Friday, June 1, 2012

Beans and Perennials

Beans (and weeds) are popping up in the hugelkultur raised bed!
They're kind of funny to watch. The Littles helped plant them. At first I thought it was poor germination, a lot of sprouts in one spot and none in others. But more pop up as the days go by. I think it's because each seed was pushed into the soil, rather than hoeing rows. Deeper seeds are taking longer to come up. So as I walk around I try to remember who was planting which section.

The outside rows are yellow pencil pod beans, the inside rows are white navy beans from the grocery store. I think we're going to have a wonderful crop of both!

I laid the carpet out to cover the path between the raised bed and the garden.  It just fits before the first garden row.  This section is very lumpy, where the plow just catches the dirt, and very weedy, where it doesn't catch at all.

I worked in the perennial bed most of the day yesterday.  No pictures, because the transplants are pretty much invisible.  It just looks like dirt from different angles, lol.  I am pretty pleased with how it's coming along.  I'm debating leaving some grass.  It does mean more work- weeding/cutting.  Mostly I'm just ripping it out on my hands and knees, but I like working on my hands and knees, rather than bending.  Hands and knees on the log pathways though, are rather uncomfortable.  I still have lots of rich compost to move around, and I'm still finding new things (old things) coming up.  Some I think have been spreading on their own.  Others I remember as they appear.

Some of my first transplants have taken hold really well- like the English thyme, holly hocks, nasturdium, and mountain mint.  Others I think drowned in our down pour last week.  The majoram is gone, and the penny royal is in rough shape.

I put in scullcap, Chinese Lantern, Wild Bergamot, Jacob's Ladder, Lady's Mantle, Yellow Bedstraw, Red Clover, Prairie Clover, Meadow Clary, and Chinese Jujube along the fence on the right.  I cut plastic sticks out of a pop bottle and labeled everything.  I'm getting to know them slowly, but I'm sure to forget a few.

I don't remember if I posted before or not, but I had a great debate with myself about where to start with herbs after kymber's post on herbs got me thinking.  I've never really done herbs before, except for chives, which Husband and the boys eat on baked potatoes through the summer, and dill, which I use for pickles.  Not that I don't have an extensive spice rack, I just didn't grow anything myself.

So I debated starting with cooking herbs, and reducing my reliance on the grocery store.  Except, most of the herbs I cook with come from more exotic locales, and wouldn't do well in a 2A growing zone.  Then I thought about buying seed that would grow 'tea' herbs, so I would know how to harvest and use everything.  Again, the growing zone had me flummoxed.  There are tea herbs that will grow here, but picking and choosing was getting a little overwhelming. 

Finally I decided to make a list of everything that will grow here, and work from there.  There was a surprisingly abundant selection by the time I finished going through the seed catalogues, and I wanted everything!  Richter's online seed catalogue does a wonderful job of describing what the plants are used for both medicinally and for eating.  I was really beginning to wonder why I hadn't been growing herbs for years.  I eat weeds, for crying out loud!  A lot of herbs are just weeds that someone paid attention to!

So, with hundreds of possibilities at my finger tips, (and hundreds of dollars!!!) I finally narrowed down my selection not by ease of use, common use, specific ailments, or any other logical means, but simply by perennials that are rated at least zone 3.  I figured that would be easiest for me, the lazy gardener, who always ends up ignoring the flower bed in favour of the stuff I can actually eat.  If I can get these plants established, figure out what to do with them, and make them a part of my real life (cooking, drinking, medicine), then it will make sense to continue adding to the herb garden in the future. 

With perennials, if it takes me awhile to figure it out, that's okay,  they'll be back next year.  Where as annuals, I know if I don't use them I'll lose interest in them as time goes on, and that would be a complete waste of money, time and energy.

One of the interesting things about searching through the herb guides for my growing zone too, is that I now know names for lots of local things that pop up around here, like Bilberry.  And I have a list of plants that are native to the area that I'm trying to watch for, like wild ginger, which I'm pretty sure grows in abundance in my forest garden, but I'm waiting for it to flower to be sure.  Even my god forsaken twitch grass has medicinal value for urinary tract infections!  And that other viny garden weed that I yank by the hundreds- Crown Vetch.  Who knew?

At any rate, now that I've prattled on, is anyone still reading?  lol.  The weeds are getting easier to pull, with the wood, wood chip base and soft compost on top.  A lot of dandelions still coming up through, but even they are manageable.  I'm trying not to upset the soil too much as I work, and adding more compost to the edges of my wood and plants as they get bigger, essentially cutting the weeds off from the sunlight.  I'm not sure how it'll work out in the long run, but for now, it's much better than in the past.  At least I know I'm not pulling out good plants mixed in with the weeds.

I need to cut back the lilacs that are spreading through the bed, and especially the ones that are attempting to drown out the rose bush.  A couple of years of not mowing, and they are out of control.

In other news- I had to search for other news.  The Ministry of Natural Resources has still not updated their web page on the forest fire situation here.  I found this in the Winnipeg Free Press.  Go figure- they loan us some water bombers and they care what's happening.  Even the local radio stations have been very quiet about the fires' status, only announcing where evacuations have been lifted.  It's a great relief to know that progress is being made!


  1. So, these are just herbs growing in my yard, not weeds? That's a relief! lol

    This was a very interesting post. Don't underestimate what you write. I am encouraged. the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. So, I will garden vicariously through you.

    I looked for something on the fires, but did not know where you lived. I found nothing current.

    1. Well, look up some of your weeds online. You might be surprised. Flowers, too. There are a lot that were once more than just decoration.

      Thanks, lol.

      More rain over night. I think we're in the clear.

  2. wendy - this is awesome news about the herbs...and the beans! back to the herbs - if it turns out to be wild ginger that you have - i want seeds or a root and i will give you jambaloney's right leg (i gave my friend Beth his left leg!). i'm not sure what you'd do with his leg but...???? i MUST have some of that wild ginger!!!!

    and yes - there are wild herbs growing all around us, we just live in a society that demands uniformly-cut grass lawns!?!?!!? back in the city i foraged all around our land and learned about a bunch of things that had medicinal uses and/or were good to eat. i have been slow to do that here on the island as i just really haven't had the time! but i plan to get out this summer and identify every single thing growing on our land!!!

    oh welcome June! and i am glad that the fires are slowly getting under control! your friend,

    1. Hmmm... imagine how fast I could run if I had an extra right leg? lol. If it is wild ginger I'll be happy to send you some.

      Good luck with the identifications! Post pictures!

      Thank you!