What you're looking at here is a view north on our corner lot in the District of Columbia. I started working this bed with a stirrup hoe yesterday. It was thick with chickweed, so there was a matt of roots. The stirrup hoe is just what it sounds like: a metal piece shaped like a stirrup at the end of a long handle. The stirrup jiggles back and forth, so you can force it an inch or two under the soil level. Jiggling the blade along it cuts weeds (or last year's plants) off at the roots. No need for turning the soil too deeply and disturbing all those worms and micro-organisms that are so beneficial to the soil.
I then spread a thin layer of well-rotted compost over the bed and work that into the soil. Then I come back and level out the soil with my hands. I suppose I could use a rake. But it feels so good to sift the soil through your hands and break the small clods with your fingers. Plus, there's always broken glass and stones that need to be picked out of the beds and pitched.
I've laid a piece of clothesline down the middle of the bed, dividing it roughly in half. I use two lengths of oak trim from the scrap pile to measure small squares for planting individual seed varieties.
This particular bed falls into shade around noontime this time of year, so I planted parsley and chervil at the shadiest end. The bed will get more sun as the days pass. There are large squares for beets, frisee endive and mizuna, smaller squares for arugula, Treviso radicchio, cilantro, Tokyo Bekana and chervil. Finally I reserved two very large rectangles for red giant mustard and ragged edge mustard. We love braised mustard greens around here, and I'm going to make more of an effort to see that we have some growing all season long. Same for arugula. We crave arugula in our salads. We have a small patch that survived the winter. So that marks the first year we've had arugula year 'round.
Many of these seeds came from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. That's a company local to Virginia, so its offerings are more oriented toward our part of the world.
I've given up trying to label the plants in my plots. Last year I saved yogurt containers. These I cut into wide strips and labeled with a permanent marker to identif my seed beds. But the writing always seemed to fade in the weather. A farmer friend suggested using scraps of Venetian blinds. But what I do now is simply plot out everything in a spiral-bound notebook. Whenever I need to know what I planted, I just go back and look in the book.
Let's see. Red giant mustard matures in 43 days. That would mean braised mustard greens around May 3. I can hardly wait.