I had a very interesting conversation with someone the other day, and thought it would make a great discussion...
I live in zone 3, and the person I was talking to has a backyard ice skating rink that he wants to turn into a multi-purpose site for a garden. The rink is about 60ft by 30ft. Along the perimeter there are solid wood boards about 5 ft high just like a typical ice hockey rink.
The site is totally flat. The reason being that when the rink is flooded with water in the fall, only a few inches are required (less water to deal with). His complaint was that during the 6 months when it can't be skated on, the rink is just a big wasted space. And he was asking me about the possibility of using it as a garden during the 3 - 4 months of growing season we have.
He has a lot of deer pressure, so the hockey boards and netting would make an effective barrier to them. But what about the growing beds themselves?
I spent a lot of time near White River in Ontario so have some idea of the area. I'm guessing that this pond can be flooded and drained. I think what I'd do is to buy some seed packages for a few dollars and plant them in the ground. While I don't know exactly what will and won't grow I'd guess that lettuce would do fine. Radishes and maybe peas. I'm guessing that what I'd plant early in the spring (ST Patties Day) will grow in your area. But I'd experiment, talk to others in the area who do garden there.
I did see berries growing wild, semi wild. I think they were straw berries or maybe raspberries, I remember moose wandering around in camp eating the berries. But that's not a good suggestion for your skating rink site. But possibly outside the boards? I'd push what I thought might grow. While maybe corn might take too long for your season there are corn varieties that ripen in as fast as 55 days. And those are the varieties that you can sow while the ground is still too cold. But I'd plant the crops that I'd want to eat and find out. Remember that if you keep your left over seeds in a glass jar with a metal cap they'll last longer, like till next year.
I'm thinking that that ice for so long might effect the crops growing as though this was a bog or swamp. But the best way to find out what will actually happen is to just try it.
I didn't discus earlier the preparation required to plant on this ice/pond site. It's my opinion that this soil needs some preparation before planting. It's had a layer of water over it for some years. Or it's had a heavy layer of ice laying on it. I've been pondering whether the ice would warp or rise so that it's not in contact with the soil. I can't say. But I would speculate that you'd need to scratch the soil, fork it, or turn it as in tilling, rototilling or hand shoveling it. Myself I would start out turning some over and planting lettuce and radishes in it. The radish germinates very quickly and I'd use that as a test. Assuming the radishes germinate then I'd make my decision as what my future approach would be. Myself if I wanted to plant a 30x60 plot I'd as a minimum run a Troy Bilt Horse over it. I always called that one a mule as I thought it was a more appropriate name. But then I wasn't trying to sell them.
I'd guess my suggestion isn't going to be popular here, but that's what I'd do. And then in the fall I'd run a roller over it, or get all the kids together in the fall for a meeting on the pond site and see how well they'd trampled the site.
Tilling good. Everything turns to ice here whether boarded in or not.
Peas might be a good crop . Broadcast the seed on the tilled ground and let dry before harvesting. they enrich the soil and keep it level for next years winter fun.
Its always amazing how the land bounces back from the winter freeze. We take advantage of the frozen ground to work in the woods , especially places normally to soft to travel on , now hard. We plow the snow off the woodsroads so they freeze all the harder at night.
Point being things freeze hard for months up north and then its summer and subtropical... two different countries I always say He he gotta love it !!
I'd look at what bog plants would grow in that climate, they already love the soil, and are adapted to being under ice for the winter. What grows wild in bogs there? I know there are some berries that grow in cold swampy areas....
I know of a college in Edmonton where they used to plant a garden on the inside of the hockey rink every summer. There was no problem whatsoever. They grew absolutely massive carrots and lots of potatoes. They did nothing special by way of preparation -- they just tilled it and planted it every spring.
In the fall, they mowed whatever remained of the garden and took it back to bare ground. Then as soon as it was consistently cold enough, they would flood the rink and get it ready for skating.
No outdoor rink is ever completely flat; there are high spots and low spots. Flooding becomes a self-leveling process. It really helps if you get 6 inches of snow on top of the frozen ground --- that speeds the flooding process significantly. But if you notice that some areas of the garden are unusually high, you could just take a rake out there and level it a bit, albeit, you'd want to do so before the soil freezes. If it were me, I'd just pay attention as I gardened and would do my best to level things out throughout the gardening season. By October or so, when everything is cleared and the frost has killed whatever had been growing, your soil should be flat and ready to go. One last trip over it with the mower and you're ready to flood.
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