Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dig, Dig, Dig!

When he was first learning to talk, one of my grandson's first sentences was, "Dig, dig, dig!" That is exactly what I have been doing this weekend -- dig, dig, digging. The statutory holiday Monday on the May long weekend always falls on or just before the 24th of May. We used to call the 24th of May "Victoria Day" in recognition of Queen Victoria's birthday. This long weekend, that for most people signals the functional beginning of summer, always poses a dilemma. Should we go camping, or should we stay home and garden?

This year, as usual, gardening won out. I have lived in three Canadian provinces; on the coast, in the mountains, and on the prairies; in the northern and southern parts of the country; and in agricultural zones ranging from 2 to 7. Yet everywhere that I have lived, the local lore is that May long weekend is the time to put the garden in.

We have had a long cold spring, and until this weekend I had not even begun to clean out the garden beds. Also, when we moved in two years ago, I never really set up my gardening shed properly. So yesterday, I started off my gardening season by pulling all the old dead plants out of the vegetable garden (a task that I should have done last fall), and putting them in the compost. I threw down grass seed on all the dog-created bare patches in the back lawn. And then I cleaned and organized my gardening shed.

Clean and Tidy Garden Shed
I also started planning my garden. I went online and read up on organic gardening, growing potatoes, how to improve heavy clay soil, what type of raspberry canes do best in this area, shade tolerant vegetables, companion planting, and the recommended planting times for vegetables by seed or transplant in this climatic zone.

Today, I went off to the garden centre and bought gypsum, worm castings, and organic fertilizer made of fish meal and ground seaweed. I need to add soil amendments because the natural soil is very heavy, dense clay, especially at the lower end of the garden, and most of the vegetables I attempted to grow last year did not thrive. Only the tomatoes, which I had augmented well with compost, and the herbs in a sunny corner did really well.

Back from the garden centre, I started by pulling the few weeds out of the garden. Then I spread about 6 kg. of gypsum on the soil. Then I added four wheelbarrow loads of my homemade compost to the garden, spreading it on at a depth of about an inch. That used up my entire supply of compost. We have another pile that will be ready in three to four weeks, and a new pile that we have just started. Although we are dedicated composters, we just cannot make enough for all our gardens.

Next I turned over the entire vegetable garden with the garden spade. This was the dig, dig, dig part. However, when my grandson said it, he did not mean shovelling garden soil. He was referring to his toys, a caterpillar and a front-end loader.

It is heavy work turning over clay. However, I am pleased to report that there are lots of earthworms in the garden -- a good thing.

Freshly Dug Veggie Garden
By the time I finished, the shadows were getting long and my back was sore. It was very satisfying, though, because tomorrow I can start to PLANT! Digging and planting is always my favourite part of gardening. . . .well, along with picking, cooking, and eating the organic produce.

My Helper
Kate was my trusty helper. Actually, I think she was just waiting for me to come in the house and feed her some supper.

The Task Master
Oliver assisted by snoozing nearby on the sun-warmed brick.

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