Today, the palindromic 11/11/11, was also Veteren’s Day and a day between two rainy weekends. A perfect day for spreading lots of seeds. With winter rains on their way in a month, it is important to hold the topsoil with rooted plants, and why not use a cover crop that also fixes nitrogen? My choices were hairy vetch and a tall native lupine.
I would also have liked to use white or sweet clover but sources were sold out early this year. Both my choices will have flowers that offer plenty of nectar to bees, be lovely, hold the soil, set nitrogen, and can be, if needed, sacrificed. When you ‘sacrifice’ a nitrogen-fixer, you can either turn it under or cut the tops, leaving them in place on the soil surface to decompose.
I don’t agree with disturbing my soil microbes any more than necessary, so I won’t be tilling ever again. When you cut a nitrogen-fixer, the roots release the nitrogen they hold into the soil as the tops mulch then decompose bringing lots of nutrition to the soil surface. Vetch should be a winter crop, and lupine a spring crop, if they can tell the difference here in San Diego!
My method for spreading these two was to mix handfuls of each with a bucket of mushroom compost, and hand spread it in the most bare and most unfertile areas.
Adding the compost, I thought, helped the seed distribute more evenly, gave it a little cover since I wasn’t going to rake it in, and disguised it from birds a little.
Once done, I decided it was also a good time to do something I had been looking forward to doing for years: spreading old veggie seeds. I’d done a little of this in a raised veggie bed, with some success. I have so many old packets of veggie seeds that I’m not going to use in the raised beds (I have all organic seed now), and I can’t believe that it isn’t viable. If they sprout seeds found in ancient Egyptian tombs, then I’m sure mine can sprout, too. This seeding is a very important step in the edible forest garden.
This year’s abundance of herbs, squash and tomatoes has been fabulous… I still have some ‘feral’ tomatoes putting on enormous fruit which I pick, polish and eat out of hand in the garden while I’m working.
I opened all the packages of seed for cool-weather vegetables, such as carrots, radish, dill, broccoli rabe, and lettuces. Some such as garlic chives and onion I separated out and sprinkled near roses, since alliums are a companion plant for roses and help ward away aphids. The rest of it was mixed up in a lovely crazy-pot of seeds. I didn’t mix with compost this time, as there were fewer and smaller seeds involved. I sprinkled them then covered them with soil using my foot… the professional way to plant!
I am eager to see what comes up after the rain this weekend. It truely will be an edible landscape. Even if I allow the veggies to go to seed, the blooms will all be excellent bee food sources, especially the carrots and dill. None of these were nitrogen-fixers, because I used all the extra peas up in the vegetable beds this spring (see archives) improving the soil. Beans, and other warmer-weather seeds I’m holding back for February or March planting. I do have sweetpea seeds to plant out, but the lupine and vetch will be working their magic anyway.
About ten years ago I had a short story published in the young person’s magazine Cricket called Taking Tea with Aunt Kate. In it a girl lived with her mother who was a wild, messy gardener, spreading seeds all together and having veggies and flowers mingling in riots of color. The girl’s aunt is, by contrast, perfectly coiffed and takes her to a formal ‘high tea’ at a prestigious restaurant. The girl decides that she can be a little of each woman, a little wild and a little formal. I think I’m that child! I clean the dirt out from under my nails so that I can go to the opera.
I’ll be walking the garden in the next few weeks, waiting for tell-tale sprouts (and trying to figure out if they are weeds or not!), and watching the bare areas come to life. How fun!