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Last fall I decided to try out cover crops. I planted fall rye in my garden in the middle of October. That’s one month after our first fall frost. It germinated, but I didn’t see any above the surface before the second snowfall of the year. (Our first came at the end of September.) It wasn’t until the middle of November when the snow melted that I noticed it had grown. The last I saw of the fall rye was near Christmas when winter set in and the snow didn’t melt.
The focus of the garden this week has shifted to the next round of plants to go in. Last week I finished getting the early plants and early seeds in. This week it has been tending the seed starts and keeping up with watering my new transplants.
This year in my garden I’m trying to do better at keeping living roots in the soil at all times. This is one of the tenets the soil health movement that I referred to in a previous article. I have fall rye that is growing right now in the garden wherever I have not planted my crop for the season.
After quite a few gloomy updates to my gardening season I’m finally seeing some hope that the garden and yard will come to life this year. Though it’s hardly gone above freezing each day and usually freezes at night we have the long, high, sun now. The ground is thawing and new life is coming up.
As I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I saw the shift in thinking from plowing the soil to leaving the trash in place. By leaving it there, farmers were seeing less erosion and seeing more moisture left in the soil. Over time many systems developed. Some went completely away from tillage (no-till). Some did what they called minimum tillage (min-till). And some did a hybrid of each — they tilled where the seed would be planted and left the area between the rows untouched (strip-till).
Three days ago we had one of the strongest Chinook winds in a few months. For those not familiar with southern Alberta & northern Montana these are dry, warm winds that come racing down the Rocky Mountains and into the plains. The winds took care of a lot of the snow and I even saw a bit of my garden surface exposed. This was looking promising until the following day when a forecast for 0.5cm (2/10") of snow turned into 20cm (8"). Arctic air is pushing in today and is expected to keep things well below freezing for the next 7 days so it looks like hopes of getting in the garden are delayed again.
My seed starting method has evolved over the years. You can see the change in my previous articles:
If you want to get into my reasons for starting down this road check out the brownie pan article. The basic reason is efficiency. The seed blocks are quicker to make and quicker to plant. The roots stop when they hit the air. When planted they are in soil again and keep growing.
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