Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Frozen Peat Moss = Another Day of Hard Work!

After yesterday's manure moving, I was determined that today would be a relative day of rest. My plan was to pick up a few leafy debris piles in the garden, clip a few salal trunks to the ground, plant some leeks and paint the garden gates. Oh yes, and spread some peat moss onto several of the manure amended beds. It turned out to be a little more work than I bargained for, that last item, which prevented me from getting to other items on my list, not to mention rest.

Peat moss lightens up heavy soil and improves its drainage. I was worried that the manure on the top of the garden beds was too heavy, even though my husband tilled it in as best he could.
John, my husband, brought home five 3-cubic foot bags of genuine Canadian peat moss from Home Depot. I cut the bags open, expecting the peat moss to spring out of its compression and await being raked into the bed. A strange thing happened, though. Over 50 percent of the peat stayed compressed. I tried breaking off chunks, and that worked for a while, but it became so difficult to break apart that I had to get a hatchet. Even through my garden gloves, the peat felt cold. Could it be frozen? As I chopped away, I realized that I could see small chunks of ice cut through by my hatchet.

 A hatchet thrown into peat moss should break it apart; not MY peat moss!
John suggested I leave it for later when it had had a chance to thaw. Three of the five bags had the same problem. John reported that the bags had ice on the outside of them at the store. Late in the afternoon, I returned to some of the frozen chunks to find that they had indeed began to thaw.

You can see the frozen chunks in the foreground. I'll try raking them tomorrow!
With the peat moss finally being (mostly) spread out on the beds, I began to clean up, picking up the debris piles from yesterday. I tugged at a few salal stalks in the stump and starting pulling them out by the roots as much as possible (sometimes, they just broke off). What I had intended to be just a little tidying up became a full-out attack on the salal and the stump itself, which is rotting. Hours later, I had a wheelbarrow piled high with salal root and cedar stump, a tired back, and a transformed flower bed.

About two-thirds of the stump remains, and you can actually see the day lilies. The sedum that used to be growing in the rocks is gone, choked out by the salal, which, until yesterday, engulfed the stump top to bottom.
After hauling the carnage to the burn pile, I didn't have the energy to pick up the remaining debris piles.

I managed to plant leeks (seeds my friend Nicole saved from her garden), but the gates didn't get painted (or hung for that matter), nor did I transplant some left over onions from last year.

My newly planted flats of seeds should sprout by this weekend. I hope!

I was wavering on my decision to have John cut away the rest of the cedar stump; it could be pretty with cucumbers or squash growing up it, mingling with nasturtiums. After examining the stump from several vantage points, I decided that though the stump could be pretty, I would rather not have it in the middle of my vegetable garden. Some day soon, I'll come home to the stump cut to the ground. We may actually reassemble it in a nearby herb garden bed. Cool!

You can just about see my entire garden from the upper deck. The blueberry cloche behind the stump will get much more light with it gone completely. Even now, it gets more light with the salal gone (and the huckleberry bush, which John cut from the top several months ago).
In all, I got a lot done today, despite the cooler, cloudy weather. Cliff Mass (University of Washington meteorology professor) says our weather is to be colder and wetter the last week of February. It's not spring yet!

My greenhouse hovered at a comfortable 60 degrees, even without an ounce of sunshine.
Until Saturday afternoon,

NG Gardener

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