Category Archives: Soil & Amendments

The (Nearly) Weed-Free Garden – Podcast #30

Here’s a picture of Lee Reich’s garden:


Either he knows a lot about gardening, or he’s a whiz at Photoshop. I’m betting on the first, which is why I interviewed him for this week’s podcast, The Weed-Free Garden.

Lee has a four-part system for beating the weeds:

  •    – Don’t disturb the soil. (prevents buried weed seeds from surfacing and germinating.)
  •    – Set up permanent beds and paths. (so you won’t have to till to aerate the soil.)
  •    – Keep the soil covered at all times. (so weeds can’t get established.)
  •    – Use drip irrigation where irrigation is needed. (prevents disease in a densely planted bed, saves water, and puts the water where it’s needed: in the root zone.) Continue reading

Podcast #26 Minding Your Manure

The Show

The manure problems—pollution and contamination—that I reviewed in my last post occupy the first part of this podcast, and if that were all we covered, you too might be inclined to crawl under your desk and stay there.

A quick recap: Rather to the surprise of many an organic gardener, even organic manures can cause problems: phosphorus can contaminate surface water, while nitrogen can leak into ground water and can also form nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas almost 300 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Plot 2: Next door bindweed plot

Nasal surgery three days back has me feeling like I've been punched in the nose AND I've got one of those terrible colds that leave you totally stuffed up, except I can't blow my nose. The purpose is to help my sleep apnea, and it had better work.

Since I'm not allowed to bend over or do any heaving lifting, just about the only thing I can do relating to the garden is blog about it. So here goes.

Here's what this summer's second plot looked like three years ago–after I'd trimmed back the weeds several times:

  N.d.east plot weeds

This plot is so big, so historic, that when I actually finished it three weekends back, I felt as if I'd just dropped a forty-pound backpack I'd been hauling around for years. It's the last stretch in the big garden next door which I've now been working through three or four “generations” of young renters. I'm still in mourning for the last batch, five great guys who taught me to play beer pong (I was really lousy, even before the beer) and who came over for a couple of fine turkey dinners, one of them in May because it took us that long to get a quorum.

This June, three years after moving in, they moved on, and after three rounds of guys, there are now women in the house. All seem friendly and interesting; they're photographers, cyclists, backpackers, readers, serious cooks. All of that is great, but it begs the essential question: will they let me raise vegetables in half their back yard? Fortunately, they will.

Continue reading

Plot I: your basic dig and amend situation

Potato plot

This year will go down as the do-or-die digging marathon. Remember those four plots I've undertaken to tame and plant this summer? Here it is, mid-July and then some, and I'm still at it.

The first of the four was by far the simplest. Which may be a good thing, as it therefore got planted before the growing season was half over. Of course, there may be a difference of opinion about just how simple the job was; a certain brother-in-law of mine may be inclined to point out that I can call it simple because I didn't do most of the work. Do not listen to him.

Plot 1 was the last (of six) to be tamed in a garden its owners had given up on. They simply got too busy to garden, and several seasons back, they said sure, I could garden there, if only I'd tackle the weeds. Here's what it looked like when I started:

 Before 7-5-08

As of this summer:

  After 7-19-2011

Not to blow my own horn or anything, but– Ta-dah!

Continue reading

Fall work in spring: Let the earthworms do it!

I'm not sure where I first heard that line about letting the earthworms do your digging for you, but I'm putting it to the test this year. It's part of my effort to get away from digging in amendments every year, which is hard on the worms (they have permanent tunnels) and can even be hard on soil structure. Besides, it's too much damn work!

This year, I've got another excuse: no time. My shoulder injury last autumn meant that I barely managed to finish the harvest. As for cleaning up plots, laying down compost, prepping new plots—forget it. None of that happened.

Which means that all of that was left for spring. Which, as most of you know, has its own task list.

Now, some people faced with a particularly steep challenge will leap into action.

Continue reading