Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gardening 101: Weeding, Fertilizing, & Caging the Garden

I'm a bit behind with this post but we've had a cool and wet spring and if gardening has taught me one thing, it's that Mother Nature will not be hurried along.

Garden maintenance requires weeding. And the vigilant gardener will be rewarded by stronger produce and neat and tidy garden rows. The trick is that the early plants and seeds must have time to sprout such that you can identify that which is a desired plant and that which must be removed.
My regular garden plan is to keep up with the weeds and be sure that plants are thriving and then to spread newspapers between the garden rows. I cover the newspapers with a layer of cedar mulch; typically I put down about an inch of mulch; enough to cover the newspapers and neaten the garden.
This year, we've had a lot of rain. Three times I weeded, with the expectation that I would lay down the mulch within a few days, only to be confronted by more rain. Newspapers and mulch in the rain is not fun and so I'd wait to put out the mulch, only to fall back into needing to weed. I repeated this pattern more often than I care to admit. But last weekend, I finally finished up the mulch job. Now there is plenty of tidy space for the growing pumpkins and squash.
Why mulch and newspapers? First and foremost, it's effective weed control. Controlling weeds means that the plants you want to grow will have more room and resources to thrive. So weeding is critical. Newspapers are organic and printed with soy ink. Soy is good for the soil and so as the newspapers decompose, they nourish the soil. Same with the wood chip mulch that I put down. Prior to decomposition, they'll keep the weed population in check and help to hold water, a handy notion as the summer weather turns up the heat. When the growing season is over, the newspapers and mulch can be turned back into the soil to nourish things over winter. It works for me.

I've also got most of my tomato plants caged up, to provide support for what I hope will be a lush crop of tomatoes. The cages also provide support for the plants when the rain pours down. My advice is that you put up the cages before the plants seem to need them. They cages seems to tower over the plants right now, but that won't last.
I've harvested some radishes and clipped some basil, oregano, and cilantro for cooking. That will tide me over until early next month when the garden will start to supplement my grocery supply. This week, I will plant a second round of carrots and beets, for harvest in late September. And, soon, there will be cut flowers from the zinnias.

Perhaps the best part of the garden at this stage is the daily growth. Most evenings, JT and I take a walk out back and to check out our garden's progress. I love that part of the day, sharing my pride in the growing plants with my growing boy.


Nichole said...

You certainly are a dilligent gardener. Our garden is very small, so I just get the hoe out once a week and weed that way. The rain has been a pain though, like you said. Our soil is like clay. Pull a weed and a huge clod of dirt comes up, too.

Shark Butt said...

Caging the garden sounds all racy and sassy.