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Before and After: What 20 Minutes Looks Like (3)

It’s hard to believe that meaningful amounts of gardening can be accomplished in just 20 minutes. If there’s a trick, it’s learning to imagine what you can get get done and not over extending yourself. In the interest of transparency, Jan and I have started this series of posts about what 20 minutes looks like.

BEFORE:

The gravel path at the entrance to our garden from the back porch, shown au naturel

The gravel path at the entrance to our garden from the back porch, shown au naturel

A path is not a bed and to my way of thinking, it shouldn’t need weeding. But it does. The previous owner had this nice, snaking path installed, with a good dense subfooting and pea gravel on top. If it was a bed, I could mulch it, like the bed seen to the right of the picture, and most weeds would be discouraged. Once the season starts, foot traffic will discourage most weeds but right now, those diligent weeds have taken root and have grown.

I have a special technique for weeding the gravel beds. I pull the large weeds out normally. The roots largely penetrate only a couple inches or so. For the others, I rake my fingers through the gravel briskly dislodging their tiny roots. For the most part, these smaller weeds accumulate in my fingers and I can remove them easily. The trouble is that my fingertip start to tingle after a few minutes work. Truth be told, I didn’t make it even a whole 20 minutes. Sure, I could have found gloves… and as I scrubbed the dirt off my hands and scraped it from underneath my fingernails, but I didn’t.

AFTER:

The gravel path entrance after "20-ish" minutes of weeding.

The gravel path entrance after “20-ish” minutes of weeding.

Not much to say, other than I like how it’s coming along. A bit more tomorrow, perhaps.

Posted in • Growing.


Before and After: What 20 Minutes Looks Like (2)

It’s hard to believe that meaningful amounts of gardening can be accomplished in just 20 minutes. If there’s a trick, it’s learning to imagine what you can get get done and not over extending yourself. In the interest of transparency, Jan and I have started this series of posts about what 20 minutes looks like.

BEFORE:

The "Wedge" bed shown au naturel

The “Wedge” bed shown au naturel

The “Wedge” bed is bounded on the north by a gravel path, on the south by a raised stone bed and on the east by a flagstone circle. We name our different beds because noting different “zones” allows us to alternate our attentions during the growing season. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by ALL there is to do in a garden but by dividing the space into distinct regions and assigning each region a day of the week is a trick to keep from getting frazzled.

Like most of our beds, we mulched heavily last fall with leaves. We even steal leaves from our neighbors for this purpose. The bed would have been over-run with weeds by this point otherwise, I suspect. I had stashed some of our home-made tomato cages in the raise bed area so I had to extricate them as I weeded. Those with good eyes will be able to detect several varieties of edible weed that I didn’t bother to save. However, I rescued a clump of self-seeded dill by the edge of the flagstone circle. Some other day, I’ll likely transplant it over to the raised stone bed.

AFTER:

The "Wedge" bed shown after 20 honest minutes of work

The “Wedge” bed shown after 20 honest minutes of work

Not much more to say. I loaded the weeds on our drying pile, where we’ll let them wilt in the sun for a few days before adding them to our compost. Once the season gets going, that is, once the plants are in and the beds are well-mulched, I’ll likely leave the weeds on top of the mulch. The only notable exception is bindweed, our current bane, which is treated with extreme prejudice and removed to the trash.

Posted in • Growing.


Before and After: What 20 Minutes Looks Like (1)

It’s hard to believe that meaningful amounts of gardening can be accomplished in just 20 minutes. If there’s a trick, it’s learning to imagine what you can get get done and not over extending yourself. In the interest of transparency, Jan and I have started this series of posts about what 20 minutes looks like.

BEFORE:

The "Sandbox" bed and a bit of gravel path "au naturel"

The “Sandbox” bed and a bit of gravel path “au naturel”

We scavenged this sandbox frame from some neighbors a few years back whose kids had outgrown sand castles. (I don’t think I have yet.) When we turned it into a bed, we lined it with water permeable landscaping fabric, though we could have used corrugated cardboard which would have broken down in roughly the same amount of time. We filled box with compost. Yes, we could have use a mixture of compost and soil but we have the “problem” of generating more compost than we really “need.” Oh, the travails of a kitchen gardener. We mulch our beds heavily which accounts for the relative lack of weeds in this bed. We are “at war” with bindweed which I was particularly zealous in removing.

