Friday, May 27, 2011

Weeds, seedlings and pine needles.

"All one hot morning, the beans were popping out of the ground. Grace discovered them and came shrieking with excitement to tell Ma. All that morning she could not be coaxed away from watching them. Up from the bare earth, bean after bean was popping, its stem uncoiling like a steel spring, and up in the sunshine the halves of the split bean still clutched two pale twin-leaves. Every time a bean popped up, Grace squealed again."
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

I didn't actually witness any seedlings popping out of the ground today, but I swear, there were some spots that were bare when I started weeding but had brand-new chartreuse sprouts by the time I came back to them.

I have spent the past week or so fearing to walk into the garden. I didn't know where the hills of watermelons, cantaloupes, or squash were. The rows of corn, radishes, turnips and carrots were easy to find, but we put them on the back fence! To get to them, or to get to the berry bushes, I had to tiptoe around unidentified hills of seeds. When we planted them, I put a pile of compost on top of each, and at the time the black spots showed up starkly against the reddish soil. But then it rained every day for five days straight, and when I looked again, there were no more black spots warning me where not to step.

So today, as I picked grass and eagerly examined the ground for any trace of seedlings, I squealed with glee at the sight of a definitely-watermelon sprout. I gathered up some nearby rocks (see? even a curse like rocky soil can be a blessing if you're imaginative) and built a little circle around the precious seedling. I felt vaguely pagan and Druidical, as if I were making a sacred stone ring to protect the gift of Mother Earth, but in fact I was just marking off where I should not step, in such a way that I would be able to see it once I was again 5'7" off the ground.

I put rock circles around the other seedlings I could find, and in several places where I couldn't see seedlings but I imagined that the tiny clover sprouts might be melon sprouts. When I tried looking for sprouts 3 feet apart from each other (the distance we'd planted the melons) I invariably failed, so eventually I went back to picking grass.

And then I found the squash! I had begun to fear that the squash just wouldn't come up, and one of the squash patches still doesn't seem to be very active yet, but the patch that gets the most sun is coming up with a vengeance! Some of those seedlings didn't need a stone ring because even I in my blindness could see them.

When I made my way back across the garden, I built a few more rock circles for seedlings I hadn't seen before, which leads me to believe that they must have sprouted while I was working. Grow, babies, grow!

Little watermelon in a Magic Rock Circle

Peas! We have 4 hoop trellises with 2 rows of peas each.

A squash in a Magic Rock Circle. Judging by the way the mud is displaced around it, I'd say it popped up today.

Corn. And weeds. And more weeds. And more corn.

Tomahtoes. Twelve of these.

Either turnips or radishes; don't remember which we planted in which row. Also pictured: weeds.

I included some pictures of the pine-needle mulching I did yesterday. Pine needles lower the pH of the soil (make it more acidic), which I hear berries appreciate. They're also GREAT for weed control. Ever notice how sparse the grass tends to be under pine trees? YEAH. Not to mention that if you have pine trees, you have FREE MULCH.


Arranging the pine needles around the plants reminded me of bird nests.


Raspberries. Next on the agenda: train this plant onto the trellis! It's growing like crazy!

We will soon have straw to lay down for mulch on the rest of the garden. I can't wait. It helps keep the weeds from taking over, and at the same time it keeps the soil cool and moist and keeps your plants' roots from being scorched. And as it decomposes, it adds organic matter to your soil! You win all around! Some think it's not as pretty as bare soil in between rows, but I'd rather look at a lush, weed-free garden mulched in straw than a scraggly choked-out garden any day.


  1. Don't you love when the tiniest bits of green suddenly appear? Pagans do some downright common sense things - like rock rings. ::grin::

  2. I was going to respond to this comment with some musings on anthropologists/archaeologists and their estimations of the purposes of prehistorical artifacts and ruins which may have in fact been purely practical, but then I bought Alice Starmore's new book about Aran knitting which actually addressed the issue directly, and now I have to respond in a whole post.