Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15 (2009) were glorious in NE Ohio. Temps were in the high 50s and there was plenty of sun. It was a weekend just made for transitioning the garden. I got all of my beds cleaned out and everything old and organic put into the compost. I even collected a small bag of old plastic markers that seem to multiply when left in the garden. I put some finished compost on my side bed and planted about 20′ (double row) of fava beans. I put in some Oregon Giant snow peas in one of my back beds and I set out some Chard (Bright Lights) seeds with glass jars over them. I even ran the bagging mower over my wife’s perennial beds, taking up all of the old growth and the trapped leaves … straight into the compost.
Several of the veggie beds had gobs of mower-bag mulch that had been protecting things like carrots, parsnips, leeks and fennel. I took off about half of it from the top and turned the bottom, the more decayed half (and thousands of worms), into the soil. I have to say that my soil is terrific. It is very dark, loamy and alive. Usually I only work my beds with a traditional Japanese hand hoe or a claw weeder … shown below although mine are now shop-worn:
When I need to do any heavy work like turning all of that mulch into the soil of the beds, I get out my old Smith and Hawken English fork. I don’t use a shovel on my beds because shovels make the soil too compacted and, when the sun and air hit it, hard.
Now that I have turned the mulch into several of my beds I have to think about what goes where. The beds that have the mulch turned into them will do better for setting out seedlings rather than direct seeding although I do have a technique for direct seeding into soil full of course organic matter… press the corner of a board into the soil to form a vee, set the seeds into the vee and then cover the seeds with potting soil. Works like a charm and is especially good in damp soil where you can’t get a fine covering of soil over the seeds.
I will probably keep the new seeds covered with floating row cover or even plastic until the weather is more reliable. Last year we got down into single digits in early April.
It is good to get dirty again.