Saturday, June 28, 2008

Too Much Is Never Enough

I once commented to a friend that I could see how one's house could become packed with old newspapers. She looked at me like I was nuts; apparently, she does not let clutter take over her abode. Thanks to recycling, I am less likely to find myself maneuvering around piles of the Journal Gazette these days, but lately I have been saving them to use as a weed barrier under mulch.

Using newspaper in the garden is not a new idea. When I first created the beds along the north and south fences, newspaper went under the mulch. But it did not occur to me to use more newspaper under subsequent layers of mulch. Nor did I think to soak the newspaper beforehand. Thank you, Lasagna Gardening.

In each of the previous two years, I ordered an entire truckload of mulch, its delivery strategically timed with my son's spring visit. Happy birthday, son! Here's a shovel!

I don't know if it is the economy or my energy level, but this year I just could not bring myself to buy a whole truckload. That is a lot of mulch that needs to be dealt with right away. Last year, after watching me struggle to clear what looked like a prop from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" from my driveway, the neighbor across the street offered the use of his truck in the future. I contemplated taking him up on that this spring, but somehow the urge to purchase mulch never coincided with the urge to spread mulch.

Instead, I bought ten bags of cypress mulch (the cheapest kind) from Home Depot one day. Since my garage was going to be full of the vehicles of vacationing relatives (ahem), I threw the bags around the back yard with the best of intentions. Since then, it has rained almost everyday (0.25" since yesterday). This morning it looked threatening, but I decided to tackle the mulching anyway.

An hour later, I am out of newspaper and almost out of mulch and nowhere close to being done. I asked my SO to bring me his old News Sentinels, but it won't be enough. This is recycle week. Dare I take my bright yellow wagon around the nabe and rifle through my neighbors' trash? That is beyond even me.

In anticipation of future weed barrier needs, just how much newspaper should I allow to accumulate over the winter? I generate a brown paper grocery sack of newspaper every two weeks. Filter out the slick advertising inserts, and it's maybe a sack every three weeks. From September to April, that's maybe 10 or 11 bags. Hmmm. That's not as bad as I thought it would be. So that will be my strategy for next year. Meanwhile, I'll just limp along, scrounging from those I'm not too embarrassed to ask.

Besides mulching, this morning I was picking as well. The snap peas were planted where they get afternoon shade from the privat. Generally, gardening resources suggest that row crops be planted in north-south rows, to increase the plants exposure to the sun. But it looks like the peas on the west side of the pea fence are less prolific than those on the east side, presumably because of the privat. I will have to keep this in mind next year when I decide what (and where) to plant in this area.

In a previous lifetime, before snap peas were developed, I grew not only snow peas but English peas as well, enough for a family of four to enjoy all winter long. On the negative side of growing peas, they need something to climb, they need to be picked at just the right time, and they need to be shelled. On the plus side, they favor cool weather, so are one of the first veggies from the garden, garden varieties are better than Bird's Eye, and they make great snacking right out of the garden. Shelling peas while watching TV became a family ritual.

My bunny is quite spoiled with fresh greens year 'round, but right from the garden during the growing season.

The mustard greens also grow in the shade of the privat, which I think is keeping them from bolting. Maybe I will have to cook up a mess for myself.

Meanwhile, it's back to the yard, to tackle the Queen Anne's lace.

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