If you remember the trenching, filling and designing the new veggie patch, then this post will make more sense to you.
The next step was to cardboard the pathways where Bermuda grass has been taking over, then mulch them as well. The mulch makes it all look so nice!
Next it was time to plant. We’d already transplanted three-year old asparagus, and hopefully not shocked them so much that they won’t produce well this year. The flavor of fresh asparagus defies description.
The strawberry bed was older and completely taken over by Bermuda grass, so it all was buried and I purchased new organic and extremely reasonably priced bareroot strawberries.
I purchased two June-bearing types and three ever-bearing, heat-loving types, from www.groworganic.com. When they bloom this year we’ll have to nip off the buds so that next year when their roots have taken hold and fed the crown, we can have lots of strawberries.
We planted some in the asparagus bed, which will do nicely as groundcover and moisture retention around the asparagus, while the asparagus keeps the heat off the strawberries. Some we planted around the rock in the center of the garden. The rest will be planted around fruit trees as part of their guilds.
We also planted rhubarb in the asparagus bed; these poor plants had been raised in the greenhouse for several months awaiting transplanting.
Hopefully the asparagus will protect them from the heat. I plan to raise more rhubarb from seed and plant them in other locations on the property, aiming for the coolest spots as they don’t like heat at all.
The way to plant through cardboard is to make sure that it is wet, and using a strong knife make an x through the cardboard. Use your fingers to pull the sides apart. Stick your trowel down and pull up a good shovel full of dirt (depending on how deeply your plant needs to go.
The base of plants and the crowns of strawberries should all be at soil level. Seeds usually go down three times their size; very small seeds may need light to germinate). Gently plant your plant with a handful of good compost, then water it in. You won’t have to water very often because of the mulch, so check the soil first before watering so that you don’t overwater.
For the first time in years I ordered from the same source Jerusalem artichokes, or Sunchokes as they’ve been marketed. They are like sunflowers with roots that taste faintly like artichoke. We planted some of them in one of the quadrants, and the rest will be planted out in the gardens, where the digging of roots won’t disturb surrounding plants.
Most excitingly, we’ve purchased mushroom spores from Fungi Perfecti, which is Paul Stamet’s business, the man who wrote Mycelium Running and several other books about growing mushrooms for food and for health. We bought inoculated plugs, but that will be another post. Almost as exciting are the three bags of inoculated sawdust to spread in the garden! They sell an oyster mushroom that helps digest straw and mulch, while boosting the growth of vegetables and improving the soil. You also may be able to harvest mushrooms from it! Talk about a wonderful soil solution, rather than dumping chemical fertilizers on the ground!
We’d already covered our veggie beds with wet cardboard and straw.
To give the mycelium a good foundation I dug up good soil from one of the field beds, which needed an access path through the middle. By digging out the path I created new water-holding swales, especially when filled with mulch.
In the veggie garden we raked back the straw and lightly topped the wet cardboard with soil. On top of that we sprinkled the inoculated sawdust.
On top of that we pulled back the straw and watered it in.
The fungus will activate on the wet soil, eat through the cardboard to the layers of mushroom compost and pidgin poo underneath that and help make the heavy clay beneath richer faster.
We treated the two top most beds which have the worst soil, the sunchoke bed and the asparagus bed. In four to six weeks we may see some flowering of the mushrooms, although the fungus will be working even as I sit here. There are several reasons why I did this. One, it is just totally cool. Secondly, there is no way for me to purchase organic straw. By growing oyster mushrooms in it, I’m hoping the natural remediation qualities of the oyster fungus will help cleanse the straw as it decomposes. Oyster mushrooms don’t retain the toxins that they remove from soil and compost, so the mushrooms will still be edible. Fungus will assist rebuilding the soil and give the vegetables a big growing boost. I know I’ve preached that vegetables like a more bacterial soil rather than fungal. This is true, except that there are different types of fungus. If you put wood chips in a vegetable bed, you’ll activate other decomposing fungus that will retard the growth of your tender veggies; the same wood chips around trees and woody plants will help them grow. However these oyster mushrooms will benefit your veggies by quickly decomposing compost and making the nutrients readily available to the vegetables. Their hyphae will help the veggie’s roots in their search for water and nutrients, too.
The other two bags of inoculated spores are for shaggy mane and garden giant, which we’ll find homes for in compost under trees. More on that as we progress. It is so nice to be planting, especially since these are perennial plants where the most work is being done now. Now we just need some rain!