Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's a Yang Thang

Rain is considered Yang. It is the active phase of the hydrologic cycle. After three very dry months of pernicious yin evaporation, the rains have finally returned. I have been freed from endless watering chores, as the plants breathe a collective sigh of relief. Only nature can truly refresh the garden. I am only a triage nurse, at best. And with the return of the rains, now is the time for serious planting in the Pacific Northwest.

My project here is to add function (as well as form) to half of the yin yang symbol that my husband and I laid out in our backyard as one of our very first new homeowner plans. That was [gasp] 8 years ago. The yang half is the sunny half. The yin half is shaded. Over the years our ideas have changed about how best to use the yang space. For a while there we were seriously considering laying down brick for a patio where we could have a potted vegetable garden. Then we thought about using red gravel. Now I’m determined to grow crimson clover. I haven’t decided if the clover should stay permanently, to attract beneficial insects and enrichen the soil, or if we should dig it up and plant veggies. I figure there is time to make that call.

As of mid-August, I dumped a layer of straw and then a layer of compost on top of the lawn, in order to give the grass some time to die. Then I waited for the rains to return. So there I was with rain on the forecast, and a bed of compost already laid -- what could I do, but dash out in the rain and sprinkle a few seeds around. Never having broadcast seed before, I enjoyed the activity, but wondered if all the birds in the neighborhood were gathering in the tree tops considering the tasty snack I was spreading about.

While it is not considered proper to plant directly in pure compost, I have done it before and with decent results. I used the same straw and compost on top of turf method this year to grow a few pumpkins. I just did not have any space in my garden for them, so I had no other choice. It worked better than I expected, considering I did not dig at all and did not even allow time for the grass to die. I can totally dig the no-dig method of gardening, although I suspect the results are somewhat inferior to traditional (tilling) methods, as the roots will experience more resistance in their quest for nutrients.


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