Peace in a Hectic Day

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    “In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” ~Eckhart Tolle Everything seems to happen so fast these days, and the days … Continue reading

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Weekend Book Review – Balancing Soil Nutrients and Acidity; The Real Dirt on Cultivating Crops, Compost and a Healthier Home

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My choice of non-fiction reading these days is all about soil health. I recently shared the methods we used to transform a large area of lawn into garden last year, and this year we are starting our berry patch. Understanding soil health is … Continue reading

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Let It Rain

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The rain and clouds are persistent this spring. I love rainy days, I always have. Perhaps because blue is my favorite color. Or perhaps I prefer the way rainy days make me feel a little melancholy, which leads to an inward feeling, causing deeper contemplation.

Whatever it is about the rain, instead of resisting it, I remind myself to embrace it.

Mountain Clouds

Water drop2

But sometimes, too much contemplation can bog us down. And so, to clear my head, I run. I run in solitude, because my introverted self craves it. Between work and family obligations, I never seem to get enough of the solitude I need.

Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves; that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Dreay day Raindrop

WildFlower Blue

Full River

Rain Trail

River Tracks

Waterfall

Double Rainbow

I love these mountains, and the rivers lacing this valley. Rain or shine.

What do you enjoy on a rainy day?

~ Michelle

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Transforming Lawn Into Garden

Lawn

Lawn and weeds  early spring 2015

 

Lawn to Garden

Freshly tilled beds in the foreground, lasagna layer foundation in the back.

 

Our first year on the land, we were overwhelmed with projects. But at the top of our list was starting the annual vegetable garden beds. The question was – how do we transform overgrown grass and weeds into usable soil for tender new vegetable seeds and plants?

The easy answer is, there is no right or wrong way. We are using a combination of methods as we continue expanding our annual and perennial beds. Here is a summary of the ways we are transforming lawn into productive food-producing spaces.

Four methods for transforming lawn into productive garden beds.

  1. Hand tilling or double digging
  2. Mechanical Tilling
  3. Layering/Sheet Mulching/Lasagna Gardening
  4. Raised Beds

Each of these four methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and your choice of method will depend on your circumstances and resources.

 

Tilling Lawn

Tilling a new bed

 

 

Tilling and Layering

Cardboard is the first layer for the no-till beds.

 

  1. Hand tilling or double digging.
    This method requires strength, perseverance, and a good pair of gloves! We are fortunate not to have an abundance of large stones on our property, but even so, breaking through thick grass and tough roots to create a loose soil appropriate for gardening was difficult and time-consuming. This method works well for small areas and is inexpensive. However, any kind of digging or tilling can destroy the worms and beneficial microorganisms so important to healthy soils, and although it kills most of the surface grass and weeds, some weed seeds will continue to sprout.
  2. Mechanical tilling. This method is great when you are working on a large area, as we did last year when starting our 1,000 square foot vegetable garden. We rented a mechanical rear-tine tiller which made the work of breaking through the surface layer of sod quick and easy. Similarly to hand digging, mechanical tilling can destroy beneficial soil organisms. You will also need to rent, borrow, or purchase a tiller. *A rear-tine tiller is used for breaking through tough sod. Front-tine tillers and cultivators are useful for working existing garden beds. (Learned from personal experience.)
  3. Layering/sheet mulching/lasagna gardening requires time (and patience). If you are in a hurry to plant, this method may not be suitable for you. The decomposition process for the layers takes time, and planting too soon may inhibit plant growth. It is a relatively inexpensive and easy method – having a resource for materials like cardboard, newspaper, compost and leaves definitely helps. And it smothers the grass and weeds below, allowing you to start your garden weed-free.
  4. Raised Garden Beds. The advantages of raised beds include:
  • Less weeds
  • Deep, loose soils for strong root development and greater nutrient absorption by the plants
  • Good drainage
  • Prevent erosion of garden soil during heavy rains
  • Higher beds can be easier to manage for those with difficulty bending or squatting
Raised Beds 1

Small raised beds in our suburban garden

Resources for building your own raised beds:

Frugal Mama and the Sprout – How to Build a Raised Garden Bed 

Deep Green Permaculture’s – Raised Garden Beds 

Combining Methods

As I wrote last year in Starting the Garden, I originally planned to start our first garden without tilling using layers of cardboard (we had plenty of boxes from our recent move), aged compost we purchased, and straw. But we were short on time (and patience), and ended up starting our garden by tilling and hand-digging.

The results were fantastic, and our first lawn-to-garden was highly productive and resilient.

 

July garden

July 2015 garden

 

At the same time we were creating our tilled beds, we started future beds with a foundation of cardboard, covered with compost, leaves, and straw. These new beds would be ready for planting the second spring.

No till bed leaf layer

No till bed leaf layer

 

Adding Cover Crops

Another method for creating loose, nutrient-rich soils is the addition of cover crops. Last fall I planted half my garden – both the previously tilled beds and the lasagna layer beds, with a winter cover crop. Winter rye (not to be confused with rye grass), creates deep roots that help to break up the soil and when cut and killed in the spring, adds nutrients as it decomposes. The winter rye is equally excellent at preventing soil erosion from wind and rain, both of which we receive plenty of here in the valley.

 Cutting the Rye

Cutting the Rye

 

Whatever method you use to transform your lawn into a productive garden bed, be sure to enjoy the process. It’s exciting to see the transformation, and in the long run, the rewards will be well worth the effort!

carrot harvest

~ Michelle

Further Resources:

Earth Easy No Till Gardening

http://learn.eartheasy.com/2009/01/no-till-gardening/

Rodale’s Organic Life No Till Gardening

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/no-till-gardening

 

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Growing Gratitude

As with all commandments, gratitude is a description of a successful mode of living. The thankful heart opens our eyes to a multitude of blessings that continually surround us.
~James E. Faust 

Life is busy and filled with distractions. But I’m trying to slow down and pay attention, and when I do, I see so much to feel gratitude for…

 

The flowers planted before we arrived on this land.

 

Big sisters who make time for little sisters…

At the creek

 

Krista at Forrest Green Farm and medicine making…

Spring Medicine, dandelion, nettle, burdock, cleavers

 

And six-year-olds who love to work…

Alina Mowing

 

What are you grateful for?

~ Michelle

 

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