Sunday, March 1, 2009

Preparing for spring : Our garden - Year 2

Last year, my husband and I had the great pleasure of acquiring a little plot of land at out local community garden. We thought it was a great green step to city living. We decided to sign up rather late in the season so we rushed through the preparations and opted for nursery grown plants. We weeded, tiled, turned and fertilized the soil with bags of organic compost bought at the garden center and planted our little garden.

It had been a rainy week so the following days, we stayed home. When we decided to return to check on things and do a bit of "light" maintenance, we were horrified to find that all the weeds had grown back in force and we could barely differentiate them from the little plants that were struggling for room to grow. This event was only a preview of our war on weeds. The remainder of the growing season only got worse before it was over.

So as I mentioned before, I love to know the why of things, especially when those things are coming between me and my desire for a greener, healthier life. After loads of research, I've come up with a chemical-free plan for snuffing out the weeds this year and actually getting to enjoy gardening :

Step 1:

As soon as the snow is melted off our lot (this part may not apply to all of you considering I live quite a ways up North) and the hot spring sun is out, we will cover the whole patch with dark landscaping tarp held down with bricks, to stop the weeds from getting the light and air they need to break dormancy and actually start spreading and growing. The increased heat and darkness will actually go as deep as the underlying rhizomes and stop them from taking over your garden. It is recommended to leave the tarp down for about 6 weeks, until it's time to prepare the garden for planting.

Step 2:

Once the soil has been turned and all the "remains" have been removed, strategically position your plants, alternating high growing plants (like tomatoes, peppers, bean bushes, etc.) with low, ground covering cultures (like cucumbers, squashes, cantaloupes, etc.) so that there is a minimum of light between the rows.

Step 3:

Use mulch in the walkways and on all areas where the sunlight hits the ground. You can also lay down newspaper under the mulch for an extra barrier of weed protection. Not only will the paper and mulch block the light and air supply again, but as they naturally biodegrade, they will give back nutrients to the soil of your garden.

I hope this helps and if any of you have ideas and suggestions, please feel free to post them here!