Friday, April 10, 2009

Spring gardening and a peat alternative

First off, I apologize. I like to start each post with a nice photo. But I've been busy in the garden today, and am just sitting down with a coffee out on the back porch. And really, the yard is mostly dirt right now. Nicely raked dirt, but still, dirt.

Last year I prepared my first beds with peat moss and sheep manure. I expect they'll do very well. But I was uncomfortable buying so much peat. You see, peat is a non-renewable resource. There's quite a bit of it around. It grows in bogs up north. The bogs are fascinating places, teeming with wildlife, and I've enjoyed every minute of my life that I've spent among them. Yes, even with the blackflies.

But peat bogs form very slowly, over hundreds, even thousands of years. So I was quite happy to find an alternative, aptly named Beats Peat. I picked up a couple bricks at a home improvement store a couple blocks away. The stuff is made out of coconut husks, which are abundant and would otherwise be a waste product. In the garden, they work like peat moss, loosening the soil, absorbing moisture and providing the rich humus layer that's so neded, especially in one of my beds, which was mostly clay.

Some of the other beds have been top dressed with a thin layer of straw and rabbit poo, thanks to Emma and Amanda, the bunnies who live upstairs. More of this is in the compost bin, which is working away very nicely. There are robins playing on top of it right now (a sure sign of spring).

Weather permitting, I'll plant my first outdoor seeds tomorrow: peas, fava beans, radishes and arugula. Inside, some 300 seedlings are growing happily, just waiting until it's save to go outside. And the garlic that Graham and I planted last fall is doing very well. It's planted in rings around the roses, as it's supposed to be a good companion plant.

Today's work mostly involved putting a strip of chicken wire along the bottom of the fence. This is an effort to annoy the raccoons. I have no delusions about keeping them out, but at least I'll make 'em work to get my veg! As for the squirrels, well, we'll see.

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