Let it Rain!

This past Saturday Mia got the Big Rain garden in! Planted with over 125 native plants (purchased with help from Sprout and Bird!)from the upper midwest like Cupplant, Milkweed, Fox and Palm Sedge, and Goldenrod it will be gorgeous next year when it starts to bloom. From a sustainability side it’s 200+ cubic feet of space will hold almost 1500 gallons of rain water to slowly percolate down into the aquifer instead of carrying the poison runoff from my neighbor’s yards into our creeks-combined with our 3 (soon to be 5) rainbarrels and the 2nd smaller rain garden we are saving 2200+gallons per event. On the house side of the raingarden, and across the path to the backyard we have another 50 native plants including Yellow Confelower, Butterflyweed, New Endland Asters and Ox-Eye Sunflowers to nicley background our 3 rainbarrels for the west end of the house. We hope to turn this garden into a show and tell for local governments on the feasibiltiy, versitility, and beauty of native ecological gardening. Still have to plant the borders, but it is gratifying to see the progress!

Our Pea plants are now 25-50% taller than they should be according to the packets. This is wonderful-as the harvest should be stellar and the amount of nitrogen rich biomass is impressive. The down side is my attempt to use left over brush to trellis them, which was a great idea, was woefully inadequate for the amount of weight of the uber peas-next year I will use bigger sticks-or if the stars align, grow my own bamboo! Even though shelling peas is slow work due to my poor technique, the kids love it-bonding at its best! The tomatoes (all 15 of them!) are coming in strong-putting on a ton of stalk strength in addition to almost an inch of height a day which is encouraging. The difference between a 1st year garden and one with a full season’s green manure crop turned in is encouraging. And as a repeat of last year, my seed start transplants are beating the greenhouse ones by significant margins.

Remember that giant mound of sod from my prairie planting that I was letting compost down? Well some of the pumpkin seeds from last Halloweens decorations made it into the pile as well and I got some volunteers. Compared to the pumpkins volunteering on the flat land under the trees these are unbelievable vigorous. Leaf size is easily 100% larger- with some measuring almost 16″ diameter and vine length is also more than double. In Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemingway discusses the German technique of growing melons on earth mounded over rotted brush and yard waste to achieve better growth in a process called hugelkulture, literally mound culture. I am certainly seeing the same benifits-the sod mound warmed much faster than the flat earth with its south facing allowing the vines to start weeks earlier, and the composting interior is a hive of microbial activity freeing up immense amounts of nutrients for the pumpkins. Further more, the vines have cascaded down onto the kiddo’s sunflower house, and instead of crowding out the flowers, those ‘covered’ sunflowers have tripled their height benifiting from the shaded roots and wind protection. This bodes well for my 3 Sisters modification of swapping in sunflowers for the corn.

Stay posted for a how to on rain barrel building now that I have a source on oak casks from a local brewery!


4 Responses

  1. Great stuff, as usual. As soon as I get a chance, I’ve got some fantastic perennial sunflower info to share, from somebody who used to do research for The Land Institute. Great idea swapping out the corn for sunflowers in the three sisters setup…

  2. Perrenials are always welcome. We threw 2 Ox-Eye Sunflowers in the prairie and I have some odd ball one that I found at Home Depot last year. Somewhere along the way I have developed a very strong affection for sunflowers-can’t wait for the info!

  3. Hugelkulture? I thought it was Mundenkulture!

  4. Um, riiight. I looked it up this time…

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