Friday, June 22, 2012

Gardening 101: Day-to-day

The garden is on its way.  Blossoms are forming. Stems and leaves are stretching skyward.  Tendrils are grasping their loopy fingers around blades of grass and other items within their reach.  Each morning before it gets too hot out, we walk the garden.

Light rains overnight are a blessing.  It makes the soil pliable, easy for baby plants to grown strong, healthy roots.  One needs to watch that the garden gets the right amount of rain.  Not enough and the plants will not set fruit.  Too much and things will rot and spoil.  If rains have been sparce, supplimental watering in the evening with a soaker hose is helpful. 

On the downside, light rains and supplimental watering will also encourage opportunistic weeds to grow.  If these are taken care of while they are small, a few minutes each morning, the garden will be relatively weed free.  Skip weeding and things will be difficult.  fortunately there are all sorts of items to help the home gardener with what feels like the never ending journey toward that first fruit for the table.

To begin: we don't use chemical weedkiller of any sort in our gardens.  To keep weeds under control we compost or gently till & remove the weed sprouts.  I prefer to use a hand cultivator for this task.  It looks like a large bent fork or according to WeeChick, like moma chicken's foot.  It gives me the control to gently loosen the soil enough to rake the weed seedlings out root and all,  yet not disturb the growing vegetable's roots.  It also has the benefit that in event that WeeChick jumps into the work zone, she is less likely to be injured than if a powered device was being used (besides my little chicken helper is very handy at removing unwanted grubs we occasionally come up).

To demonstrate the importance of periodic maintenance, the left side of this group of Cauliflower was cleared of weed seedlings over a week ago and the area to the right was left alone.  In no time at all the area to the right was starting to be taken over by weeds.  Working with WeeChick, it took about an hour (including playtime and snack breaks) for us to clear about 16 row feet.

So far I have been unsuccessful at using weed blocking materials in the gardens.  The black weedblocking material gets hot in the summer sun.  By adding chips or compost on top of it appears to encourage our local slug and snail population.  When I finally find a happy balance, I will share that info with you.

Now a word about weed removal tools.  There are all sorts of tools out there designed to make weeding easier.  With most weeds, if you don't remove the root, the weed will grow back.  So tools that claim to cut down the weeds then 'churn them into healthy compost' can turn your garden into a bit of a nightmare if you're not careful.

One weed care easily turn into hundreds.  This is a bit of milkweed root that was accidentally left when initally preparing the soil.  Buds formed on the rootlet, creating three where there had been one.  So clear those roots out as you find them, moving them far the garden.

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