The Fruits of No Labour

An entire season has passed. I’ve worked eight hours a day, seven days a week here, on the seemingly endless project to clear the litter of trees laying like vast matches absolutely everywhere I looked and to find modest space to begin a cluster of gardens.

Log litter, Poppy, red flax and cosmos

Thirty-five years to let robust nature do entirely her own thing is far too long a time. And as many of you know, I also had two robberies and their rippling consequences to grapple with, including all the ways in which it ripped the heart out of me.

Key to my heart

On June 9th, clearing foot high weeds and brush at the foot of the barn foundation for new roses, I found a large machine key, and it served as metaphor enough for my heart to begin to repair and my work here to reclaim some meaning for me.

Last of the first earlies

Last May I wrote of trying a lazy method of planting potatoes, and as I tried it, I had slim confidence that it would work. I was certain animals would pilfer the seed potatoes thrown casually atop the compacted dirt, covered by just inches of easily moved hay. And, in fact, I was so convinced the little nuggets had been eaten, that I purchased a late duplicate batch, went back to plant them fishing around into the hay to do so, only to find the original ones slowly sprouting exactly where I’d left them.

Just checking…

Two days ago, I harvested the last of the first earlies. All others are still sitting happily under the hay until my harvesting of them before first frost. My zucchini has been just as happy with the hay coverlet as are all my other vegetables. I could weep if I thought long about all those sweaty years of smashing my wrists against rocks, or clanking shovel digging, panicked marathon weeding. So the endless Bruce County rock extractions are no more. Thank you and bless you in heaven Ruth Stout.

Seven feet of brash happiness from a 1/2 inch seed.

The Blessings of Laziness

Last year in heavy soil I dug deep. For potatoes. And dug some more. Then in these trenches, over weeks dodging rain, I hilled up more heavy soil dug serially from elsewhere (so bend, dig, lift to wheel barrow, lug, shovel horizontally, bend again, toss) to repeatedly build up coverage over the potato plants as they grew, …and grew, and I dug, buried, dug, buried. This exhausting process did produce the heavenly potatoes I’ve just finished consuming last month, but nevertheless, I am always looking for easier ways to do things. And on the all-powerful internet I came across a reference to a Ruth Stout (click to watch) who became famous for discovering in her 60’s a remarkable way to plant vegetables, including potatoes. And another video channel Back to Reality (click) of a beautifully lazy young couple who with great success, tried this with potatoes. A lazier process even than the currently de rigueur “no dig” method, it’s charm is a certainty. Toss seeds (or seed potatoes) on the ground, and cover them with hay. Lots of hay. And do it every year. That’s it.

Step One – find some hay (in my barn) or even straw

Anecdotal evidence indicates harvests surpass the digging, burying and fertilizing old ways. So I’m on it, even if two months late due to excessive mud and two traumatic burglaries, but I’m on it. Done. Thirty seed potatoes planted yesterday in about a half hour start to finish. The added beauty of this method is that wet ground is suddenly of no concern.

Step Two – throw some seed potatoes on the ground. And if you’ve more than one variety, label them – that would be the hardest part.
Step Three – put down the hay – about 8″ in all. I sprinkled on some dirt as ballast until it rains today, but I also applied a light watering. Make sure you can still find your labels, and water well if there’s no rain in sight.
Then go sit down and read a book.

Beginning Again

Schön Ingeborg

Fifteen roses ordered this year, all perfumed with repeat blooms. And I have just come through three weeks paralyzed on the floor with an unrelentingly painful back. I haven’t been out of the house in that time, yet in my basement I have onions and peas ready for planting, tomatoes and peppers now graduating from flats into their own pots, and wildflower plugs fattening that I intend to place like jigsaw puzzle pieces into gaps on the front hills. If I am dreaming in technicolor … well, I’m not even exploring that possibility.

For the south facing barn wall two Souvenir de la Malmaison should over time climb nearly twenty feet each to meet in the middle.

Souvenir de la Malmaison – climbing

When my prior supplier gave me the bad news that their Souvenir de la Malmaison had not made it through the winter, I thankfully found a supplier near Niagara-on-the-Lake to add to my resources. Kiss Me Kate too I pick up tomorrow from Palatine Fruit & Roses.

Kiss Me Kate

I have fabulous memories of my tour of Highgrove. Two years prior the rose garden at Kew was like a candy shop of David Austin varieties, and for scent none there could surpass Princess Alexandra of Kent. If they survive Gray County winters, it will be a small miracle, but try I must.

Highgrove – climbing
Florentina – climbing
Bathsheba – climbing
Princess Alexandra of Kent
Ascott – climbing
Lady of Shalott – climbing
Lichfield Angel – climbing
Crown Princess Margareta – climbing

And then there are peas.

the lonely pea
Breath of Life – climbing