Plotting plots

With Longshot scaling up from three garden plots to twelve, I've had to adopt a new mantra.

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I want to take my time in creating and maintaining healthy, weed-free garden beds.

I want to take my time in creating and maintaining healthy, weed-free garden beds.

I will take my time in creating and maintaining healthy, weed-free garden beds for the coming spring season.

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There are a number of things I would do differently so I can spend more time on crops and distribution and less on weeds.

This past April, Sean and I took up the grass to make new garden plots each measuring roughly 30x50feet. After my failed attempt to kill the grass with tarps Sean very happily took the bucket of our New Holland tractor, aptly named Brunhilda, and dug into the earth to flip the grass over. Then we took Gerta, our rototiller, and crushed up the chunks of grass as best as possible. We covered the plots in $1200 worth of organic matter and started seeding and transplanting. This was one way to start a garden that I wouldn’t recommend or repeat. While it was a perfect method for us at the time, I feel like this method, in part, contributed to our on going battle with pests and weeds.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Currently, our garden has three stages of garden prep (fig. 1). On the right, we have dahlias in full bloom attracting bees and monarchs, in the middle are the rows almost ready for planting garlic and on the left are the recently plowed beds for expanding our plots.

The other day, Sean, Simon and I piled into my mom-mobile, the Ford Escape (fig. 2), to pick up a new plow attachment for Brunhilda. While Sean may have had a great time living out his childhood dream of becoming a Tonka tractor truck driver, flipping the earth with the bucket of the tractor took 8-10 hours. The plow attachment turned three times as much land over in roughly half a day, once Sean figured out a couple kinks.  

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

With mid-October upon us, the garlic needs to get seeded this weekend. Before I can get those cloves in the ground, I’m trying to make sure I take into consideration what I observed this past season when it came to preparing the earth for a crop.

First of all, I need to reshape the rows. The rows I made in the spring are far too mountainous which encouraged more wind erosion and made more surface area for weeds to grow. This fall’s garlic rows will be level with the ground.

Second, I need to create at least a one-foot border between any garden edge and grass. This will keep weeds from the yard at a distance so not to sneak their way back into the garden. The border will also eliminate the damp, dark lean-to I accidentally made for slugs by not whipper-snipping the edge of the garden.

Lastly, I need to take more time preparing the rows. Two weeks ago I deep weeded the rows for garlic. That means digging out all sprawling and tap-rooted weeds at the source and removing them totally from the garden. Then, I rototilled. Waited a week, raked out any debris and rocks that surfaced, and tilled again. The idea being that continued disturbance will discourage any remaining weeds reestablish themselves. (Curtis Stone has a helpful talk about this exact thing)

Fig. 3

Fig. 3

When I removed the three rows of tomatoes in August because of late blight, I left those rows empty and unattended which allowed for weeds to pour in and establish themselves. Now I am paying the price and spending hours deep weeding so our beds stand a better chance in the coming spring. While digging around in the dirt and following deep taproots back to their source (Fig. 3) is majorly cathartic, it is also a frustratingly slow process. While sifting out weeds it’s hard to remind myself that things take time. And they will take as long as they take. 

Overall, it sounds simple, but I see now that I need to continue to put in the time and effort to make clean beds and keep them clean. That means removing rocks completely out of the garden and not just tossing them to the side.

That means using proper mulch if I want to mulch the walkways instead of tossing brussel sprout leaves on the ground. That means bringing in any gloves I lazily left outside overnight and then promptly ran over with the lawnmower. That means using my brand new hoe to actually get the young weeds out of the garden. Clean as you go I guess applies to cooking and gardening.

 

JJ Davis