Wouldn’t you know it? Just when I’m making headway in my lasagna garden, interest rates drop. I suppose it’s a little narcissistic to begrudge the timing of our economy’s collapse, but still… As a result of refinancing my mortgage, I now have money to fix the myriad problems in my garden, starting with the drainage mess under my lawn. Over the next few months, our neighborhood contractor Jeff will orchestrate the removal of my lawn, the installation of a non-potable water sump pump in the old big, unused cistern underground, the grading of the ground, the addition of decomposed granite, the plotting out of paths, the construction of six 3X8 redwood raised beds, and the replacement of my faulty irrigation system with one that uses the non-potable water conserved by the sump pump underground. My garden will be utterly transformed.
It means, however, that, when the little bobcat — or whatever the minature earthmover is called — begins to tear up my lawn, I will have to have unmade the lasagna beds and have folded them away in the sheets of black plastic that covered them. Ah, gee. As you can see in the photo above, I have four fava bean and three borlotti bean plants as well as a flock o’arugula flourishing quite nicely in my nearly three-foot high beds. My only hope lies in Jeff’s usual delays. Undoubtedly, I will get at least one harvest of arugula before I undo my good works. The harvest of a few favas may be too much to hope for.
Nevertheless, I have a lot to look forward to. When Jeff has transformed my garden, it will be too late to plant tomatoes and egpplant, but I look forward to late summer when I can begin the chard, kale, and other vegetables that tolerate the cooler temperatures of fall and winter. And instead of lasagna beds, I will attempt square foot gardening. I think that’s what it’s called. Or maybe these gardening fads are no more useful than diet fads. Just do, manage it, and keep it under control.
I call it my Victory Garden because it represents victory over my near complete ignorance about gardening. This morning, I went out to remove the plastic sheets covering my lasagna beds. Now that we’ve had a couple of days of rain, I want the last downpours over the next day or so to give the beds a good soak before I cover them again. Every time I go out to the garden, I look to see if anything has sprouted in the one lasagna bed I’ve had exposed to the elements. I planted one fava bean, one borlotti bean, and — oh, lord, I’ve already forgotten what the other two seeds I planted were! Nothing has appeared until this morning. Suddenly, right there, where I swear nothing could be seen as recently as yesterday, appears a shoot of a fava bush bean! I nearly shouted for joy and jumped up and down — but I immedately started to worry. What if we have another frost? February is only half over! What should I do? Cover it at night?
The garden is a mess. Too much mud in an area where I suspect I’ve got an old unused, underground cistern. Later this spring I will have to confront that challenge. Meanwhile, I can’t resist putting more of the garden into action. Perhaps prematurely, I planted three small artichoke plants against the back fence. I’ll probably have to protect them, too, if we have another frost.
But spring looks as though it has arrived. The luscious white camellia is coming into bloom. And, as you can see, the plum trees in the front of my house are in bloom. My neighbors say the magnolias, dogwood, camellias and other flowering trees and shrubs blooming around our neighborhood are too early. Maybe so. Still, when the sun is out, the pinks, whites, reds, and purples on branches make a canopy of delicate colors overhead. If only they had waited just until the end of the month to begin!
On Saturday, I drove up to my friends’ ranch in Fiddletown, CA, to shovel shit. Polly and James, the organic farmers from Portland, urged me to add lots of nitrogen to my lasagna beds to initiate in a dramatic way the decomposition that will, with any luck and a bit of sun, make planting possible in a month’s time. Shoveling shit is hard work. Fortunately, I proved so feeble at it that Dan stepped in to help. We half-filled six industrial strength plastics bags with chicken and sheep manure and quite a bit of already prepared soil. Even only half-filled, the bags required the two of us to hoist them into my trunk and on to the back seat of my Honda Civic. I got a headache from the amonia in the manure as I drove back — windows open a good crack in spite of the cold — into town.
Along the way, I stopped at the T’s ranch — where I’ve been harvesting summer vegetables for the past two years but no more! — for a dinner party. I was not properly dressed.
I spent Sunday lay down the last lasagna bed and treating the ones already in place with the manure. Then I strew the rest of the manure on the top of the soil of the bed that runs around the perimeter of the yard. Everyone tells me that chicken manure is so hot that it can burn roots to death if applied too heavily. But I have no idea how much manure it takes to create too much heat. So, I’ve hedged my bet. I let the manure sit on the top of the soil, bathed it in a bit of hose water, and will hope that it breaks down slowly over the coming weeks. On the lasagna beds, however, I applied it liberally, since I have not yet planted anything and I really want to generate heat.
The suspense will kill me. One month from today, I plan on inserting the first fava bean and borlotti bean seeds in the bed that gets the most sun. Will the bed have begun to decompose? Will it germinate no matter what stage of decomposition the bed has reached, as the Lasagna lady promises? Have I added enough water to bake it? Or is it too dry?
Time will tell.