Monday, May 22, 2017
Black dirt / Red ants
So anyway, I finally got the lovely and gracious Rogue's tomatoes transplanted to her new raised bed this weekend. We're doing beefsteak raised from seed, so that ought to be an adventure, though not as much of an adventure as last year, when Mr. Charisma mixed several different types of seeds together giving us a random selection of tomatoes in every garden.
However, there were a couple of surprises once I pulled off the very-unrotted layer of pine needles that had been the last item I added to this bed.
1) The rot took 5 months. Manure, ground oyster shell, yard clippings, shredded paper, clayish soil, and sand, all of it melded into a beautiful black dirt that sticks together just as it ought. It's full of worms and pill bugs and all manner of good critters.
2) I got about half the volume of dirt I expected, so we'll have to do it all again this fall. I've already started actually. All around the tomato cages, I laid down a layer of wet cardboard, some fresh-cut comfrey leaves, and started to pile shredded paper on top. That ought to suppress the weeds while retaining moisture and providing the pill bugs and worms with plenty of chow.
3) At one end, it was also crawling with bad bugs: ants. Billions of them. And when I tried to drive in the tomato cage, I realized why. Maybe. Back when I first set up this bed, I used it as an opportunity to dispose of a large number of bones collected by DiggingDog. I simply buried them under the refuse I was dumping in and hoped that she would not discover them. She has not. But perhaps someone else has moved in to take advantage of the yummy calcium goodness of deer and cattle bones.
Either way, once I research whether it's safe to use borax* in a tomato bed, I'll get to removing the ants. These 10 plants ought provide enough to keep us in salsa and pasta sauce for another year, assuming they all survive the upcoming ant holocaust.
In the meantime, after getting the lawn tractor stuck in my field while trying to get more manure, I'm at something of a loss as to with what I'm going to fill the new pepper containers with. I don't have 5 months to wait around for a new batch of black dirt...
UPDATE: apparently, you make a paste with borax, sugar, and water, and the scout ants carry it back to the nest, where it poisons them all. We shall see. Lots of things sound easy on the internet.
* Borax is a mineral salt, not the plural of Borak.