For the past month now I have been spending much of my time in the city of Fayetteville or at the Ozark Natural Science Center where I work. The situation makes me love my job. Last weekend I managed to break away from city life and retreat to Owls' Knob. I devoted my time to the garden.
In previous years I have dug in the garden with a shovel. But this year John bought a new engine for our old broken tiller. This simple machine turns dirt like a blender beats a banana. With rich, soft soil, planting was easy. Rain, which is usually a garden's best friend, was its worst enemy this year. We received too much rain in too short a period of time. Luckily, the clouds parted for two days and I was able to plant.
However, the soil I planted in between the rainstorms of late April and early May, was compacted by more rain and dried by the June sun. But I had a solution: mulch. In the past I have tried using leaves found on the forest floor and grass clippings from the yard to mulch around the base of my most beloved plants. I do not recommend skimping on mulch in this way. This year my uncle, who raises sheep, chickens, and cows, gave me four square bails of old moldy hay. I left the hay out in the rain so that it was partially rotten by the time I laid it down. I tucked the hay not only around the base of the plants but I also sprinkled it throughout the garden bed and even garnished trails with it.
In just one day's time I could see a difference. Wilted leaves were regaining their crispness. The soil just under the mulch retained its moisture after the hot summer day's sun sunk behind the hickory trees. Even the early pepper plant began to resume it's posture.
The green beans were devastated by deer in my absence. But by the time I left, they had regrown many leaves and had begun stretch for my bean pole tee pee. This tee pee is built over a bed of zucchini squash which will appreciate the shade pole beans provide.
Fences of hog wire were set for snap peas that never emerged from the beaten soil, Perhaps the rain washed them away. Simple cages are also ready for growing tomato plants.
Though I am not at Owls' Knob every day, it is still my home and the garden there is important to me. I have high hopes that, ironically, this year will yield better results. I have learned from a few of my many mistakes.