Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Kansas Square

I was in Kansas for about 48 hours and enjoyed some really great weather on Monday. While I didn't have a lot of time to work in the garden, I was able to begin the plotting and planning.

This spot has some of the poorest soil on the property. I have no idea why my parents chose it for a garden. Consequently production has been weak, weeds have been frustrating, and the clay composition dries out rapidly. It used to be bigger, but the tilled area now measures 23' (east/west) x 20' (north/south), with a 10' x 10' asparagus patch (lower right corner). On the left side of the tilled area is a row of purple iris. They need to be worked on but for now they'll have to continue on as is.

My uncle had been up to roto-till the plot for my mom earlier in the month. I raked the area a bit on Sunday but it was still too wet to really do anything. Monday's warmth and constant winds dried the area up enough for me to rake it with a leaf rake to level it some and to pick up the weed debris that was left after the till job. The spot needs another pass with the tiller, I don't think my uncle had his tiller set deep enough and I think he missed a few spots. The Husband will be able to take our big tiller down in April and give it another pass before I set the boxes and begin the planting.

Last fall we had spread about a 1" thick layer of horse manure onto the existing area. The soil seems to have been improved somewhat by the addition of this compost (and we've added some in past years). Since the square foot garden method involves raised beds with the addition of new soil and compost I don't think we'll do anything else to the soil.

In a previous post I mentioned my desire to be as chemical free in the garden as possible. This area was let go in the fall (okay, early summer) and I know there are thousands, if not millions, of weed seeds just waiting to sprout and taunt me. So I broke out the Preen and gave the area a good dose just in time for a soaking rain to fall overnight.

I also laid two lengths of landscape fabric. The first is a 20' x 3' strip on the far east side of the garden (upper part of the photo) and was laid north/south. For some reason my uncle did not till that area but it's where the iris end so I chose to make the garden go that far. Our ranch is covered with limestone rocks so later we'll go on a rock hunt and it will be lined with limestone and made into an perennial bed with native prairie plants.

The second strip goes east/west along the southern edge of the garden. This strip will be one of the working path.

I'm also not a big fan of landscape fabric but I believe this garden warrants its use. My mom has a type of Parkinson's that affects her walking and balance, and she tires easily. The landscape fabric will be an extra barrier to weed prevention in the walking areas. I chose to use the two-pronged landscape fabric staples to hold the material in place. We'll see how it holds up over the next two weeks to the Kansas winds. I probably used too many of the staples (I'm going to need at least another box, if not two, of them) but since this garden is in the wide open prairie extras are warranted.

It was good to be on the home place. Being in zone 4 the daffodils, hyacinth and tulips are all up and waving happily at all who pass by. The grass is greening hourly, the tree buds are bursting at the seams and cool weather annuals are begging to be planted. In fact, I put in pansies and snapdragons in some of the porch pots.

I'm just itching to put some more plants in the ground but in reality I'll have to wait another two weeks. Until then I'm going to research some more tomato, cucumber, sweet potato and squash varieties that are bushier and require less maintenance.

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