Friday, February 18, 2011

Garden in Progress

Here is the main garden on our property. It lies on the south side of the barn, next to the greenhouse. It's the perfect spot for warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and peppers, because the wall reflects a lot of heat back into the soil, and the structures help to lessen the wind. Most days this spot is at least 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the property - maybe even 20 on a really hot day. It's not huge, but I can cram a lot in here!

I spent at least 12 hours forking up the sod (this garden just sat for the past two years, growing grass and weeds), and picked out all the horsetail roots and quackgrass runners by hand. Hopefully that will make weeding easier in the long run. The quackgrass is relentless - it can send runners 4 feet through the soil and pop up a new grass plant every couple inches. Even a tiny piece of root becomes a new plant.

Then, to be absolutely certain no weed will thrive, I covered the whole area in wet newspaper. This is the foundation of a 'lasagna' garden. The theory of this gardening method is that by laying down newspaper or cardboard, then alternating layers of compost, leaves, straw, grass clippings, etc, the weeds underneath will be smothered and the worms will start to work through all the sod. After a season, everything will have broken down into really rich soil, and both the newspaper and sod will be gone. But I wanted to be on the safe side with that quackgrass and pulled it all out. And I smothered everything, just to be sure!

Here is the garden, covered in newspaper, with a little compost just to hold the paper down overnight. I'm using partially composted horse manure.

And then a layer of rotting straw. Yum!

Then a good thick layer of the compost. The area where the manure pile was needs to be finished.

Next I'll cover it up with black plastic until it's time to plant (March/April for broccoli, lettuce, beets, etc, and May/June for tomatoes, peppers, squash and cukes).

I let the cows do all the work in the other area (you can almost see it behind and to the right of the barn). We fed their hay in one spot all winter, so they've tilled it, pooped in it and churned it up with a bit of old hay for good measure. Come May I'll rope it off and plant squash, pumpkins, and melons there. And maybe some potatoes.


  1. Lasagna gardening works best if you can let it sit for a few months over the winter, but this will at least help keep the weeds down. Another trick we did in Pasadena was to "bake" the ground under black plastic in summer heat for a month.

    Another neat trick is to mulch with a few inches of woodchips after putting in the plants you do want; if you've done a good job weeding/smothering not many plants left will be able to make it through the woodchip cover, and you can just scrape most of it off and plow the rest under at the end of the season.

    I hate weeding and will expend a great deal of effort to avoid it! We're about to start indoors in our own garden too in about two weeks, though we have lamps instead of a greenhouse. We're going to cover our driveway (sunniest part of the place) with tubs of tomatoes. With luck, we'll grow enough to keep us in pasta sauce all winter without having to buy gross ones from the store!

  2. Hi Alex! Thanks for reading my blog!

    Yes, I'll be covering the lasagna garden with black plastic. I would have done this last fall but never got around to it. Better late than never, I suppose.

    Thanks for all the great ideas, and good luck with your garden this year!