FOR 25 YEARS I have grown my vegetables in raised beds, but the kind that you need to purchase lumber and bolts and use a saw and hammer to construct, then fill entirely with soil and compost. Lately I’ve been looking longingly at photos of a centuries-old, sustainable way of making raised garden beds called hugelkultur, or hill culture. “It’s like sheet mulching or lasagna gardening,” says Dave Whitinger of All Things Plants, who regularly lectures on the subject, but in hugelkultur, “wood is the first level of your sheet-mulched bed.” In print or my latest public-radio show and podcast, hugelkultur 101 with Dave (whose robust hugelkultur onion bed that is up top). [read more…]
A healthy garden starts with healthy soil. Organic gardening tips for how to prepare soil, and plant a vegetable garden or flower garden, including garden cleanup, preparing and maintaining beds and borders are covered here.
IPLANNED TO WRITE about how to save on expensive potting soil in big pots, and other container-garden tricks, but I guess the local skunks wanted to be written about instead—those naughty tricksters! No sooner had I potted up spring pansies and violas, than the creatures of the night unpotted them (upturning the empty plastic nursery pots I’d used as a “false bottom” to conserve soil). The score, after two nights of mischief: Skunks 2, Margaret 0. Other key spring tasks here involve recycling at its best, too: I’m making new beds and smothering weeds with cardboard and newspaper, and of course there’s the biggest garden recycle operation of all, how to make compost, and lots of it. (More photos of the 2013 edition of the Pansy War and my temporary solution on the jump.) [read more…]
I HAVE ISSUES with mulch–and what is, and is not, qualified to be used as this most important of all garden “tools.” Yes, I am fussy on this score, very fussy–as doodler Andre Jordan knows. Want to know just how fussy? My popular Mulch FAQ Page will answer that (and all your mulching questions, from which material to how deep to apply it and much, much more). Can we all make this the year we give up the plastic-bagged junk in favor of a pre-composted, locally produced product that actually helps build healthy soil, and supports soil life? Imagine that! (And imagine a landscape without a dyed orangey-reddish blight upon it.)
I ALWAYS SAY “feed the soil, not the plants,” which for decades has meant to me to turn in compost—lots and lots of compost, and then more—and every few years a topdressing of organic fertilizer. Lately I’ve been curious what more I can do, as stressors ranging from dryspells to disease test me and the plants. I’d often read about inoculating the soil with mycorrhizae–myco means fungus and the suffix means root, so literally root fungi, a word used to indicate a symbiotic relationship between the two. Until last fall, at garlic-planting time, when I purchased $49.50 worth (enough for the garlic, plus my whole vegetable garden) I’d never experimented hands-on. More about my mycorrhizae adventure: [read more…]
THINKING OF CREATING SOME NEW BEDS next spring? Or as you’re cleaning up this fall, have you noticed that you need to smother some pesky weeds and turn existing beds back to tame? Don’t wait till winter ends; starting now–in autumn–make (or smother) a bed with cardboard, or newsprint. Here’s how to kill weeds and prep new gardens easily and without chemicals–perhaps where lawn grows now–and without having to till. Let the coming winter months work in your favor, and get a jump on springtime chores.