We usually associate rainy days with staying indoors, and either getting caught up on work or household chores, or just taking it easy and watching a movie. I associate rainy days with gardening, and I call them ‘moving days’, because rainy days are ideal for moving and rearranging your plants. In this episode I will talk about how and why I do this, and I will also speak to some listener questions.
Here’s the thing about a good rainy day
If you have a permaculture garden, and the whole garden is covered in mulch, the rain is like a shot in the arm for the whole garden. Whereas conventional gardens get a short term dose of water, permaculture gardens get a long term watering, every time it rains. The mulch swells up with moisture, and the organically rich soil absorbs the water, and for days, the soil is rich and moist, facilitating growth at an optimum rate for every plant in the garden. In all the ways that matter, a mulched garden is an automatic watering system, because the moisture levels in the soil stay constant due to the mulch, and the wonderful effect that it has on the soil. But it doesn’t stop there:
- Automatic Fertilization System: Every time it rains, the mulch releases nutrients into the soil. Because the mulch is constantly breaking down, rain brings the available nutrients down to the roots, giving everything a safe, balanced little boost.
- Automatic Watering System: Gravity is a wonderful thing. A good hard rain tends to provide more moisture than the soil can absorb. The beauty of a good mulch is that it can absorb the excess rain, and then over time, by virtue of the force of gravity, it will release that moisture down to the soil, to the benefit of your plants.
When I plant things that I intend to move at a later date, I plant thick. I put more seeds in the row than I really want there, because I know that at some later date, I will pull out some of the plants, and put them somewhere else. That’s where the rain comes in! Moving any plant causes stress to the plant, and only rainy days have the right conditions for this sort of thing, because dryness and hot sun do not facilitate the process of adaptation that is required of any plant that has been moved. When a good rain is in the forecast, the stars have aligned for you, and you need to take advantage of the favourable conditions.
That having been said, even when you do everything right, no plant likes being moved, so it takes weeks for the plant to recover. While that might sound like a negative thing, it’s actually good because it stretches out the timing of your crops, so that everything doesn’t ripen at the same time. For instance, if you are planting greens, that might all start coming in at some point in June – that means that sometime in July you will have too many and be overwhelmed with too many of that plant. By contrast, If you move some of them, they will stall for a few weeks while they recover, and then they will start coming on strong just when the original plants start running out of energy and vitality. In this way, the timing of your harvest gets spaced out in a way that is easier to match to your diet.
You Can Beat the Heat
In the height of summer, rainy days give you a break from the heat, and this is a perfect opportunity to do anything that is strenuous that you’ve been putting off due to the oppressive heat.
- Build trellises for any plants that need support
- Mulch anything that still needs cover. Do not leave your soil exposed to the sun!
- Pull any weed that have been accumulating in your garden.
- Move any plants that are crowded.
A listener asked the question of how to make easy, simple trellises, for beans, so here are a few things that I use depending on the situation. For all of the options below requiring twine, I use either jute or hemp (from the dollar store) these twines are cheap, biodegradable, and vine type plants seem to find it easy to grab onto them.
- Branch: A branch off a tree is the simplest trellis of them all. Just break a branch off a tree that is the size that you want, jam the thick end into the ground, and train your plant up the branch.
- Florida Trellis: Put a stake at either end of the row where your plants are growing, then tie a string to one stake, about 6 inches off the ground, connect it to the other stake along one side of the row, then bring it back to the original stake along the other side of the row. As the plants grow, just keep doing this every 6 inches.
- Bean Trellis: Put a stake at either end of the row where your plants are growing, then attach a beam across to top between the two stakes, either with twine, nails or screws (it will look like a soccer goal when you are done). For every bean in the row, tie a piece of twine directly above the bean, then stretch the twine down to the plant, and twist it around the stalk of the plant. The plant will then attach itself to the twine, and then climb it all the way to the beam. Very fast easy trellis.
- Concrete Wire Remesh: You can buy this stuff at any building center (for about $10), it’s just a heavy 4’ x 8’ mesh wire fence. Either prop it up with poles, or of you have planted near a wooden fence, attach it to the fence somehow. Vine-type plants will climb it on their own, plants like tomatoes can be easily attached to it.
- Tripod Trellis: Get three poles that are the length needed for your plant, tie them together at the top, and then spread out the legs at the bottom around the plant until it feels stable and will resist the wind. Next, tie a long piece of twine to the top, and then wrap it around the tripod, continuously in a Logarithmic spiral, all the way to the bottom.