Time to start the garden!

By Lynette L. Walther | Nov 02, 2018
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther Start a new garden now for easy planting next spring. This bonanza of seaweed will soon be covered with leaves, sawdust and other organic ingredients and allowed to “cook” over the winter for an enriched garden next spring.

Yeah, yeah, I know you just put the gardens to bed. You got the old vegetable plants pulled out, put the garlic in the ground for next year, even planted in a few tulips or daffodils for color next spring, cut back the perennials, mulched the roses and the rhubarb. Good for you! But now it is time to start a new garden.

You read that right. There is no time like the present to get a new garden ready for planting next spring. And by doing it now, you set up a site prepared to plant in the spring with very little work involved. Sharon Turner of Crystal Lake Farm & Nursery in Washington spoke at a recent Merryspring Nature Center presentation and explained how to do just that.

Turner rejects the idea of tilling or using a cultivator to prepare the ground for planting or establishing a new bed,. Instead she uses a “permanent mulch” approach. Here’s how she explained it can be done in five easy steps:

1. Site the garden so that it gets the desired amount of sun exposure and do a soil test before going any further.

2. Use a string trimmer or a mower set as low as possible to take any grass or other growth down to the soil level. Cover the area with a thick layer of wet newspapers. Turner said that soaking the paper in a tub or wheel barrow first not only prevents the papers from being blown by the wind, but also enables the paper to conform to the surface levels. She said to avoid using coated insert paper, and also noted that most newspaper is now printed with harmless soy inks. This thick layer essentially kills anything growing under it.

3. Next start adding layers of organic material — wood ashes, leaves, manure, rotten hay, seaweed, sawdust, grass clippings, kitchen and garden trimmings. As Turner put it, “Get your hands on as much organic material as you can.” That’s right, spread it out and pile it up.

4. Turner recommends beds about three to four feet wide in order to tend them easily from both sides. And that’s about it. Yes, you can add ingredients to the area throughout the winter, though for appearance’s sake, a layer of dried leaves covering the plot will help camouflage it. Over the winter the material will compost completely, and in the spring will reveal a new garden spot, mulched and amended with compost.

5. When you are ready to plant, simply push aside the composted material to create depressions in which to plant seedlings. The mulch layer will not only nourish the plants, but also helps to keep the moisture in and weeds out. There is no need to cultivate or turn the soil below. Plant additions go right into the mulched top layer, which by next spring will be finished compost. Often the compost will correct soil deficiencies, but Turner suggests another soil test in the fall. So, what are you waiting for? Right now there still is work to be done in the garden, and come spring you’ll be glad you did it now.

Fall leaves are just the one of the organic additions to use when establishing a new permanent mulch garden. The time to get started is right now. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
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