Wednesday, May 4, 2011

No Till Gardening

      When we moved into our current home, there was a vegetable garden already in the back yard.  The problem was that the previous owner was a chemical oriented gardener, and there was literally no organic matter in a slick clay slop.  It was October, and it must have been wet that fall, so the whole garden was a slippery, slick mess.  Lengths of 2 x 4s were scattered about the garden to provide safe places to walk.  I started adding wood chips and leaves that very first year.  Not having a roto tiller and not wanting to spend the money for one, I must have become a no till gardener by accident, long before the method was as popular as it is today.  So in the 32 years that we have been here, my garden has never been tilled.  I remember trying the double dig method for maybe 1/2 an hour, before figuring out that method is really a lot of work.  Let the worms do it, they love it.
      No till gardening has lots of benefits, not the least of which is the appearance of a bunch of volunteer seedlings.  Unlike most gardeners who rip out older ready to seed veggies, I encourage them to grow on to produce their seed.

Bellevue, 5-3-11

      Many things are in seed quite early because they overwintered in the cold frames.  All the better as I will have fresh seed and volunteers for the fall season.  The white flowering plants are arugula, the yellow are various cole crops like mustards, kale, and collards.  For some reason, the cole crops for me are breeding true, rather than crossing willy nilly as suggested by the literature.  The lettuce, spinach and chicories are soon to bolt and put up seed stalks.

Bellevue, 5-3-11

      The plant on the left is a very mild tasting mustard that overwintered under some leaf protection.  I am going to save that seed for its winter hardiness.  The plants in the middle are Beedy's Kale.  I like this variety, and the seed crop failed at Fedco last year, so I will be happy to have my own supply.
       By not tilling, seeds from garden plants have a better job of coming up naturally in both the beds and the paths.  Path volunteers need transplanting to better areas.  Mulch can not be added in deep quantities at inopportune times, as that would kill the seedlings as it does the weeds.  The weed problem is far less with no tilling, as weed seeds are not continually tilled back to the surface.  On to the volunteers:

Sunflower to be, 5-3-11

Bellevue, 5-3-11

      On the far left is baby Lamb's Quarter, a dreaded weed to many, but quite edible and delicious when young and tender.  It has a very nice nutty flavor, and the deep taproot draws nutrients from deep in the soil to be added to the compost pile.  I actually transplanted some to the garden last year, but it is now freely self seeding.  To the right of it is a small celery plant, really not needed as I have millions in their own patch.  The plant that looks like a little carrot is actually going to be a cosmos.  As I have not started my seeds at home yet, it thrills me to be finding numerous cosmos coming up on their own.

Red Sails Lettuce and Sunflower, 5-3-11

Even more Sunflowers, 5-3-11

Bellevue, 5-3-11

      Nestled in among the overwintered onions are several volunteer lettuce babies and some red russian kale.  Carrot seed from my own collected carrot tops was broadcast amongst the onions in the fall.  Lots of carrots the size of my pinkie strongly hint it might be my most successful carrot year ever (pretty easy thing to accomplish).

Bellevue, 5-3-11

      More beautiful volunteer red lettuce, with feathery volunteer chamomile below it on the right.  To the left is a corner of the volunteer celery patch.

More lettuce, celery, and a sunflower, 3-3-11

Celery, celery, and more celery, 5-3-11

     Fellow gardener John V gave me a couple of celery plants last year.  True to form, I let them flower and seed.  Now I have millions of celery volunteers, others significantly larger than these.  I hope to get my first edible celery this year from these naturalized plants.  Home grown celery can be very strong flavored, more usable for soup stock than eating raw.  I have not tried the blanching routine yet, maybe this will be the first year.
      The baby tomato volunteers are just now starting to sprout.  Maybe that is an indication that the starts can go in the ground?

1 comment:

  1. "volunteers" makes it all sound so friendly! Love this blog!