May 3, 2015

No Dig Vegetable Garden, Seedlings and a Naughty Kitten

I've been busy preparing gardens and seedlings the last week or two.  Spring has finally sprung in the Ottawa area and it's predicting to stay in the low to mid-twenties (Celsius) and lows around ten for the next two weeks.  Makes me wonder if the last chance of frost is over this early.  Normally I wouldn't dream of planting seeds until at least the third week in May.  Also it's been much drier than usual, which is good because our property has a lot of low lying land.  So this past weekend I wrapped up establishing another vegetable garden on the homestead.  This is a no-dig, no rototiller garden and I made the garden itself for less than $20, which is pretty much impossible in my experience.

Left are ground cherries, middle top is broccoli, middle bottom cucumber, right is cucumber.  All heritage seeds.
I realized with all my seedlings and plans to have some extra produce to store and eat through winter I needed more vegetable garden space.  But since this is a country property, the majority of my backyard is filled with my septic bed, and the one part of flat cleared land in the backyard, I already have a vegetable garden.  So that brought me to planting in the front yard.  The front yard is an excellent location because it is already flat, top-soiled, and clear of trees.

I wasn't about to spend the money on renting a rototiller again, like I did for the first vegetable garden, and I didn't want to spend money on bags of compost, peat moss, topsoil etc.  So  I thought a no-dig garden would be perfect.

Hmmm, where to put this new garden.  I wanted to be a little away from the house shadow in the afternoon and not beside the driveway.
I started out with laying sheets of cardboard on the lawn and rearranged them until I was happy with the location and size.  That was it for the first day, I just weighted them down with bricks and gave the cardboard a good soaking with water.  The idea is that the cardboard will kill the grass underneath and also disintegrate slowly so that plant roots will be able to grown into the soil underneath.  This method is also no-till, so that all the organisms in the soil and worm holes are not disturbed.

The second step was to find a source of hay or straw.  I tried hard to find some straw but everyone seemed to be out.  So then I looked for hay and found that a local gardening store had some and a local farmer.  I opted to go to the local farmer, which was half price and I figured maybe I'd meet somebody new.  Each bale was around 3.50$ Cdn.  I managed to stuff four of these bales into my old Chevy Cavalier and brought them home.

I spread out two bales of hay over the length of cardboard and gave it another good soaking with the hose.

Cardboard on grass, then hay then topsoil,  I dragged two cedar logs from the back forest with the ATV for edging.
The next day I went to the garden center and picked up bags of topsoil, I spread out a thin layer of top soil over the hay.   I chose the no-name brand but yet good quality topsoil, one part topsoil, one part peat-moss and one part cow manure.  And of course I soaked the whole row with the hose again.

Then the last step was planning and planting some seeds.  I decided since the weather is unusually warm and is expected to stay warm for the next two weeks that I'd take the risk and plant seeds.  I planted three circles of herbs in the middle, dill, thyme, sage and basil.  I planted a row of heritage beets, romaine lettuce and kale on one side.  and I planted a row of beets and will soon plant broccoli seedlings and cherry sized tomato seedlings on the other end of the garden bed.  I'm undecided on how early I could add the seedlings.  I did give some thought as to what would be nice for neighbors to look at for this garden.  I ruled out full size tomatoes and they get kind of scraggly looking.  I thought leafy vegetables like lettuce and kale and beets would be pretty.  As well the herbs have nice flowers.

So I'm hoping in the next week or so, I see some seeds sprouting up from my no-dig garden.

And you may be wondering about this naughty cat.  Well one day I got home from work and went to check on my seedlings and almost one entire bed of tomatoes was destroyed and there was cat doo-doo in the container.  But I managed to rescue the situation.  Luckily I hadn't finished thinning the seedlings and I planted those in the container to replace the destroyed seedlings and happily they caught on just fine.