Posts Tagged ‘sod’

Tilling sucks

June 10, 2009

OK, I suppose tilling has its uses, but I must say that my tilled area looks really bad. I worked on it some yesterday, using a garden rake and a ho to get some of the grass up. There are some weeds in the tilled area, but mostly it’s just the grass growing back. Now to be fair, I haven’t done much of anything in the tilled area. Combine my laziness with lots of rain and that explains why the grass is growing back. However, compared to my raised beds, the tilled area is much worse. It is more work and the grass is growing faster. Even the Pie Bed, (the no-dig bed in which I turned some sod upside down and then filled with some potting soil), which is the raised bed with the most weeds, does not compare to the tilled area. 
 

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

The only complaint I have with the raised beds is that there is not enough room to get the riding mower between them. We don’t have a push mower and I really don’t want to buy one since we have a gas-powered weed whacker (that I can’t start!). Ideally I wouldn’t have grass in between the raised beds. I would like a garden with no grass at all, but how to get rid of that grass? Or, more precisely, how can I get rid of that grass without chemicals and without spending a lot of money? I know that if I put down mulch that will help get rid of the grass, but right now I’m short on mulch since our bagger for the riding mower was back ordered. We can pick that up today, so as soon as I can mow again, I will have mulch and lots of it. I also know mulch would help in the tilled area.

While I like the idea of grass clippings as mulch in the raised beds and the tilled area, I would like something else to put in between the raised beds. This site, Organic Weed Control Methods ~ Mulching, has some great ideas. It has some good information about why mulching is so helpful and has a list of natural mulches, with suggestions on where to get them. None of these mulches jump out at me as easy and cheap and quick (quick as in tomorrow), unless I want to walk around collecting the grass clippings from the last time we mowed. I guess I will just wait until we have the bagger and then let the grass clippings dry and apply them to the tilled area. Then I guess I will use the weed whacker to trim around the raised beds. I think it would be a good idea to put down cardboard and/or newspaper before putting down the mulch, too.

The best idea I’ve had for in between the raised beds is to use broken up concrete. I remember reading somewhere that broken up concrete is a flagstone alternative. It can be laid out so that it looks like flagstone, but has the benefit of being more environmentally friendly. One of our neighbors just up the road has a big pile that’s just sitting there. I’ve thought about asking him if he is going to use it, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe I should stop by and ask him next time I am driving to town. I think I could always do the paper/cardboard with dried grass clippings piled on top and then add the concrete afterwards. The concrete part might be a good autumn project, though. You know, after we build a henhouse for our 24 pullets (though I suspect one of the Buff Orpingtons is a boy) and a greenhouse and a workshop for Tim.

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Gardening with chickens

May 6, 2009

Yesterday I planted peas. Yes, I realize I could have planted them weeks ago, but I was waiting for the tilling and needed to make a box, etc. So yesterday I finally made the 1′ X 4′ box for them, dug up the sod, added rotting leaves, compost, and potting soil, and newspaper, in that order. That’s not exactly lasagna gardening (or read this if your attention span or time is short), but I think it’s pretty close. It’s not exactly the mix Mel recommends in his square foot gardening books, either. He says to mix compost, peat moss, and coarse vermiculite in equal parts, but I don’t want to use peat moss because it is usually shipped from far away. However, I did read in Mother Earth News that you can substitute leaf mold for peat moss, so that’s part of why I used the decaying leaves from behind the garage (I was pretty excited to find that stash of leaves when we were mowing!). I suppose if I can find coarse vermiculite anywhere, I will try Mel’s mix. I must admit I’m having fun experimenting. Every bed is different, some dug and some not, some with the sod turned over, some with potting soil and compost, and now one with leaves, compost, and potting soil in layers. It will be interesting to see how things will work out. I think I will try the lasagna type method again, but without digging up sod.

As far as the peas go, I will need to make a trellis, of course, but that requires another trip to the hardware or lumber store, which we might do today since Tim has a day off. I’m not sure if we want to use metal in the form of electrical conduit, as Mel recommends in the All New Square Foot Gardening book or just wood. Wood would be cheaper, but I’m not sure it would last as long or be quite as sturdy. So I will have to think on that for a bit to decide what to do for all the vertical plants.

Oh, and I didn’t mow yesterday as I intended. Instead, I had to go to town to buy more cat food, pick up a prescription, and have lunch with Tim. The lunch was optional, of course, but it got the kids out of the house more than cat food or a prescription would have. So I spent the rest of the day working on the garden. Oh, and trying to keep the kids away from the kittens. Mama Cat has brought the kittens to the back porch, or maybe they came on their own. They have a place to sleep there and are getting used to us. I find it amazing they are used to us because Moira and Aidan want to carry them around, put them in the basket of my bike, take them down to the creek for adventures, and put them in hamster cages. I can understand their excitement about the kittens because they are, well, kittens! They are cute and fuzzy and playful (I can see my grandpa rolling his eyes about now and telling me I should just drown a few of them in the creek!), which makes it hard for the kids to contain their excitement. I am having a hard time getting the kids to understand that they are babies and that they do not want to go for a bike ride and they don’t want to be in a cage, nor do they want to tap dance or be stilt walkers, which involves the kids holding up their front paws to make them dance or walk around. I also reminded them that the kittens do not want to be far from their mama and that we are pretty much cage free around here. Even the chickens get to run around now and then as long as they are supervised to protect them from the outdoor cats.

