Hard Work Now Means Relaxed Gardening Later


turning the soil

I put in four days of hard labor this week — well, four half-days. Actually, it was more like four days of about four hours each. Later in the season, or younger in body, I could have done it all in one day. But it’s only March, and I am out of shape due to a sedentary winter of writing and arting, so spreading it out was a more intelligent choice.

The heavy physical work I put in digging up last year’s potato bed and giving it my style of finishing will let me float through the season with less time tending to weeds and more energy going into my veggies. This is a style I’ve developed over a number of years.

I employ the use of light layering and mulching with most of my beds. I can’t remember the last time we roto-tilled. Instead, I opt for layering in what I have on hand along with straw — both old and new.

Years ago, I purchased four huge rolls of fabric at an auction. Seamstresses would recognize it as a sort of non-woven interfacing; upholsterers might see it as dust cover fabric. While I’ve used this stuff for those purposes and more, far and away the largest use for me has been as weed suppressors beneath fresh straw.

I don’t normally have to turn last year’s beds. I simply pull up my used layer of thin cloth, dump the old straw and whatever else I’ve thrown into the mix (leaves and other compostables) onto the ground. I then cover the soil with new fabric and a thick mulch of fresh straw. When it’s time to plant my seedlings, I simply clear a small space in the straw, cut an "X" in the fabric, tuck under the edges, prepare the hole, and plant.

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