Friday, February 19, 2010

Winter wonderland?!? It's more like spring has sprung

Ok I have to start with an apology.   If you are burried under a foot or more of snow this February, I am sorry to tease you with the joys of spring here in Washington.  If your in the other Washington (DC) you probably hate hearing about our early west coast spring weather, but think of it as a preview of days to come. 
The cherry trees down at Beach School
 are awash in pink blooms

For the last several days we've had daytime temps in the high 50's and low 60's here.  The sun has been shining and the plants around here are starting to burst with spring color. It's glorious to be able to pull on my boots and head out into the garden to tend to chores that normally wouldn't be done until Mid-March at a time of year is usually filled with longing looks through seed catalogs and garden magazines with anticipation of the garden season ahead.

Home made scalloped potatoes with
cheesy spring chive topping

Instead, this year I've already used fresh chives to cook with and we've even given the back lawn it's first mow and spring fertilizing!  I've been hard at work cutting back last years growth from my ferns.  It's not absolutely neccessary to cut back your ferns, but I like to do this each year (usually in March) so that as the new growth occurs I can watch the caterpillar like fronds climb up from the base and open into their beautiful chartreuse green glory.

Last years growth is here

Now it's gone but it'll be back!

In years past, I've always added my fern fronds to the compost pile.  They are a great early spring "green" addition to the pile and will heat up the pile as they break down.  This year I've decided to try a little something different.  This year I'll use the fronds as a mulch in my veggie garden.  

My vegetable patch is strategically placed in the front yard along side of our driveway.  This is the one spot in our yard that sees sunshine morning through afternoon.  Because we live on a rocky hillside, all of our soil has been imported into narrow raised planting beds that Ben made for me.  Each bed was made from off cuts from our friend Scott's sawmill, so nearly everything is reclaimed and recycled. 
1 of 3 loads I cut back so far. 
There's lots more to be done.

The only problem with the location of our beds has been that originally this was just a weedy parking area.  Each year new weeds are springing up between the beds.  To counter this, I've been laying down newspaper layers and cardboard between the beds and then covering those with straw that we have to purchase.  This is where the fern fronds come in.  This year I'm taking those old fern fronds and using them in place of the straw between the garden beds.

This is experimental as I've never done it with the fern fronds before, but my thought is that they will make a nice walking area between the beds and as the cardboard and fronds break down, they will amend the soil in this area.  Plus having all the area mulched helps to conserve water evaporation from the soil and will encourage worms and other good life in the soil too!  I'll let you know how it works out.

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