In the garden, my largest battle every year is without a question weeds. They rule everything, relentlessly.
The first year I tried to garden, I didn’t really know much about Mulching, and lost control of the ship early on. Despite Epic Weeds, however, the crops did great that year, thanks to wonderful weather.
The second year, I mulched everything with landscaping fabric and straw pretty religiously; however, the straw was badly-combined, and had a ton of seeds in it. By August, I had a robust (and entirely unwanted) crop of wheat. Everywhere. Crab grass took root on the landscaping fabric and did a fine job growing right through it.
That year was terrible for many crops, thanks to massive rains for weeks on end early in the year, immediately followed by intolerable heat and insects. Tomatoes did well; that was pretty much it. Too, my energy and motivation last year wasn’t great, so I didn’t stay on top of everything as I should have.
This year, I’m going to do Better.
There will be more, thicker landscaping fabric. There will be better straw. There will be more actual physical pulling of weeds. There will be better segregation of spreading crops, and succession plantings.
I swear this to you now, publicly.
Two weeks ago, I started my indoor flats. Our weather was regularly 40 degrees warmer than it should have been, after an incredibly mild winter. As a related aside, there will be almost no maple syrup coming from Michigan this year, due to the bizarre lack of a proper winter and spring; I recommend buying now and stocking up for when it’s much more expensive.
When I started my indoor seeds, I had every intention of also getting peas into the ground outside – but I didn’t. Then, we had a freezing cold snap for a few days, after the flowers and trees were already budding – the fallout from this remains to be seen, but it won’t be good. With the USDA new zoning map, we’re right on the cusp of zones 6a and 5b; however, that means little this year.
Today, I finally nutted up and got three varieties of peas and two varieties of spinach into the ground. I’m trying something new with each.
Typically, when I have grown peas, I’ve grown them up a pyramid bamboo trellis. This works well except for two problems: 1.) The center becomes a mass of weeds unless it’s covered with landscaping fabric; 2.) It seems like it wastes a fair amount of space.
Thus, this year, I’m going to grow them straight up a wooden matrix at the edge to see how they do. This should also make harvesting a bit easier, in addition to saving space.
Thankfully, the area where I began my spring work had been thoroughly and thickly covered with straw since April or May of last year, and there wasn’t much growing there yet.
Less than an hour later, and I had the wooden matrix attached to the fence, the ground cloth down and secured, and my little seeds happily planted.
I’m also trying a new method of cutting holes in the landscaping fabric, rather than putting the fabric down on each side once the plants have sprouted and grown a bit. Hopefully less work, without interfering with the germination and young seedling phase. Varieties of pea which went in today: Sugar Ann Snap (dwarf,) Sugar Snap, and Green Arrow Shelling.
I’m trying something similar with my raised beds, too. Two varieties of spinach went here: Bloomsdale, and Long-Standing Bloomsdale. To assist with the weed war, I cut trenches into the fabric for the seeds, to minimize the area where the weeds could grow. One downside of this method is how many ground staples it takes to secure the cloth so it doesn’t blow up against delicate seedlings. We really need to add more dirt to this bed, too – it’s settled out extensively.
The other 1/2 of the bed is reserved for future plantings, perhaps trellised beans. It will remain totally covered with cloth to prevent weed germination and growth.
The rest of the garden remains in a dismal state, and I’ll need to address it shortly. The crab grass is already getting Out of Hand.
But not today – I have to make sure I don’t burn out early on and once again lose control of the whole deal.
What are your gardening plans for the year? Did you also have a ridiculously mild (for your area) winter? Do you remember a magical time of year once called “spring,” during which neither the heat nor the air conditioning needed to be run?