Plant, Mulch, Weed . . . Repeat

The length of the growing season in this area is one of my favorite things about having a garden here. Starting a crop is an option through July, depending on the vegetable selected. In assessing whether the crop being considered will produce enough for you, review the days to maturity stated on the seed packet or plant tag. You might be surprised with what can be started now and enjoyed through the fall.

The most stress-free time of growing vegetables is BBDD: before bugs, before drought, before disappointments. There have been times when I was very thankful for the farmers, as I would have died from starvation if dependent on my own garden. Recognizing successes and altering techniques to minimize failure is part of the adventure of gardening. As an increasingly popular activity, the time spent in studying techniques and improving your vegetable garden is time well spent, as the produce yield will be greater than if the garden were left to minimal care.

Like any other plan for success, gardening does require a strategy of management and maintenance. A quick statement for that guideline is: “keep weeds at a minimum and provide adequate water and nutrients.” Those three things will create an ideal growing experience for your plants. These nourished plants will be able to fight off diseases and pests better than deprived plants.

So, how can you make your plants into fabulous producers of your vegetables? Start with mulching the soil. Any watering or fertilizing will benefit from having mulch around the plant. In addition, mulches help to retain moisture in the soil, moderate temperatures of the soil, and improve soil structure as they break down. Mulching will also keep weeds at a minimum.

There are different types of mulches. All have benefits and drawbacks. I recommend using an organic mulch and for this article, I am defining “organic” mulches as materials that were living at one time. This would include hay, straw, bark, wood chips, pine needles, compost, leaves, newspapers and cardboard. Organic mulches are biodegradable, eliminating the need to remove them at the end of the growing season while they are contributing to the building of productive topsoil.

Problems with organic mulches include the addition of weed seed or fungal bacteria. Mulches like wood chips and sawdust are not ideal for the garden as the decomposition will use nitrogen for breaking down their structures when the nitrogen would be better used by the plants in the garden. I would keep the wood products in areas where you are not gardening. If you mulch with aged compost, many of the additional nutrients are automatically provided to the plants.

Composting is an article unto itself, but is well worth including in your gardening strategy.

Another way to keep weeds down is to plant “tightly.” It is called a canopy closure and is used in row spacing. The rows are planted closely and the ensuing growth creates a canopy that minimizes weed growth.

When you get weeds in the garden, you do have a few options of how to remove them. It is best to remove weeds anytime before they go to seed. Several seasons of removing weeds prior to self sowing does minimize the quantity of the weeds to be pulled. Tedious and time-consuming, hand pulling is effective. Others will torch weeds. There is the real possibility of damaging the preferred plantings and the possibility of not controlling the flame and creating a fire. Tilling is an option but has the disadvantage of disrupting the structure of the soil. If you till, try to restrict it to the top two inches. This depth will minimize disrupting the soil structure while disturbing the weed growth. Finally, remove weeds at the end of the growing season and plant a cover crop that can be turned into the soil before the next growing season. Then we start again, using our improved ideas.

Free classes are held every Tuesday and Friday during farmers market at the Community Center at the Lane Agri-Park. They begin at 9 a.m. and last approximately one hour. Classes for June are:

farmersmarketlogoJune 3 – Susan Welchance, Rutherford County Beekeeper Association: Problem Solving in the Beeyard
Managing swarms, proper nutrition, pollen sources, splitting hives and other issues beekeepers face.

June 7 – Mitchell Mote, Extension Agent: How to Use Pesticides Safely
Maximizing damage to pests while minimizing risk to you

June 10 – Mark Murphy, Master Gardener: History & Philosophy of Organic Gardening
History and ideas behind the organic gardening movement.

June 14 – Janie Becker, Extension Agent: Cover Crops and Green Manures
Lean how adopting the philosophy of “no bare soil” can revive soils.

June 17 – Tiffany Schmidt, Extension Agent: Cooking with Kids
Introduce young ones to the joys of cooking, fun, healthy snacks. “Eat Your Veggies Day”

June 21 – Reggie Reeves, Master Gardener: Organic and Sustainable Gardening Techniques
Safe and effective organic pest control options and how to fertilize your garden using organic methods.

June 24 – Linda Lindquist, CMG Raised Bed Garden
Garden without digging by using Lasagna Garden techniques or traditional raised bed methods.

June 28 – Carla Bush, Extension Agent: Seasonal Eating—Green Beans
Selection, storage and preparation for snap beans (aka green beans, string beans, etc.)

July 1 – Pam Sites, Master FCS Volunteer: 12 Months of Tomatoes
Canning, juicing, drying, freezing, and more . . . there are many methods of saving the flavor of this summertime favorite for year-round use.

July 5 – Richard Lee, Master Gardener: Fall Gardening
Learn how to get a great start with your fall crop.


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