Friday, May 18, 2007

Going green

I didn't realise how miserable a cold could make a person until I nursed little Nell all last night, getting up as she woke very hour to snuffle and cry, standing with her over the humidifier, trying to get her to breathe in all the eucalyptus goodness that sent me straight back to my own childhood (do they still make Vicks Vaporub, I wonder?). Anyway, there was a lot of time for thinking and planning and scheming about the garden.

Mulching has been a source of confusion for me, in this garden. It's one of the unargued principles of organic garden - it's a commandment: thou shalt mulch - but it's really an ambiguous practice. I know in dry places it conserves water but here in Tas. that's really not a big issue, and particularly not in winter. With healthy soild, worms will drag the mulch down, building up the structure of the soil, but in our plot, the dead, clay substrata means we have to dig everything in - there are no worms to help us out. What the mulch becomes is a hiding place for the bad bugs that lay waste to my veggies. In my garden, mulching is sadly transformed into an example of poor grden hygiene.

So I'm giving up on the pea straw, lucerne, etc, and going green. I've planted green manure and I'm loving it. The peas, rye, lupins and clover look fantastic: lush and green and suggesting a level of fertility I don't think actually exists in the garden. There's nowhere for baddies to hibernate, and little space for weeds. I've decided to mix this green manure with flowers that will grow through the winter: stock, some poppies, various other as yet unidentified types. I'm hoping this will eventually attract bees and other storybook characters and add a bit more pretty to the back section, which often teeters on the grimly utilitarian.

These plans are part of a broader rethinking of what I do in the back beds. I read something in a permaculture book the other day, something that gave me an "Aahh" moment: it's not natural for plants to grow in monocultural straight lines. I know this, but had somehow forgotten it. My best gardens have been those where I've stuck things in any old place: freesias among the raspberries; poppies in the cabbages; sweetpeas in the corn; basil anywhere I could fit it. Those gardens looked so full of promise and had very few predator problems. But living with Al - and man who likes his paths swept, his plantings straight and flowers and veggies segregated - has clouded my vision. But now, looking out on the sodden ground, I'm seeing what it might be like this summer, with lots of waving flowers and colour and confusion, and I'm very excited.

Look out slugs and bugs, you're about to be stymied. Ha!

Eating from the garden: spinach thinnings in a pumpkin and lentil soup; our walnuts and apples with carrots in some muffins that are about to be baked to stave off the cold and wet of the day.


Janet said...

I went the green manure way last winter and I loved it. Cheap, grow your own mulch. I tend not to mulch with peastraw in winter anyway for similar reasons. And what's a few weeds anyway?

Aach and I know what it's like to live with a straight line gardener. At one point G suggested I use a string line for planting!!!

Kris said...

Janet, Al just read your comment and said he the string sounds like a good idea. But he knows deep down that no matter what I do the garden ends up a looking shambolic.