Months ago back in the autumn I wasn’t thinking. I definitely wasn’t thinking of the convenience of my spring self. And now my spring self is a little disappointed with my autumn self.
You see I grow wheat each autumn, not for the seeds, but for its lovely stalks. I don’t want it to go to seed or it will cause problems. Because when you have a garden as large as mine buying in mulch isn’t an option on my wee budget, so I have to create my own.
I was feeding the chickens one day and I looked at the wheat in my hand and thought “Hmmm I wonder…” Often when I think Hmmm I wonder” it is quickly followed with giving it a whirl. Sometimes this is good and sometimes this is not so good. This was one of those good ideas.
An autumn sowing of wheat is brilliant because it is allelopathic, which means it discourages other plants growing where it does. So my garden beds are kept weed free all winter. Which is fab, because weeds love winter and slowly and surely they take over any bare earth. You hardly notice the movement, until spring rolls around and you go to remove them and they are so firmly established you can put your back out trying to evict them. So I am all for things that lighten the work load.
The other great thing about the wheat is it is at about the right stage by the time you need the garden to plant the tender plants around the frost free day in late October. So you pull them out, leaving behind weed free soil that hasn’t been compacted over the winter months. Then I give it a bit of a fluff up, add some compost, blood and bone, a dash of fertiliser and some sheep pellets to replace what nutrients the wheat removed, and let the garden settle, then plant my seedlings for the new season.
Meanwhile the wheat is left to dry. Once it is nice and crisp, the seedlings have grown strong enough in the garden to not be engulfed in mulch, and the wheat is added back to the garden. It eventually breaks down and gives back to the garden what it has taken originally. It is the perfect closed system. If you do it right.
My autumn self didn’t do it right. She chose to sow the wheat in the old squash bed and that seemed fair enough at the end of the day. The squash bed didn’t really need a therapeutic cover crop as the plants had remained quite healthy through the season. So chucking in some wheat made a lot of sense.
The one thing I failed to consider was what was going in the bed next. The peas. They get an early start in the garden. They should go in now. They could have gone in earlier, but I sowed them in the greenhouse to give them a head start. So I have a couple of trays of seedlings that desperately need to go in to the garden yesterday. The problem is the wheat is in its bed and it still has about six weeks to go. It is only just starting to bulk up.
But there was nothing for it. The wheat had to come out. It can still be used as a mulch, I just don’t get as much. So I painstakingly removed each clump and separated out the stems and laid them out to dry. I fluffed up the soil, and then got distracted. So the peas still need to go in. Maybe tomorrow.
While I was harvesting my wheat, I started to formulate a plan. One that starts with “Hmmm I wonder…” I wonder if I can grow a summer crop of wheat in the shape of a labyrinth? I could mark it out by tying a rope on a stake to the lawn mower and mow some circles…. What I need to do is give it a whirl. What could go wrong?
Come again soon – After a day in the garden left to my thoughts, I’ve got a head full of ideas.
Sarah the Gardener : o )