Category Archives: Plot Prep

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 #4 – Fall Garden Tasks

For this show I interview the inimitable Linda Chalker-Scott, author, editor, blogger, podcaster, educator and sustainable gardener, on how to put the garden to bed in autumn. I may have kept her on the topic of mulching a bit overlong, but hey, it’s one of those things that people who’ve done it take for granted, and those who haven’t can find completely baffling: when? with what? how deep?

As I write this and prepare to announce that all those questions and many more are answered on the podcast, I realize with a sinking feeling that the last one (how deep?) may not have been addressed—incredible, given how much time we spent on the topic! So let me say it here: several inches, as much as six in cold areas, if you’re truly trying to keep the soil Continue reading

Podcast #1 – From the Ground Up

When I started the podcast, everyone at Matrix Media (the syndicating company) told me that for my first interview, I should talk to someone I felt comfortable with. Who better than a neighbor? Especially a young, new, engaging, enthusiastic neighbor who is studying something about environmental agriculture? And who, along with his equally engaging girlfriend, as capable with a hammer as with a pen, is putting in a garden plot—in autumn?

It wasn’t the greatest interview—it was my first, damn it—but Tyson’s not to blame. He was terrific—an interviewer’s perfect subject: knowledgeable but not in the least bombastic or full of himself, happy to carry the conversational ball, but just as willing to follow the interviewer’s lead.

About the Podcast

The podcast is about preparing a garden in autumn, rather in spring, which is when people tend to think of doing it. There are actually a number of advantages to autumn plot prepping, especially for organic gardeners, who use a lot of composts and manures.

When those amendments are added in fall, the extra time in the ground gives worms and microbes a chance to incorporate them more thoroughly into the soil. They also go to work repairing the soil structure of any damage inflicted on it by rototillers or shovels. Even if your ground freezes, bringing all that activity to a halt, it’s only frozen some of the time. You’re still ahead of where you would be if you added your amendments in spring.

About Tyson and Jessica and my greedy nature

I’d only met Tyson and Jessica a week or two before the interview, but I invited them to Sunday brunch (a staple at our house) almost immediately. To understand why I was so excited when they moved in at the north end of my block, you need only know that for years I’d been almost the only vegetable gardener on the block. “Almost,” because over the past couple of summers one other family had begun growing not only potted tomatoes, but a few peppers and squash, and this year some cabbage and beets, in a back corner.

But there was another issue: T&J’s yard just happens to have the best apples, one of two plum trees, and the only pear tree on the block. For the past several years I’ve had free access to the apples and pears, since the woman renting the house didn’t like either. (Amazing, but true.)

When the house was put up for sale last summer, I watched with trepidation, worried that some greedy fruit-lover was going to move in and that would be that. (My own greedy, fruit-loving nature was all too clearly exposed by such thoughts.)

Near the end of summer, the house finally sold. There went the chance that it would remain on the market and its fruit mine for the taking through the autumn. My heart sank.

Then a rectangle of sod disappeared. They were putting in a garden! My heart rose.

A week or so later I met them, and they were friendly, fun folks, and yes, it was a vegetable garden, and I should by all means stop by and pick apples and pears. My heart soared, and I invited them to brunch.

So what do you do when you get great new neighbors? Actually, I have no idea what you do. I, apparently, rush to exploit them. Which I did in the form of getting Tyson to agree to an interview.* On the weekend he and Jessica were moving in. Which is why she’s building a closet. (You can hear the chainsaw near the end of the interview.)

A couple of weeks later Jessica dropped off a couple peppers she’d grown in pots. If I’d known earlier that she was a wizard with tomatoes and peppers, I’d have exploited her too.

No wonder no one on this block grows vegetables.


*It’s true that I fed them first, but I could therefore be accused of bribing them and then exploiting them.