Saturday, March 31, 2018


Built another one. Nearly out of sticks from this year's prunings. Just enough left to do some more trellising. This one is lower because I'm going to put runner beans in. The taller one is for beetroot (already sown) that needs more depth of soil.

Note how dry and cracked the soil is. This is after weeks of constant tremendous downpours in Feb & March, followed by three weeks of cold, sunny days with a lot of wind. This is what clay soil does, and it turns rock hard. The only thing to do is mulch and build raised beds. Long process.

I've done beds and wood chip mulching in the ornamental/herb garden, but the orto is going to take a lot of work that I'm mostly going to have to save for next winter. One thing I'm doing is sowing everything with white clover seed. This is a plant that "fixes nitrogen," pulls it right out of hte air and pumps it into the soil through nodes in the roots. It helps the soil retain water and the leaves shade the soil from the sun and protect it from wind and reduces evaporation and helps the clay soil by retaining water below the surface, preventing that cracking and the formation of a hard crust.

This is an old medieval gardening trick. Medieval pottager or herb gardens were always set up with raised beds and paths, so no one ever walked on the places you plant and sow, and there was absolutely no bare, exposed soil. Grass on the paths was common, but here would take too much water in the summer to keep it alive. I don't want to do sand or gravel paths, because that would just be adding stones to soil I'm trying to reconstitute. I'm trying hugel beds as well, where you bury woody material along with half-finished green compost. These take about three years to really get results, but it's supposed to be great for clay.

But it's tricky to manage no matter what you do. You have to make absolutely sure never to walk on anything you intend to plant. Make paths, and stick to them for your feet, and then mulch the heck out of the paths with an organic mulch, so walking on it forces organic material into the soil. I'm mixing white clover seed, which you can buy in bulk, with composted soil and peat/wood mulch compost, and sprinkling it over the clay beds. The green looking bit in the back of this photo shows the difference it makes.

The Patch was rototilled every year for many years when Annamaria's mum lived here, and it has left the soil in dire condition. It's the reason absolutely nothing but a few VERy hardy and determined weeds would grow on it. The grass from Franco's orchard stopped in a clear line where Annamaria's mum's garden started. The soil is so hard packed after decades of tilling even the grass wouldn't encroach on it.

Frankly, it's a ton of work, but I'm enjoying this project immensely. What a thrill to bring life back to it!

Plum, always the first to bloom...

Hugelkultur; a Swiss thing I think, in which you bury half-rotted wood and dry sticks and brown compost, cover with a layer of green compost, and then pile on the soil from the trench. Sow with a cover crop like clover and plant with whatever you like. Three years later, the soil will be completely reconditioned.

Since childhood, my favourite flowers. A sign of spring and new hope. A new start, and a way back from winter.

Happy Easter.


Anonymous said...

Daffodils are so cheerful! Happy Easter!

I hate my clay soil!

Louise L

Anonymous said...

I'm so impressed with your garden work! Just great. Enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Louise L

Anonymous said...

We had clay soil at our last place. How we hated it! Every Summer, the scorching Australian sun would bake our garden dry. We gave up in the end. Your garden looks a lot more cheerful.