Thursday, October 10, 2013

Getting ready for next year, adding space

The growing season is nearly over, and while I'm winding things down, removing spent plants and vertical supports I'm also making some new bed spaces.  This is actually a good time to add a new bed because some of the soil preparation can be done between now and spring.  The laborers are earthworms and they are hard workers. 

But first I'm going to talk about my white whale, the levee project.  I've found out the hard way some do's and don'ts of levee maintenance.  A big don't is this:  you can't let bushes or trees of any size grow on a levee.  There were a number of large multiflora rose bushes, the invasive kind, growing on the banks of the levee.  A bush that has a 10 foot diameter crown will not allow anything to grow in its shade, but it will only anchor the dirt around the base of the plant.  What is needed are short plants with fibrous root systems to hold the soil in place.  Like grass.  A torrential downpour last spring showed me the error of my ways.

I started the levee work in the spring, cutting out the rose bushes with a chain saw, and brought in two truck loads of soil.  This fall I brought in two more truckloads and finished the bank repair.  The rest of the soil was put on the top of the levee to fill in the low areas.  I set up a water level to find the low spots.  Then everything was seeded and strawed.  It was  huge job.  Twenty cubic yards of soil were delivered (I held two yards back for other jobs) and spread by shovel.  I've got to believe that this repair will survive any weather Mother Nature throws at it.  The grass is growing nicely.

Once I recovered from the levee project I went back to the berry bed.  The bed is just over 16 feet long.  I plant to put in raspberry bushes.  At one end will go either asparagus or rhubarb.  Can't decide.  Once the blocks were set I added a thin layer of compost, some fertilizer and several inches of topsoil, some of that soil I held back from the levee project.  It's sort of a sheet mulch.  After the leaves fall I'm going to top it off with some shredded leaves and set landscape fabric over all of it.  I'm hoping the black fabric will help heat the soil so the worms can do their thing.

And there's another bed.  The stump of a tulip poplar that I cut down five years ago had decomposed enough to remove.  The tree had built up a large mound of soil around it and I never thought about putting a bed there.  With much of the root system out the mound was leveled (some of the excess soil went into the levee repair).  It's a space where storage crops can be grown, either squash, potatoes or sweet potatoes.  This space goes into the shade early in the fall, but those plants are all done by that time. 

This will start as an open bed while I figure out if it needs to be terraced at the low sides.  I'll put in a sheet mulch using shredded leaves to get it ready for next spring, when it will be planted with winter squash.

The two apple trees I planted last year have grown about two feet this year.

The trees suffered a heavy infestations of aphids this spring, with the ants farming them.  It took several sprays to kill the ants and the aphids went after the ants were gone.  The insect pressure caused a lot of the branches to grow in odd directions.  I'll have to do some heavy pruning this winter, and spray them with dormant oil in the spring to prevent another infestation.

I'm still picking pole beans and there are a few summer squash which should ripen.  There's some parsnip and brussels sprouts still growing.  And some spinach has been seeded to overwinter.  Things are winding down.

1 comment:

Mark Willis said...

I'm fortunate that my garden is both small and well-estblished, so I don't have to do much "engineering" work! I hope your levee holds OK.

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