AFTER:

The "Sandbox" bed after 20 minutes

The “Sandbox” bed after 20 minutes

I focused on the bed. Jan snagged some lovely tomato sets at the Project Grow sale. Project Grow is worth a whole series of posts in itself but they fund some of their activities with an annual vegetable sale. Jan returned with peppers and tomatoes.

Ever since Jan got her Master Gardener status, she’s insisted that we at least *try* more or less to rotate the beds where we plant our “nightshades.” Tomatoes and peppers are in the same family as nightshade and if grown in the same location for too many years, harmful bacteria can build up in the soil. They also tend to be heavy feeders. This year, tomatoes are in the Sandbox.

Let me sing the praises of weeding in a bed of crumbly, well mulched soil. The weeds largely lifted out with their root systems intact. The notably exception being bindweed which snaps off after about six inches, fleeing to fight again another day. Bindweed spreads remarkably well from even a small snippet. We make sure any bindweed is well dead and composted. How? We have a round flagstone clearing where we pile weeds after shaking loose any soil. After a few days in the sun, they are wilted and have given up the ghost enough that we feel we can add them to our compost pile. (Some fear overly adding weed seeds to their compost but in our experience, a properly assembled compost pile “cooks” at high enough temperature to sterilize most seeds. The weed seeds that stay viable are “discouraged” by our all-over mulch. You Mileage May Vary.)

I usually put up some kind of “cage” when I put plants in… even if I will likely use the tomato spirals eventually. My mother joked that putting a tomato cage over a spindly little seeding might discourage it, but I prefer to think I’m giving the sprouts something to shoot for. Y’know, the reach exceeding grasp else what’s a heaven for, type of thing. Also, I reminds ME that I’ve planted something in a given bed. Yup, on more than one occasion I have enthusiastically “weeded” out seedlings that I forgot I’d planted previously.

The only bit of “cheating” shown here is that Jan was running the lawn mower as I weeded so I was able to mulch some of the tomatoes just after I planted them. The crumbly friable soil was so loose I didn’t need a trowel to excavate a hole but I did moisten the holes with a bit of water. I left the identifying plastic tags by each tomato. Later, maybe tonight during a garden walk, I’ll collect them and note which kind of tomato is where in the garden journal. You DO keep a garden journal, don’t you? It’s a great way to keep track of details from year to year.

Weeding the path is another thing altogether. The previous own put in this snaking path that is quite lovely. It resists weeds for the most part but the ones that do manage to get a foothold are particularly devilish to extricate. For the most part, the weeds in the path have extremely shallow roots, since the path has a dense base. The bigger weeds can be pulled normally. For smaller ones, I have developed a technique of rubbing my fingers through the gravel back and forth. The roots are dislodged and magically collect in my fingers while the gravel is lightly scattered. I might make a video about it at some point if that description is too vague. Honestly though, I intend to use a propane torch later in the season to toast the roots of these path weeds. I read about it on Tobias Buckell’s blog a couple years back and it’s exactly the kind of “lazy gardener” trick I adore.

That’s it. 20 minutes.

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20MinuteGarden PODCAST: Penguicon 2015

20 Minute Jim and 20 Minute Jan discuss some of the highlights of Penguicon 2015 (http://2015.penguicon.org/) mostly, though not exclusively from the Eco track of programming.

Topics include:

— Consent is not restraint; it’s constitutive of a safe, creative atmosphere to explore new interests. It’s the exact opposite of surveillance culture;

— Conflict in the Garden: (our presentation which will be released as a separate podcast)

— 12 Uses for 5-Gallon Buckets in the Garden:

— How to make Kids Fall in Love with Gardening:

— Beekeeping (daniel eakins)

— OpenSoda (http://www.opensoda.org/)

— Vermiculture

— Dream life, cutting edge medical prosthetics, polyphasic sleep hacking…

Plus: various life lessons learned from Con life.

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Gardening Presentations at Penguicon 2015

This coming weekend is Penguincon 2015, and we’re very excited to attend once again. What is Penguicon? Penguicon is defines itself as a not-for profit, community run convention for open source software, science fiction, music, gaming, DIY and more. I’ve attended 3 Penguicons in the past, and I can say without hesitation that it’s educational, inspiring, and just plain fun.

This year marks a milestone for me: I’ve had a goal of participating at Penguicon which I’ll meet by making three gardening-related presentations.

Here is my presentation schedule:

Friday 5pm: Conflict in the Garden

Saturday 5pm: 12 Uses for a 5 Gallon Bucket in the Garden

Sunday 2pm: How to Get Kids to Fall in Love with Gardening

Details to follow!

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