GARDEN NOTES – December 2013
The daily priority is to water the vegetable garden in most of its parts. Our “deep-litter” compost beds can get-by with watering every other day, as can the potatoes which require deep watering three times a week. Otherwise, the main job is to position and rotate sprinklers until all growing needs are met. The bore-hole is our sole sustaining source.
We have planted-out all our seedling trays of tomatoes, gem squash, baby marrow, brinjals, leeks, spring onions. These, along with volunteer butternuts from the compost rows, now occupy beds which were formerly under green manure. The process appears untidy. We don’t have the “satisfaction” of turning the soil and planting in fresh-looking beds. Instead, the flattened stems of lupin and black oats form a straw-like mat into which seedlings are placed. Some, like the tomatoes, appear to disappear or be overwhelmed by dead vegetation, only to quickly establish their independent growth. The squashes initially appear isolated amidst the surrounding decayed green manure, but then (with patient irrigation) extend their creeping growth to cover the bed with their large leaves, yellow flowers, and even more tendrils.
The joys of this method of minimal tillage are that weeds (those that haven’t been suppressed) can be pulled out easily by hand without major disturbance (skoffling is no longer a daily necessity), and the mulched soil retains moisture and a free texture (assuming all instructions not to tramp the beds are regarded!) which makes for easy replanting. We are still at a beginning. We haven’t yet been able to overtake the cultivation of all beds in this way. The beds which were not sown with green manure have old weeds, and will require to be dug. We may have to borrow a rotovator to rescue the beds on the margin of the wetland which were flooded for some months and are now quite overgrown. But the signs and satisfactions of this way of cultivation are encouraging.
The Woodland has an important role in the application of this method. It provides necessary mulch to the vegetable beds by way of cut grass which is available throughout much of the year. It is harvested and stored (much like hay) and used when required. The trees recently planted on the Mound have also been mulched from the same source and are now establishing themselves in the face of the strong winds to which they are exposed.
The Woodland has also been memorably enhanced in recent days by the planting of a tree in celebration of the life of Madiba. The SI’s children gathered on the morning after his passing to plant a Buddleia salvifolia, a tree which is vigorous in growth and carries generous scented blossom.