Friday, July 3, 2015

Live and Learn...

A couple of days ago I promised a post on recent faux pas I had made in the garden.  Well, here it is!  The full list is actually quite long, so I'm just going to hit a couple of highlights here.

1.  The lesson of the mulch

Last fall when we put the garden beds 'to bed' for the winter we decided to try giving them a healthy layer of mulch to try and keep the spring weeds down to a more manageable level.  We succeeded.  Sorta.  For mulch we selected a couple bails of straw I had left sit out too long.  It wasn't really good for much else, so it became mulch.  The spring turned out to be a very wet one, and a host of things kept us from getting the early start we had hoped to get.  When we finally got to that bed (last month - and it's still not cleared and replanted) the lesson was revealed.  It seems by using the straw for mulch I had planted a reasonably respectable crop of winter wheat.

A nice crop of wheat where it should never have been.
I saw (and still see) this as a bad move on my part and to make matters worse, I can now kinda-sorta remember reading someone else's blog post on the same problem. As bad as it was, I thought I could salvage some miniscule bit of botanical dignity by at least providing De with a bit of decorative foliage.

Wheat-gate was not, however, universally considered to be a garden stench in the nostrils of all who pass by.  It seems my crew of chicken helpers regarded this little 4x8 plot of cover crop as a mid-summers bonus.  In yet another layer (hee hee) of failure, caused once again my own lack of due diligence, the great harvest began without me.  As soon the bulk of the grain began to develop an almost-ready-to-harvest golden hue the crew moved in. With gusto.

The harvest begins...

... And in the course of a couple days, nears completion
In a somewhat unpatriotic fit of avian greed, my usual crew of garden assistants picked every last amber wave of grain clean off the heads right down the stalk and trampled what was left.  No weed-free bed, no decorative foliage, just another weedy bed to look after.  This fall - Grass clippings or something else, but no more straw mulch.

2.  The lesson of the volunteer plants

A few years ago we tried raising strawberries in one of the garden beds without much luck.  A few scraggly plants, not one berry.  A failure.  It happens to all of us so next year we moved the bed (with not much better results, but that's another failure).  This year, as we were cleaning out that bed we found a good handful of volunteer strawberry plants that were looking pretty healthy, so we re-purposed that bed to be berries and let them grow.  And grow they did!  They looked a little taller than the berries we've had in the past but they were doing pretty well.  They were a nice lush, dark green with healthy stems and leaves and pretty little yellow flowers.  Wait - what?  Yellow?  Yellow!  Yellow???  Stawberries don't have yellow blossoms!  It only took a little research to determine I had grown a beautiful crop of an invasive species called a Mock Strawberry.  They do eventually produce an edible little berry with essentially no taste whatsoever.  Oops....

My lovely crop of Mock Strawberries

A number of years ago there was a movie called 'Apocalypse Now'.  As I recall there were no real morally upstanding good guys in the whole film, but there were a couple that were extra creepy-bad.  One was a CIA-type who, when talking about getting rid of a rogue colonel, used the term "Terminate with extreme prejudice".  That was the fate that befell my volunteer crop of phony berries. I ripped every last one of them out by roots.  Next....

The empty bed between the green beans and the eggplant is where my fakers used to be.

In the grand scheme of things, these mistakes are pretty small potatoes and I'm sure to make bigger one as time goes on.  I thought however that amongst the moderate successes I should fess up to at least some of the failures.  All good, and I hope you now won't make the same homestead garden mistakes I have.

Col. 1:9-12,



  1. Gotta say I've never gone through the Mock Strawberry fiasco, but I had substantial problems one year when I mulched my (real strawberries) with oat straw. That would be oat straw that had A LOT of oats left in it. I had some lovely, lush, narrow "fields" of oats all throughout my strawberry patch. Geesh. What a chore to get rid of that. 'Course, I didn't invite the chickens to help me as you did. Hee-hee.

    1. The Mock Strawberries did take us a bit by surprise. I was pretty happy until those yellow blossoms popped out. I've got a couple of other places I used the wheat straw I'm going to have to clean out, too. I'm guessing it will take a couple of years to be "wheat free".

  2. Ha-I just love your helpers so much, unpatriotic as they may be.
    We've all been there with the lessons. It's what keeps gardening interesting. But my question is why do all the "unexpecteds" alway end up being in the fail category?????
    When will I ever discover THE NEXT GREAT THING in gardening?????????? I've had plenty of fails.........but few triumphs!!

    1. The helpers sure loved that wheat! They went right down every head and picked the "wheat berries" out. It was kind of fun to watch, even if I do have mess to clean up in the bed.

      Yeah, we don't get a lot of 'happy surprises' in the garden either. It seems things either work pretty much as one would expect, or just fall apart. At least there are two mistakes I won't make again soon!

  3. Chickens in the wheat! I have to put mine in lock down when it gets close to wheat harvest. I don't think the neighboring big farms would notice the loss but I don't like the thought of my birds eating what I saw being sprayed in the spring.

    1. At least mine are "clean" from that standpoint. I hope they don't get a chance to get used to 'wheat snacks'.

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