hay

Mulch Necessities

Mulch is an integral part of organic gardening. Not only does it help conserve a precious resource, it breaks down and contributes to the organic matter in the soil. And, if that wasn’t enough, mulch helps prevent weeds. Win-win-win. Gotta love it!

Not to mention it’s inexpensive (or can be!). I use pine mulch from my neighbor’s yard. It’s free and easy, and a great way to acidify the soil–important for plants like potatoes and blueberries. Gardenias and azaleas love acid, too.

I also recycle the fall décor placed by my front door every October. Scarecrows and hay bales lend themselves well to fall festivities and ambiance, but hay also works well in the garden.

April and May, when I’ve harvested my sweet onions and potatoes, if the mulch is still in decent shape, I’ll use it around my peanuts. If not, I’ll simply till it back into the soil.

Garden leaves work well as mulch, as do grass clippings–so long as no pesticides are used on the lawn. If so, keep it FAR away from your organic garden!  Newspaper is another good source of mulch. The ink used these days is non-toxic and safe for garden use. Just make sure you’ve read all of the important pages, first.

Plastic paper is sold as mulch. Many gardeners prefer red, because the red light wavelengths stimulate the growth of tomato plants via a reaction with a pigment in the tomato plants – study done by Montana State University. Penn State did their own study that revealed blue did an even better job. Go figure. Other colors are also available.

Whichever method of mulching you use, do use one as opposed to none. It’s better on all counts!

Potatoes Are Popping!

My potatoes are nestled all snug in their beds…

potatoes nestled in hay

Bursting with joy as spring finally arrives! They’re gorgeous, aren’t they?

white and red potatoes

And quite content. After surviving a few frosts, the girls are popping. This is a mix of white and red potatoes and will be ready in another few weeks. I could harvest them now and walk away with “new potatoes” for my next meal, but I prefer to wait. There’s nothing better than fresh from the garden potatoes. They’re buttery and creamy and unlike anything you’ll get at the grocery store.

rosemary potatoes and parmesean

I might roast them with fresh rosemary or bake them with cabbage. (Recipes for both can be found in my recipe section!)

potatoes and cabbage steaming hot out of the oven

Either way, garden potatoes are a treat. And no issues with my 2016 crop–woohoo!

Meet My New Garden Project

Meet my new “garden coaching” subjects.  Justin and Eyry have decided to start a garden (yipee!) and have graciously accepted my offer to help, so long as I can take pictures and post online.  No problem.  Now they’ll tell you they’re novice gardeners, but one look at their new plot and you’ll cross your arms and knit your brow and say, sure they are…

Okay.  Those are some gorgeously formed beds, I’ll give you that–but they’re not that hard to make.  Seriously.  Not when you have the right tools, they’re not.  And I’m not talking about a well-trained husband–as shown above–I’m talking gas-powered tiller!  More

The Beds are Built and Filled

Wow—talk about progress.  Tami is making loads of the stuff! Or trenches, as the case may be.  Not only has she constructed her planter beds, but filled them as well.  Okay, her assistant Jason helped.  But hey, he misses his garden.  He’s aching for the chance to get his hands into the dirt again and Tami has offered him a little slice of hers to ease his pain.  A bit dramatic, I know.  What do you expect from a fiction author?

Back to the garden.  One of the things I enjoy most about helping others learn to garden is the fact I end up learning something new, each and every time.  With Mandy, I learned how easy radish were to grow and what wonderful companions they made in the garden.  With Ashley and Julie I learned that tomatoes are much hardier than I ever dreamed.  But an attack of leaf miners and a tipsy topsy turvy planter will do that for a gal!

Today I learned a tip for growing with raised planters.  After constructing the frame and lining it with weed fabric, add a nice layer of hay across the bottom before you add your dirt.  When I asked Jason the reason for this added tip, he shrugged.  “Don’t know.  My grandmother told me it’s what she always did, but wouldn’t give me a reason.”

Sounds like my mother sharing one of her recipes.  “Oh you know, you add it to taste.”

To taste.  Add it because it works.  Hmph.  But not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I’ll take the advice and run with it.  “Whatever works” is my motto, though I’m assuming it has something to do with better drainage and built-in compost!

She’s carved a trench along her existing fence for her beans.  Fences provide excellent support for climbing beans.  Or cucumbers.  Both would love this space!  And the square out in front of her planters?

Tami has big plans for that area.  Watermelons.  Tons and tons of wild watermelons.  She’s given them their own space to roam free which is smart.  Watermelons need the room and while you could plant the seed in the corner of the planter and allow the vines to hang over the side and run to their heart’s content, why not scoop out the existing grass and give them their own little slice of heaven?  Other than it’s a lot of back-breaking work, that is.

Oh, well.  Jason did say he loves to garden!