Mulching Rotating Pesting

by sageandhoney

Lupines: amazing nitrogen fixers!

Lupines: amazing nitrogen fixers!

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I could dedicate this whole blog to gardening. But honestly I am ready to wrap it up with organic gardening and move onto some of the things I learned that moved me the most. I have been holding out on talking about permaculture and raw food mostly because I have wanted to learn more…there is so much information out there on the web at some point you just have to pick out the things that make sense to you and work for you and disregard 90% of what you hear, learn and read. But it has been an amazing couple of weeks since I have been home and I have some great photos and recipes of the some of the food we’ve been eating..

I mean just check out some of the foods I get to work with during the summer months:

farmers market glory

farmers market bounty

So this is the gardening wrap up blog, for now, I am sure I’ll have more information to share down the road.

Weed control: mulched pathways

Weed control: mulched pathways

Mulch mulch mulch: Mulch is a ground cover preferably sourced locally. Depending on where you are, straw, seaweed, composted leaves, wood chips, cardboard, burlap sacks, newspaper or whatever else you can find that works can serve as mulch.

Mulch serves as:

  • Weed control
  • Adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down
  • Retains moisture, captures the dew in the morning cutting down water use
  • Keeps soil temperature consistent
  • Reduces/prevents soil erosion—water erosion break up soil aggregates, so mulch helps retain soil structure by diminishes water damage

Information and how to:

  • Straw is generally the best mulch. Make sure you use STRAW not hay. Hay is cut after the weed seeds have formed and straw is cut before the weed seeds have formed. Keeping weed seeds out of your garden mulch will save you a lot of trouble.
  • Annual crops: mulch around the plants leaving a 4 inch  circumference around the stem, making sure no mulch touches the stem. The straw should be about 3-6 inches deep. It is hard to over mulch your garden, always go for more rather than less, you should not be able to see dirt through your mulch layer; the goal is to keep the sun from penetrating and offering life to unwanted weeds.
  • Perennials: You can use straw or other mulch here too, but composted leaves work well as they add nitrogen and promote different fungi (these are goooood!!). Mulch about 2-3 inches deep, again leaving a 4 inch circumference around the stem of the plant.
  • Too much mulch can suffocate the soil. This is pretty hard to accomplish, unless you are piling mulch a few feet high, just be aware of this risk.
  • Wood chips work better for perennials. They take longer to break down and therefore better for plants that will be there for years.
  • Some mulch is acidic, such as oak leaves and pine straw. These leaves work well for plants that love acidity (blueberries, strawberries) but just be aware of which plants prefer more or less acidic soil before applying this mulch.
  • If you live close to the ocean seaweed is an incredible mulch. Talk to local gardeners and people at the farmers market for more information. Plants absorbing elements and minerals from the seaweed will be incredibly nutritious, I’ve even heard of people growing sprouts with 20:1 water to ocean water just to get these elements.
  • In the pathways we can use more aggressive mulch like cardboard, newspaper and burlap sacks. In the children’s garden we dug out pathways and laid down cardboard. On top of the cardboard we placed large heaping piles of wood chips. The idea is to create a weed barrier that will last, so do not skimp on any of the steps or you’ll have more labor in the future!
  • Wait until the soil heats up before you mulch. Plants like to grow in warm soil and you must allow the temperature to increase to a comfortable growing condition for the plants you plan on growing.
Resting rows

Resting rows

Crop Rotation:It is important to rotate crops if possible in the garden. This confuses pests, allows the soil to rest and/or regain nutrients and promotes more diversity.

  • Essential on large scale gardens
  • Three categories of plants: heavy feeders, light feeders, and heavy givers. These relate to amount of nutrients taken or given from the soil.
  • Do not plant heavy feeders in the same place year after year.
  • Have a 3-4 year plan for your garden. Rest parts of the garden every few years, plant heavy givers during rest years such as: clover, alfalfa, field peas, hairy vetch, fava beans, winter rye, oats, or any other plants that fix nitrogen in the soil.
  • Crop rotation breaks pest and weed cycles

Being an observer in your garden is essential. There are endless resources where you can learn about gardening, but none written with your specific plot, space, acreage or otherwise in mind. Learn and grow with your plants over the years and you will have a better sense of what works.

Colorado Potato Beetle super pest

Colorado Potato Beetle super pest

IPM→Integrative pest managment:

  • Pest managment style
  • Pest control starts with preventative measures. Most importantly, start with healthy soil. Overcrowded, not enough light, too much water and stress attract pests.
  • Companion planting helps strengthen natural resistance
  • When you discover a pest do not panic! First identify the pest using a book, or internet resource, what is the pest? What eats this pest? Some pests are best hand picked in a small garden. Often people will chose to spray a plant to eliminate a pest when, if they had been patient, the equilibrium of their gardens ecosystem would have been realized shortly as predators and beneficial insects moved in to eliminate the problem without harsh chemicals.
  • Plant pathogens include: bacteria, some fungi, and viruses
  • Healthy soil is the key to prevention
  • Compost compost compost! This builds the health of your soil incredibly!
  • Clean up your garden at the end of the year, disposing of diseased plants
  • Talk to other farmers and growers about common diseases and solutions
  • Diseases are easily spread by water, avoid working with plants while they are wet. Clean your garden tools with a bleach solution (in a spray bottle)
  • White floating row cover helps reduce invasive animals, disease and pests
  • Mulch helps prevent plants from getting splashed by soil, keeping disease off of the plants
  • Drip irrigation is best as the leaves of the plants are not soaked and made vulnerable

As always find resources that work for you, the best resources are usually farmers and growers at your local farmers market, if there is a common pest they will definitely know it!

Planting potatoes in the new fields

Planting potatoes in the new fields

Garden crew with Amy the amazing master gardener

Garden crew with Amy the amazing master gardener

Garden crew with Miriama, Amy's apprentice for the summer

Garden crew with Miriama, Amy's apprentice for the summer

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