Friday, October 4, 2013

Lawn to garden conversion - green shoots

 When I last wrote about the front lawn, I was in despair. It was a pit, full of shredded cardboard, raw food scraps and burlap. 


I wanted to be optimistic but was having a hard time. The only green was our John Deere.



There are green things at work in it now.  Besides the  tractor.
It is fall. 
The rain and darkness are beginning. 
Like everyone in the nation, I am watching in mortification and shame as our congress grinds the government to a halt. 
But outside, the force that through the green fuse drives the flower is bringing the life back into a space that looked like the city dump a few months ago.



 In July, I hosted a play day for a bunch of boys, aged 7 - 14.

It was an organized day, with themes of beginnings, middles and ends. We began the day by expelling the goats from the garden, later we broke bread, we ended with a heroic battle of the gods against the frost giants.

In the middle, we plowed the earth (the wood chips, really), planted oats and buckwheat, and ran relay races over the newly sown ground.

I wasn't sure this was a good idea. Usually when I sow seeds I compact the ground, but this seemed like overdoing it.

But low. And behold, where the seeds were, there are green spears of life.


The oats came in first.

They looked distressingly like - well, like the lawn we worked so hard to get rid of.

A lot of grasses look about the same.

But the oats are crucial to this project.

Their roots are sinking down, through the rain damped wood chips, right through the crumbling burlap into the ground.

They will hold the soil, the chips and the burlap together this winter. Their roots will act like little living anchors, keeping the rain from washing it all away.

Many of the oats should overwinter and go into rapid growth in the spring. I can either cut them down and let the roots break down into soil, or let them grow.




My chickens do love to jump up and pluck the seeds out of a spray of oats. It's free food and exercise.






I also planted some other things.

Fava beans are super hardy. They fix nitrogen.

When I covered my yard in wood chips, I experienced a moment of doubt. Would the chips decompose too slowly, tying up all the available nitrogen?

The breakdown should be the right speed for the plants I plan to grow, but just in case, I'm adding a share of beans, peas, and clover for nitrogen and for their flowers, beloved by bees.











I had planned all along to grow heather, but I was going to add it next year.

Then the fruit stand had an end of season sale and gave me 12 gallon pots of them for a dollar each. 

What could I do? 

What can I say?

I am a lifelong reader of Wuthering Heights. The bees buzzing lazily in the heather bells have left an indelible impression on my brain.

I had to have them. 

I put them in the ridges of decomposing sod. The grass has all died, and the roots have broken down almost completely. The soil crumbled away like potting soil and let me put the plants in like putting a baby to bed.





And the zucchini? Why, pray tell, did I plant that?

I wanted to see what happened.

I chose a greedy plant - one that needs nutrients and water. I put it in mid-summer, watered once, and left it to its fate.

A squash plant may be greedy, but it's not dainty. It has big, strong roots that went out and found whatever it needed - food and water, enough to grow these lovely green leaves that today, the fourth day of October, have no mildew whatsoever, while in contrast my garden zucchini are covered with white growth.

So it's liking the location.








 As are these King Stropharia mushrooms.

This spring I will be putting in fruit trees, which thrive in fungal soil.

I have been cultivating fungus by providing wood chips.

I cheated by also providing fungus in the form of a mushroom kit.

If any of these guys has few enough bugs, slugs and mites, I plan to eat them.

So far, they are a wormy mess. Alas.

But importantly they are helping the wood chips turn into the kind of mulch and soil my trees will want.








The stairs we put in at the start of summer are looking established now. The lavender, heather, and thyme are filling in the raw soil, and so are the dandelions and the crabgrass.




Winter is not just a metaphor for deaths and endings. A lot of things really do die over the winter. My beloved spiders will leave egg cases behind as they slip away to wherever good spiders go.

Many of the seeds I planted will rot, or freeze, or be eaten. Many of the things eating them will freeze, drown, be eaten or starve in their turn. It is a season of hardship. Like all seasons, really. And to the seed that fails, or the spider that dies without seeing her offspring, it is not a cycle of renewal, but an ending of self.

But for me and for the front lawn, I hold out a bit more hope. The dark season will be a time of rest, or of slow, invisible growth, or of growth couched in the form of loss and setback. But the course I chose is pulling itself forward, and I will do everything I can to help it. And in the spring, I will plant trees.

Shared on: backyardfarmingconnection.com ,frugal-days-sustainable-ways-93
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