Bountiful, First-Season, No-Till Vine Patch

| 4/3/2013 3:06:10 PM

Tags: no-till gardening, Linda Holliday, growing melons,

melon patchTo have all the watermelon, squash, sweet potatoes and pumpkin your family can eat, you don’t need to till up the whole back 40. You don’t even need a roto-tiller. Instead, simply cut out circles of sod, mulch the area and watch your garden grow.

I tried this method for the first time in 2009 and was amazed at the amount of produce (squash, cucumbers and melons) an area about 15’ by 20’ yielded. The next year, I expanded to add peppers, nasturtium, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, letting them sprawl instead of staking them. I had no trouble with bugs (they dislike crawling across scratchy mulch) and was able to keep the squirrels, rabbits and birds at bay with generous sprinklings of cayenne pepper when the plants were tiny and a moveable scarecrow all season.

To begin your garden, choose a sunny spot, possibly in a troublesome area of the lawn. Rocks and weeds will not matter. For my new vine patch, I selected a strip that is difficult to mow between the rabbit-proof fence and a line of small hazelnut trees.

Dig out circles of sod about 18” in diameter and 8’ to 12’ apart. This is easiest with a sharp and pointy shovel. Perforate the circle to a depth of about 4” all the way around with the shovel, and then use the shovel and a block (flat rock or chunk of lumber) to pry up the sod circle.

Depending on your soil, the sod usually comes up in one clump. Shake off and keep as much dirt as possible from the grass. The sod circle can be used to fill low or bare spots in the lawn. Do not put the sod in your mulch pile. Trust me – the sod will grow, even if you turn it upside down and let it freeze, dry out and turn brown.vine patch shovel hole 

Next, dig down at least 12” in each circle to take out the dirt. All vine-type plants, particularly cucumbers, are heavy feeders. So, digging out 2 feet of dirt is even better. Shovel the soil into a wheelbarrow or other large container. Set aside enough of the dirt for the top 6” or so of each hole. Mix the remaining excavated soil with well-rotted animal manure and compost. (Vines do best in rich soil.) Shovel the thoroughly mixed soil back into the holes, using the non-manure soil on top. Compost and other organic material can be added to the top layer, but no manure.

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