November 10, 2019
My father would always remind us to make time work for us. Applying that principle makes it possible to achieve a considerable amount with least effort. Using least effort and avoiding mechanization is generally much better for the environment.
Sometimes we find ourselves struggling to speed up a process. If we want to turn a small piece of lawn into a garden area, we could dig or till the soil over and over again to bring up roots and prevent uprooted plants from re-rooting. The effort disturbs the soil community, is labour intensive and uses fuel unnecessarily. Removing sod is not a good solution as it essentially takes off valuable top soil.
Early to mid Fall is a good time to plan out a garden space for next year. Cardboard laid over a section of lawn and covered in mulch to hold it down is an easy way to get ready for the Spring. Bark mulch won’t blow away and is effective in controlling weeds and holding moisture. The cardboard and mulch will just become part of the humus layer. Fungus and soil creatures will do the work of removing the underlying grass and turning it into humus. Then, in the Spring, you could just move the mulch, cut though the cardboard to plant plugs or potted stock and move the mulch back around the plants.
If you’d like to start a wildflower garden from seed, this is a good time of year to do that. Many seeds require cold stratification which essentially involves going through a winter to break dormancy. If you have a garden area prepared, just sprinkle the seeds onto the area before the snow falls. This is basically mimicking what happens in Nature. Watch for seedlings to appear in May.
Another option for starting a wildflower garden from seed is to fill trays with a weed free soil mix and seed into it. Check germination requirements. Some seeds need light to germinate which means you should just press the seeds into the surface of the soil. Others need to be covered lightly with soil. You can leave the trays outside for the winter. If possible, bring them inside at the end of March or beginning of April for early germination, then prick out the seedlings in May to plant into pots or directly into your garden area. I seed out trays and leave them in the cool root cellar for several months before taking them out in March to germinate in the warmth of the house under grow lights. Using this method, one can plant the seedlings into freshly worked soil by the end of May and give them an edge over annual weeds.
Seeding Trees and Shrubs
Most native trees and shrub seeds need to go through a cold period of 3 to 4 months. They can be seeded out the same way as the wildflowers.
In the forest, winged seeds like those of maples and conifers use the wind to carry them away from the parent tree. Oaks and other nut trees have seeds that fall under the parent tree with a thud. Then squirrels gather the nuts and bury them here and there on the forest floor. Any nuts that aren’t needed for food are essentially planted a distance from the parent tree guaranteeing a food supply for generations to come. This kind of mutually beneficial relationship between two species is common in natural communities.
If you have acorns that you would like to try germinating, fill your container of acorns with water and discard any that float as they are not viable. Let the rest soak for a day or two before planting them on their side into moist soil. If you leave them outside, protect them from squirrels with something like metal mesh. If you bring them into a cool shed for the winter, don’t let them dry out. Some people will just put them into a bag with moist soil and leave them in their refrigerator for at least 3 months, then plant them when they’re ready to germinate in the Spring.
Typically, if the seed falls early in the season, it may just germinate and establish itself before the winter comes or it needs to go through a warm, cold, warm cycle as it would get in Summer, Fall/Winter and Spring before it will germinate. All the different ways of germinating is a reflection of what happens in Nature in the area where the plant originates. It’s the best way to ensure survival of the species.
Nature has incredible patience. Everything takes time. We are so used to immediate results that we lose our awareness of everything and everyone around us as we focus on that one goal. Often, an easy solution is right in front of us but we don’t see it.
When I’m working in the garden and start to focus on what “needs to be done right now” or “should have been done yesterday”, stress starts to build and I do nonsensical things like “working hard” and achieving essentially nothing. Then, it’s time for me to leave the garden, put my feet up, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. Very quickly, I am reminded that the universe is unfolding as it should. That silly little “job” is of no consequence in the grand scheme of things and is mostly about my ego. Recognizing this allows me to deeply experience the stillness and peace that comes with feeling a oneness with all that is rather than see myself as struggling against time and the elements.