This year we are making a more concerted effort to actually, like, plan meals and buy what we need as opposed to ending up with the world’s most expensive compost heap from the wasted food bought at the farmer’s market with best of intentions.
As a part of that, I’m also taking a more serious run at the whole gardening thing in our community garden plot.
This actually started last fall when I turned and planted the entire 20′ x 30′ (approx) plot with fava beans. Now, we happen to love fava beans, but not that many. There was an ulterior motive.
Namely, fava bean plants do a brilliant job of pulling nitrogen out of the air and fixing it into the cells of the plant itself. As well, since favas are such a vigorous over-winter growth in this climate, they nicely shade and choke out most of the weeds that would be sprouting about now.
To put the nitrogen into the soil, the bean plants must be worked into the soil. Last year, I did this largely by hand (with a much smaller number of favas) by digging holes, chopping up the plants with a shovel and turning them into the soil. It worked, but not terribly well as it leaves potentially large air pockets in the soil that plants hate.
This year, I used Blue Blade (pictured at left). Or the scariest damned Make-style hack ever. It is one of the various inventions used by the gardeners in plots around mine. (No, I didn’t make this — if I had, the sides would be a bit sturdier and I would have used nylon nuts to keep the damned thing from falling apart.)
It is a pretty simple device.
- Rip apart an old lawnmower
- Cut a piece of plywood in a circle the same diameter as the lawnmower’s deck
- Drill hole in middle and bolt lawnmower engine to plywood
- Attach blade to bottom
- Attach plywood to a sawed off barrel (In this case, plastic… lending to the fear factor)
- Cut a 2.5″ in diameter hole to the side of the engine
- Attach a plastic tube used to feed in the favas
- Grab a handy stick and jam the engine’s throttle wide open because you don’t have a throttle cable or dead man’s switch anymore
Then? Fire the damned thing up and feed favas, weeds, and any snails/slugs into the tube.
The end result is green gold. A thick mat of minced favas that are easily spread and turned into the soil. Not only does it add a ton of nutrients to the soil, but the fibrous matter loosens the soil quite a bit and makes subsequent planting and weeding tasks a ton easier.
I’m still letting a good sized patch of favas grow to full maturity. Which is frightening. I picked up fava seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply along with a rhizobacteria that grows in symbiosis with the plant to maximize nitrogen yield through excellent plant growth & health. In my case, this means a solid mass of 6 foot tall favas!
Peaceful Valley or “groworganic.com” is an awesome company. They have been very helpful and have an amazing assortment of heirloom seeds.