I’ve recently had a couple of people question the amount of time I spend in the garden. I thought about their questions and what I do do to work productively. In the spring and early summer I do spend several hours each day with maintenance, staking, stringing and mostly weeding. Which is something all gardeners have to do to keep a tidy garden. However, just like most gardeners, gardening is a hobby and though I do enjoy my time in the garden, I do not want to become a slave to it. So I have come up with some strategies that allow me to work efficiently so that my time is well spent. I thought I would share one with you, that maybe you can incorporate in your garden.
My kitchen garden is larger than I would have liked. My husband put the fencing up for me and made it larger than I had asked because he said I would want the extra room one day. It was a sweet gesture, but if you garden you know it meant more work. Realistically I would never need all the space to plant and feed my family, so I rotate plantings through the season and this leaves some beds empty. The problem with empty beds is that it meant weeds and loss of soil nutrients from water run off. Which left me spending my precious time pulling those weeds when I could be spending it tending to beds that were actively producing. My solution is simple and efficient.
Because I am a big believer and participant in composting, I am never short of a ready supply of black gold. With having raised beds it is simple to incorporate compost to the existing soil in which ever bed I choose. When I know a bed will be sitting empty I add a wheel barrel full of compost.
Now if a crop has just finished up, like this Bibb lettuce, sometimes I remove the crop and sometimes like now I leave the plants in the bed. If the crop is a top grower and soft, like lettuce or an annual herb, I leave the plant, if it is hard or woody like peppers or tomatoes, I remove it and throw it in the compost pile. Leaving the softer plants will just add more nutrient to the soil as it breaks down and decomposes. After I add the comost on top of the plants, I spread it evenly to cover.
I then lay two black carpenter trash bags over top of the compost to cover and then I throw a few large rocks onto the bags to keep them in place. The whole procedure takes 10-15 minutes.
This does three things, one it keeps weeds from growing in the beds and kills any existing weeds, two it helps to kill any soil diseases or pests that might be present, and three it continues the breakdown of the compost. Depending on the temperature outside, all of this can be completed in two weeks. In the meantime you will be working on maintaining the beds that are actively producing.
Another reason I like this method is because I don’t have to worry so much about crop rotation. I do try to wait a minimum of 2 years before I plant a similar crop. However, actively adding compost to a small area and merging the old soil in a bed with the compost alleviates a lot of the worries most gardeners have when planting similar crops in the same area. Again because of the heat from the carpenter bags many seeds, and eggs from the pests that would be sitting and waiting in the soil to attack are killed off. Plus adding the compost revitalizes the soil. This is something I also utilize at the end of the growing season. I top each bed with compost, without covering, and allow the rain and snow to work the nutrients from the top layer of compost down into the lower soil.
Now when it comes time to plant in the composted bed, I remove the bags, reserving them off to the side to be used again. I then lightly rake the soil to remove, sticks, acorn heads, rocks and another debris that might have made it into the compost pile. (you would be surprised what I find)
My soil is now ready to plant. I furrow my rows, plant my seeds, gently cover with the loose soil, water, mark my bed with what I planted and I am done! Quick, efficient and pleasure to complete.
Today I planted another crop of Cilantro, Beans, Leeks, and Radishes. Though I did spend a few hours out int he garden (the weather was beautiful), planting took the least amount of time because once the bags were removed, my soil was ready to be planted. No weeds or compacted hard soil to deal with, just black rich easy to work soil.
The rest of the time was spent picking the crops that were ready, which is rewarding and keeps a gardner happy and messing with the chickens, which is entertaining! 🙂
Yesterdays picking: Peppers, Chiles, Zucchini, Carrot, Cucumber and yes those are purple green beans!
Enjoy your day. I hope we have another beautiful day again today. The heat is rolling in tomorrow, YUCK.