Saturday, March 30, 2013

Planting project, phase 2

The takeaway from today's planting seems to be that planting shrubs is a LOT easier than planting trees. It took us only two hours to get all five of our new bush cherries into the ground—mostly because they didn't need to be set nearly as deep, so we only had to dig through turf and topsoil, instead of hacking away at the thick Raritan River clay beneath. Here are our five bush cherries, all in a row: Joel, Joy, Jan, Joel, Joey.

However, before we could move on to the task of planting the raspberry canes on the north side of the house, we had to transplant the rhubarb that was currently occupying that spot. So it took us another three hours or so to prepare a bed for the rhubarb, amend it with compost dug out of our bin, dig up the plants, put them in the ground, and cover them up again with soil, more compost, and mulch. Digging out the compost was a part of the job that was both encouraging and frustrating: encouraging because our little homemade cold-compost bin really does have some beautiful, rich, dark humus in it, and frustrating because the good stuff was right at the bottom center of the bin, where it was really hard to get at. So a lot of what actually got mixed into the soil was half-decomposed leaf mould. (The reason we used our homemade compost rather than the commercial stuff is that we have only a limited amount of bagged compost that passed our home test, and we wanted to save some of it for the raspberries.) 

We still have a few concerns about the rhubarb. It's not clear whether all the plants will survive being transplanted; the one that was the largest and healthiest of the lot, in the center position in the photo, definitely lost at least part of its root structure in the process. So we may not get any rhubarb crop this year. We do have some new plants on the way, but they won't produce anything this year. (I originally thought we might end up with too many plants for the bed, since Brian dug up three of the old ones rather than two, and I thought I'd ordered five new ones. But it turns out I only ordered four, so we can just manage to squeeze them all into a 22-foot space at 3 feet apart.)

After moving the rhubarb, we had to clear the bed of the wild strawberries that were growing all over it, nearly crowding out the rhubarb plants. I found myself wishing I could somehow move all these plants to the main part of front yard; I've been trying for years to find an appropriate ground cover to take the place of the grass, and this stuff, with its thick, low-growing mat of foliage, looked ideal. I even took the trouble to attempt transplanting a couple of them into bare patches in the yard, in the hope that they would, as this Yahoo contributor suggested, "spread like crazy and choke out [the] grass." But I suspect that if they could grow well in full sun, they would already have spread to that part of the yard by now.

After that, we decided the actual planting of the raspberries could wait one more day. They don't need to be planted deeply at all—in fact, the planting guide says that planting them too deeply is a common mistake—so we just need to dig a shallow trench, put in the plants, cover them up with dirt, and add compost and lots of mulch. And the weather forecast for tomorrow has been revised to predict afternoon showers rather than all-day rain, so we won't have to work in the wet.

The only disappointing part of the day was that, after knocking off work early in the hopes of making it to the D&D Next playtest at our local game store's Tabletop Day event, we found it had been canceled due to the illness of the guy who was supposed to run it. So instead we'll be unwinding from our day's labors with a pot of matzo ball soup and maybe one of our new "A Game of Thrones" Season 2 DVDs.
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