This Season’s Garden Started Last Fall
My garden this year didn’t start when when I planted my first seed in the ground this spring. I started prepping the early vegetable garden last fall just after I finished harvesting the first rows in the first bed of the garden. I did this by digging up the ground and then putting grass clippings and then leaves on the beds. Also, I planted elephant garlic and regular garlic.
I also decided that I would experiment with starting indeterminant potatoes (Russets). I read that if I dug down two feet, laid a layer of leaves and grass clippings down, laid a potato on top of that, laid another layer of leaves and grass clippings on top of that and covered it with the rest of the soil and then covered that with another layer of leaves and grass clippings that it would insulate the potatoes enough to protect them until spring when they would sprout. I’ll let you know how that experiment works out.
After I planted the potatoes, I worked to finish digging that main part of the garden. Because I was doing the job exclusively by hand with a broad fork and I had to dig out Bermuda grass, the work took me until January twenty-sixth to complete.
Many people are not familiar with the broad fork. At first, I too was skeptical about getting one, especially when you consider that to buy one cost between $100-$200. Then someone explained to me how much better for the soil using a broad fork was than using a tiller.
- First, it is more cost-effective. A broad fork costs hundreds of dollars less than a tiller.
- It easier to use than a regular garden fork because it covers more ground, it takes less time.
- Using a broad fork is good exercise.
- A broad fork doesn’t require gasoline or oil and it won’t break down.
- Most importantly, a broad fork doesn’t turn over the soil, but simply loosens it and allows air to penetrate deep into the ground without causing soil impaction as tilling does. Besides, it doesn’t destroy soil tilth. nor does it disrupt the healthy microbial environment as much as tilling does.
After digging, because our woodstove was in operation, we took the ashes leftover from heating our house and spread it on the dug-up ground. I then added some composted chicken manure to the beds. I made sure that I didn’t add too much though. Too much manure gives the plants too much nitrogen which would produce too many leaves and not enough fruit.
Making Permanent Garden Beds
After January twenty-sixth, the weather turned cold and rainy for a while so I didn’t start building garden beds until early March. I planted the garden in beds last year, but this year I intend to make them more permanent. This means that I am building each bed in the same location with pathways between the beds will be in the same place too. This way I can avoid walking on the beds and can continue to improve the soil on the beds without wasting amendments in the pathways.
To make the beds I dug the good soil out of the pathways and onto the beds. Then I took sawdust and put them in the pathways to keep weeds down between the beds. The garden is now ready to plant with my early garden vegetables.
Planting the Early Vegetables
The first thing that went into the ground was to plant the next round of potatoes. Because I have planned to compare potato planting methods later, so I’ll go into how I did this in a later blog.
Next, I planted small onion sets. This is easy enough to do. I marked the rows and pressed the onions into the loose soil covering them just enough to allow the tops of the onions above the surface of the soil.
After the onions, I planted two short rows of carrots mixed with radishes, a row of beets, and a half a row of spinach and a half row of lettuce. I just marked the rows and barely covered the seeds with loose potting soil and watered the rows well.
Finally, I planted peas, but not in the garden, not yet anyway. Instead, I soaked the seeds overnight. In the morning, I filled a garden flat half full of soil then scattered the soaked peas over the soil. I covered the peas with another layer of soil and watered it the flat well. I allowed the peas to germinate before putting them in the garden and covering them with an inch of good garden soil.
How about you? What are you doing to start a garden this year?