It’s summer and the butterflies are loving the sunflowers. The corn and winter squash are growing, the tomatoes are ripening, and the zucchinis are taking over.
My garlic has been harvested, leaving an empty bed, just begging to be planted. In the heat of August, it’s hard to believe that there may only be a couple of months before we can expect the first frosts, but it’s important to only sow seeds of plants that can take the cold and even be improved by a touch of frost. Choose varieties with a short number of days from seed to harvest, and your garden should keep producing well into October and early November.
I’m a firm believer in no-till gardening, meaning I don’t disturb the soil by turning it over with a fork or rototiller. A healthy soil is a living soil, teaming with billions of bacteria, fungi, and other micro-organisms which form a complex symbiotic ecosystem, where plants can flourish. Turning over and mixing the layers of soil disrupts this delicate ecosystem. Digging into the earth can also cause soil compaction and erosion, as well as bring dormant weed seeds to the surface where they will then sprout.
In most cases, with a new garden, it’s necessary to use traditional methods to prepare the ground, but once the beds are established, the surface should never be disturbed. Look around you and you’ll see that this is the way of nature. That wonderful, black loamy soil in the forest was formed by years of being left undisturbed, allowing leaves to rot and feed the soil right where they fall.
Of course, in a garden we harvest and remove the crops, so a gardener must form a ‘give & take’ relationship with his garden; compost and manure are given to the soil to replace the crops that are taken. Each year, these and other soil amendments are simply spread on the surface of the bed, where they will be incorporated into the soil by the rain and the activity of earthworms and other soil-living organisms. Weeding is largely replaced by the use of mulch and close planting. In time, the soil becomes crumbly and friable, making it easy for the young roots of newly planted seedlings to work through the soil.
In the hot weeks of summer, I’m especially glad to leave the soil untouched with a garden fork… I don’t need any unnecessary sweaty work! Keeping soil moist at this time of year can be a challenge when direct seeding so, by not turning the soil, any moisture that’s present, will remain exactly where it’s needed rather than be evaporated by the relentless midday sun.
After spreading a thin layer of well-composted manure, lightly raked to form a seed bed, I’m ready to sow my seeds. It takes me roughly half an hour to prepare a 20’x3′ bed.
Yesterday, I planted 7 types of seed:
- Spinach. Space; 45 days. Loaded with iron and vitamins, spinach is one of the most nutritious green vegetables in the garden. Can be eaten raw or cooked.
- Mesclun Mix. Bon Vivant; 25 – 30 days. A mix of hot weather lettuce types. Colours range from light green to bronze red. Cut and come again for long harvesting.
- Radish. Early Scarlet Globe; 21 – 25 days. Uniform 1″ globe with a mild peppery zip that’s not too spicy.
- Tatsoi. 45 days. Smooth leaves form a compact, thick rosette. Long harvest period. Mild taste for salads, stir-frys, etc.
- Turnip. Purple Top White Globe; 55 days. Heritage variety, round with purplish-red tops and white bottoms. Crisp and mild tasting.
- Arugula. Skyrocket-Surrey; 40 days. Spicy green used in salad mixes and sandwiches.
- Kale.Vates Blue Curled Scotch; 30 days baby, 55 days full size. A friendly kale, giving you lots of grins, according to Hope Seeds. Frilly, blue-green leaves on compact plants.
That’s the easy bit done, the hard part will be keeping the seeds moist enough for germination. I chose yesterday as planting day since today’s forecast is showing 10-20mm of rain, so hopefully, that will get them off to a good start.
The seedlings will need regular water to prevent them from becoming stressed and bolting too quickly if we get an unexpected heatwave at the end of summer. To give some relief from the afternoon sun, the rotation plan in my garden allows for the empty garlic bed to be in the shade of climbing tomato vines. Beyond that, I have to trust that the soil is healthy enough to provide what the plants need. Only time will tell, but I’m hoping that in about a months time, I’ll have fresh salad greens ready for eating.