2/26/2012

Spring Cleaning

I like the shape of the garden, its forms and designs, in early spring. Many of the beds have perennial herbs, some are empty of anything but mulch and henbit. Every bed needs to be cleaned, the debris removed and the ground tilled. Currently the tiller isn't cooperating.
On the right side, where the yellow sticky tags are from last year, is a row of peas.
Every day I try to work on cleaning beds, piling up the dead plants from last year and hauling them out of the garden. I'll till most of the beds at least once before planting, adding some compost to the soil. I'll then top off the beds with a layer of straw for mulch and ground cover while the seedlings get established.
 The lower beds, above, were added last year. Some have cover crops to be tilled under. I'm planting several of the old garden beds with peas for cover crop, others with wildflowers. Hopefully there will be a lot of wildflowers this year in several places for the bees. And honey.
Looking up the hill under the power lines.
One major project for me this winter has been clearing space under the power lines to plant wildflowers. Matthew's bee hives are just to the left, out of the photo. I've ordered several pounds of wildflower seed from Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, TX for planting in this area. You can't tell it from the photo, but there's about an acre of open space.
Pretty uninteresting, just brush and grass that prevents the wildflowers from getting established.
It looked like this (above) last fall. I first burned the grass/brush in strips, small areas at a time so the fires wouldn't get away from me. Being up a hill and in a corridor of trees on both sides, there's always an updraft. I burned everything I could, then took my riding lawnmower and sort of brush-hogged everything I could. Then, with loppers and pruners, I cut everything else to the ground.
From top of hill looking downward. You can only see about half the meadow from here.
Because the area is all fescue and poverty grass, which isn't very useful to me, I am using an herbicide, called Ornamec. You may recall I try to be organic, and this product isn't. However, if I don't get rid of the perennial grasses, which are mostly non-natives, the wildflowers won't have a chance at getting established.

The good thing about Ornamec is you can spray the grass, and it only kills grass. It won't hurt the wildflower seeds that are coming up and you can spray right over the seedlings without any harm to them. Since I don't grow food crops in this area and the wildflowers are important to the bees, I decided that getting rid of the grass this year would go a long way in helping establish a wildflower area that should only need an annual mowing after this. (Wildseed Farms sells this product and recommends it for getting wildflowers established).



You can see, above, the tiny wildflower seeds are coming up. I've planted an assortment of liatris, poppymallow, oxeye daisies, coneflowers, Mexican hats, yarrow, poppies, larkspur, bachelor's buttons, butterfly weed, clover and lots more. Some are annuals that will reseed themselves, others, like the coneflowers, are perennials and will continue to grow and expand their area. Just 2 years ago this area was trees and brush, like you see on each side of the photos. After the power company brought their giant brush-cutting equipment and ground everything down, fescue, that mostly useless grass took over. Turning the area into a wildflower meadow seems like a better use of the area. I've tried planting wildflowers before, sowing directly into grasses without much result. This method of controlling grass the first year, as well as scratching up bare soil with a rake or tiller, or both, before planting the seed, will give better results.

In my fantasies, this is what I hope it will look like. It may not look that way, but hopefully it will be close. Once established, a yearly mowing or light cleanup should help keep it a nice wildflower meadow.

Back in the garden, I dug a bucket of parsnips. Adam planted them last August and we've had nice parsnips all winter. It's amazing how many people have told me they've never eaten a parsnip, and wouldn't know what to do with them. What a great vegetable, one of my favorites! Roasted, boiled, added to chicken pot pie, steamed and buttered, just about any way you cook them. I actually like parsnips better than carrots, cooked.
This is about half a 5 gallon bucket from just one row of parsnips. I have 7 more rows to dig!

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What good info about a wildflower meadow. I am planning on doing the same in a smaller space and this was very helpful and gives me hope that I will succeed over time. And it will encourage the bees that a neighbor keeps near here.

Marc Scroggs said...

Jim
It looks like you are working pretty hard. It is looking real good. I am sure the bees will appreciate it very much and Matt should be giving you some good honey. If the wildflowers grow as good as they are in the picture you will definitely have a postcard view.
Marc

Jennifer said...

I can't wait to see the progress on the wildflowers! I only discovered parsnips a year ago (and love them) but I haven't tried to grow them yet.

Pat Hight said...

Hello, I'm interested in your wildflower project as I am doing a native grass and native flower project.

The grasses and some of the flowers are here already and we are very close to doing a 33 acre burn to encourage the natives and hopefully discourage the invasives.

I'm aiming to control japanese honeysuckle, multiflora roses, and an serecia lezbedesia (prob not the right spelling). I have a plan with MDC that calls for herbicide on the above plants after the burn. I have always been organic and am agonizing about this as I'm sure you did. I'll make my final decision after the burn.

I need a broad leaf herbicide, not a grass one and so far nothing even remotely organic has turned up. this chemical control is by far the biggest budget item for this project, so, it is important that it work

Thanks for talking about your decision to use Ornamec.

Pat Hight

I'll make

Jim Long said...

Pat,
I don't know of any organic-approved herbicides except for 12% vinegar. I don't remember the brand name, but it kills many broad-leaf weeds and grasses. The downside to using it is that it sterilizes the soil so completely that virtually NOTHING will grow in that soil for a year. Good luck!

Jim

Velda Brotherton said...

What a lovely garden you have, Jim. I can no longer work my beds, but my daughter has cleaned them all out and plans on replanting those that need it. Used a lot of bulbs previously. Thanks for sending me the link.

Dennis said...

Hey Jim
As I sit in my office in Japan, eight floors up it it is really nice to read your blog and remember working in the garden. I miss the outdoors and the farm, but I know it is a lot of hard work too. Hope the weather works for you better this year than last.
Dennis
p.s. can't wait to see the wildflower meadow. I put one on my screen saver" which is really big.
Dennis

Wendy said...

What a fantastic garden!!