084 Starting the garden beds

084 Starting the garden beds

Spring is slowly arriving in North-East Germany. This year, I want to grow a lot of food. Right now, it’s all weeds and grass. There are a few ways I want to try making these beds. This one, I’ll weed by hand. But I’ll also try traditional Irish beds and weeding with sheep and goats.

I quickly learned that this low grass was my least favorite to weed. It’s carrying seeds, too.

Early on, it felt like I was making zero progress. And, honestly, I was barely making any.

For the first hour or so, I learned how to approach each kind of weed and made very little visible progress. But I was figuring it out. I threw seedy grass toward where grass is supposed to stay. The rest stayed on the bed. I actually had a lot of fun throwing things.

Pepper had to stay leashed up, as the plot wasn’t fenced yet. Wasn’t? Yes, we’re solving that. Don’t worry. He had access to shade and water. He just preferred lying next to me. It was very warm for April that day. I definitely didn’t need his extra heat.

I kept as much of the soil on the bed as possible. I won’t have the option to bring in more. Anything that wouldn’t grow back wasn’t thrown far. I wanted to keep the nutrients here, too.

What we call weed is nature’s way to maintain soil health. These plants worked hard to grow. I recently heard the term “nutrient harvesting” instead of weeding.

I really enjoyed the process. Weeding was fun. Just the right amount of exhausting. And once I’d figured out how to approach which plant, little brain power was needed.

Some of it was hard work, though. Especially the grass often didn’t want to budge. But the sun was out, and I was content to keep at it. The pretty little pansies made me happy while I weeded. I even left some in the bed for now.

Pepper’s leash was my least favorite thing about the process. It kept getting in the way. I decided to solve that before I started weeding next time I came here. This definitely wasn’t ideal for him or me.

I know I’m still disturbing the soil a lot less than with tilling but this still felt brutal. I am definitely, absolutely disturbing the top layers. I probably harmed some worms, too.

I took over this plot at the beginning of this year, so the end-of-fall breakdown wasn’t my choice yet. I’d convinced the previous owner not to till everything at the end of the season. I’m glad I did, even though the timeline mismatch lead to these severely overgrown beds and a lot of work for me.

I believe tilling is a huge part of why soil heath is declining everywhere. Fertilizers and pesticides are the main culprits, of course. But tilling is the unknown evil. Most farmers have been taught to till or even double-till. They don’t know they are doing more harm than good.

The problem with tilling isn’t even the harm done to earth worms and small rodents in the field. It’s the tiny things in the soil. Tilling turns the topsoil upside down. This exposes microbes and water to air and sun. The microbes die in the sun. The water evaporates out of the soil. Everyone loses.

Water needs to be brought in. Pesticides need to fend off what the microbiome under the soil can no longer deter.

What we consider pests and weeds are only an issue when things go out of balance. A healthy soil microbiome, so all the tiny little critters, slitherers, and blobs in the soil, keep things balanced.

A few aphids won’t kill your plants. They’ll feed lady bugs and other organisms we call beneficials. Pests are only an issue in imbalance. Tilling creates such an imbalance. Without the healthy community in the soil, we need pest control instead.

The large chemical companies profit from this, of course, so they make sure we keep doing what we are doing. The status quo makes a few people very rich.

In addition, there’s the water issue. Many regions struggle with water shortages or even crises.

We need to change the way we grow our food, the way we raise animals, and the way we look at nature. I’ll try to apply some of these techniques on the small scale here in this garden. I am studying Landscape Ecology and Nature Conservation after all. Time to apply some knowledge.

But for today, I need to wrap up the weeding.

I hate the look of exposed soil. I’ve made a lot of progress here but I much prefer the look of the before. I left carrots and chives, as well as some pansies. And we’ll get the rest covered soon.

So long, and thanks for being here.