Anyway, it is time to go out to the garden and do some work of some kind. I know the chickens will be happy to be out in the garden area. They are keeping the weeds down, and yesterday when I was digging up the sod for the peas, I found a bunch of red ants. I am happy to report that the chickens loved the red ants. The chickens did make it hard to do much digging, since every time I went to a spot to dig they would come running over to see what delicacy they could eat next. Digging while the chickens were out took longer, but it was a lot more fun.

Garden Experiments

April 28, 2009

I’ve been doing daily updates on the Garden in Progress page, but it’s time for a longer post about the goings on in my garden. Our original plan was to get the garden area tilled, then fence it in to protect it from deer, rabbits, raccoons, and all the other critters that live in the woods right by our house. The tilling has not been possible due to rain and mud, so perhaps this year we will skip the tilling after all. I am really waffling on the issue of tilling, but the weather might be the deciding factor. If we end up not tilling, then we will still spend money on compost and soil. However, if the raised beds do well, then we will be set for next year. We’ll just have to add compost, which we are in the process of making, and mulch and rotate crops next spring, I think.

While waiting for the tilling, I’ve been experimenting with killing grass. I have three 4′ X 4′ garden frames built and they are all out in the garden. For Experiment 1, I put newspaper on the bottom to try to kill the grass. I was too impatient and went ahead and put some potting soil and compost in the frame. I finished marking off the grids with nails and yarn, just like I did with the bed where I dug up the sod. In the middle of the last week I planted two squares, one with spinach and one with cosmic purple carrots. Then on April 25, I planted two more squares of carrots and yesterday (April 27) I planted another square of spinach and two squares of romaine lettuce with radishes in the corners. So I have 7 squares planted in that one, and will probably transplant the broccoli to the top/north most facing row.

For Experiment 2, I put down cardboard instead of newspaper, mostly because I had cardboard and didn’t have any more newspaper. The grass is dying, but not as quickly as I would like (did I mention I get impatient?). I don’t really want to put soil and compost over the cardboard. I know it will decompose eventually, but not nearly as quickly as the newspaper will. I think I will take the dug out sod from Experiment 3 (see below) and put it on the bottom, then add compost and potting soil to finish it off. That bed is too close to the others to do any vertical crops, so I think I will plant my herbs in that bed.

Experiment 3 isn’t really an experiment anymore. I dug out the sod and poured soil and compost in the frame and already planted. This is the first bed I planted and happens to be the north most one, though eventually I will have other beds north of this one. So, I will be calling it Bed 1. Here are some pictures of the progression of this bed:

Partly dug up sod

Partly dug up sod

Garden helper

Garden helper

Partly filled raised garden bed

Partly filled raised garden bed

Filled with potting soil and compost

Filled with potting soil and compost

Grids marked with yarn

Grids marked with yarn

Bed 1 (Experiment 3) fully planted

Bed 1 (Experiment 3) fully planted

This last picture was taken on April 22. Since then, bibb lettuce, radishes, spinach, parsnips, and leaf lettuce, and onions have started sprouting. It’s quite exciting. To the left of the picture (which is the north side and what I think of as the top) are the broccoli transplants that Scott the Farmer gave us and helped us transplant. We planted onion sets in each corner of the broccoli squares. The column to the right of the broccoli is where we transplanted some leaf lettuce and bibb lettuce, with some onion sets in the middle. The next column is kind of a mixture, with two squares of bibb lettuce seeds, with radishes in the corners. Then there is a square of spinach and a square with two celery transplants and some onion sets (not sure how many since the kids were helping!). The column all the way to the left (or what I think of as the bottom row) is leeks, carrots, parsnips, and onion sets. Those squares are not quite a full square foot, so instead of planting 16 of each vegetable, I only planted 12.

So far, no bunnies or deer have bothered this one, but I need to make a cover for it. There’s a quick and easy plan in All New Square Foot Gardening, so I just need to sit down with the book in front of me and try to build. Eventually I will have to use the saw myself, despite my fear of cutting off my fingers. So the next step is to build a cover (UPDATED to say this is done and there is a picture here) for the beds planted, build more frames and trellises for the vertical plants, and get an area ready for the corn, beans, and squash. I’m not going to make frames for those because that seems like a waste of wood. I will, however, try to make a raised area for it.

In a related note, I was doing some research on herbs in the square foot garden and I came upon this site, which I’ve added to my links. In particular, the page about plant spacing and herbs in the square foot garden were very useful. There’s a lot of other really good information, but I leave it to you to explore that page on your own.