Monday, April 23, 2012

composting and seeding

On the weekend of April 22, we were joined by a number of volunteers, including a group of young women from the Young Women Warriors program of the Chinese Mutual Aid Society and students from the DePaul Oxfam Association. The day’s focus was on making the best use of our imported compost, and trying to get something in the ground. The risk of frost seems low. In the few weeks before the seedlings at the greenhouse are ready to transplant, we may have time to grow a quick crop of peas, greens, and radishes.

We started by piling up compost in shallow berms between our fruit trees, taking care not to get the soil too near the tree’s roots.

We next worked a few barrows’ worth of compost into the beds in the northwest corner of the garden, into which we planned to direct-sow seed. We worked sand and compost into the carrot bed in the middle of the plot, leavening the soil so that our carrots would grow straight.

[The Friday before the workday, I had worried that we did not have enough seeds for cool-weather crops, so I went to Gethsemane Garden Center. (There are three types of stores that enable ambitions of agency in the susceptible: book stores, hardware stores, and garden-supply stores.) After a sustained impulse buy, I walked out of Gethsemane with a paper sack full of seminal potential.]

Once the beds had been prepared, a number of us planted. We alternated rows of peas (Cascadian and Super Sugar Snap) with those of radishes (Crimson Giant), spinach (Lavewa and Bloomsdale), and lettuce (Bronze Arrowhead and Freckles). We also planted a variety of carrots in the carrot bed.

Other volunteers tied back the rose bushes and layered compost in the bins. With the aid of our new compost thermometer (another gift from Chicago Cares), we could see that our bins are still too cold. Our bins need a proper layering of carbonaceous (brown) and nitrogenous (green) materials to achieve an environment that encourages the microbial activity that turns detritus into dirt.

Finally, we watered our freshly-sown beds from the rain barrels and covered the beds with new sheets of row cover.