo Bolt Cilantro. In other parts of the garden we planted Brown Mustard, Lincoln Peas, Russian Red Kale, and Giant Musselburgh Leeks. So exciting!

Today it has been raining all day watering the garden. Indoors Bookman and I filled the newspaper pots we made last

Seed starting

Seed starting

weekend with seed starting mix and planted Purple Peacock Broccoli and Jacob’s Cattle Beans. We are starting these in pots because as the early vegetables in the polyculture bed finish, these plants will fill in the holes. There was supposed to be purple cabbage too but I somehow managed to lose the seed packet so we just planted extra broccoli. The trays are now out in the mini-greenhouse on our deck. I have no idea if we are starting enough of these or too many since I have not done a bed like this before. It will be an adventure!

And now, a worm update. I gave up trying to convince the worms to move to the fresh food side of the bin. Not finding any simple solution, I put down a few newspapers on the kitchen floor and scooped out all of the old bedding and compost from the one side of the bin. This actually ended up working quite well. The wigglers don’t like light so as I removed compost from the top of the pile on the papers, they would keep burrowing down. There were still small worms and bits of uncomposted food to carefully sort out and drop back into the bin, but most of the worms ended up on the very bottom of the pile. When I got down to them I just scooped them all back into the bin. They are supposed to have some of the old bedding mixed in with the new so it worked out pretty well. And Bookman ended up helping me and didn’t complain. Much. Now I have a nice small bucket of lovely compost. I will be planting asparagus in a few weeks and the compost will go on their bed.

In case you are wondering how we made our newspaper pots:

It looks complicated but is really easy once you get the hang of it and it makes sturdy pots.

The week ahead looks to be cool and rainy. Good for the garden if not for me being out enjoying it and adding to the dirt under my fingernails.

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