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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Everything grows

We "sheet mulch" with cardboard (tape and plastic removed) in the fall and hide it with straw. Come spring, what's left of it (worms love the stuff) is mushy enough to plant seedlings right through it, then we layer on grass clippings. Unsightly bits such as tea bags are tucked UNDER the cardboard (winter) or go to the compost heap (summer) with the barn bedding (which, if hot, as in full of poultry manure, must age before going to the garden).

Here there is cardboard across the whole garden, paths and all, cleverly hidden beneath straw and autumn leaves. The leaves are on the beds, on top of a general layer of straw. Worms move freely underneath and find plenty of work to do.


Seedlings may be set out directly through the mulch and the softened cardboard in spring. I prefer a right-angled trowel, or Korean hand hoe, for this work. At 63, I find a kneeling bench indispensable as well.


Keep lots of planting soil mix on hand, homemade or commercial (organic preferred). To sow seeds directly, pull aside mulch and wet cardboard to expose mineral soil and throw in a handful of mix.


You can do rows; I tend to put everything in hills, putting different kinds of stuff side by side to confuse pests. Sow seeds, toss on a bit more mix to the correct depth for planting, tamp gently, move on. Come back with the hose and offer enough water to get things started.


As things put on size, add more mulch. Everything grows and gets a head start on the weeds without cultivation. If wet weather ensues, you may find a lot of slugs*. Hand pick aggressively and give them to the poultry to boost egg production. 

Wheat sprouts in our straw; when this happens, we give it a week or so and then flip it over. Weeds will figure out this system by late summer but can be selectively beheaded with a sharp hoe. If they get ahead of you in patches, bring more cardboard, hiding it under straw as you did last fall.

We find that a garden grown in this fashion is much more resistant to disease, insects and drought than a tilled garden, even here in the Northwest. No poisons or commercial fertilizers required. "Your mileage may vary."

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* Yes, we are Oregonians.

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