What’s Happening in the Garden

Yesterday I managed to get four 5×5 beds covered with about two inches of fine sand. These beds will be used for planting annual flowers and herbs and a few perennial herbs. I originally planned to turn the sand into the soil but decided to leave it on top so it could act mulch and help prevent weed growth. I think this will work. Instead, I’ll turn the sand into the soil next February as I prepare the beds for March planting.

I picked another basket-full of Dixie White Butterpeas. The Dixie White is a small heirloom lima bean that is extremely prolific  in our area. It requires no special treatment, has no pest problems, and does exceptionally well in drought conditions. I planted only a half cup of seed this past April and have so far collected over four cups of dried beans. I could have easily gotten more if I’d stayed on top of things in the garden. We will definitely plant more.

October is also the month to start collecting marigold seed. As the flowers dry, pinch them off the stalk. Crush the flowers and spread them in an open container to dry a little longer. I never tried to separate the seed from the debris, just be sure everything is dried thoroughly before storing. Once dry, I dumped everything into a plastic ziplock bag and left the bag open on a dry shelf of my home.  At planting time I spread the debris evenly across a tray of soil, lightly covered it with more soil, dampened the tray and set it in a sunny area. Once the tiny plans began to pop up, I transplanted them into cell pack to grow until time to go to the garden. Simple.

I decided to wait until November to set out garlic. Last year the stalks grew very tall before we finally got a killing frost. I want the stalks to grow but I don’t want them to grow taller than I can mulch.

Last October I set out six comfrey roots into one 5×5 bed. The comfrey has done very well so I think it is safe to thin the root and start another bed. I hope to get this done today.

Next year we plant to have eight 5×5 beds for growing tomatoes; this is enough space for 32 plants without close-space planting. Powdery mildew can easily become a problem with our high humidity summers so spacing tomatoes to allow plenty of air flow is essential. These eight beds will become permanent tomato spots. I’ve already cleaned the beds, turned amendments into the soil, and turn under a little ‘no so done’ compost. The plan is to cover the beds with thick hay mulch and let set as-is until February. Then we plan to solarize them using a heavy clear plastic until the plants are ready to set out sometime in late April. Once the plants get about knee-high, we’ll mulch each one with a thick layer pine straw. ( This is the plan anyway).

I considered rejuvenating the strawberry beds this month but right the plants are still growing like crazy. If I cut them now I may need to do it again before growth finally stops. Waiting until next month should give the plants time to shut down on their own. Raising strawberries naturally by hand is a very time-consuming project as daughters grow rapidly and have to cut off. We set out 150 organic plants last February and now have at least tripled that number. The fruit will be delicious and plentiful in the spring but next time we’ll only plant a small area. Perhaps just a few plants mingled into the green bean bed.

We do plan to grow another small fruit ~ Rabbiteye Blueberries. I still have a lot of research to do on them though. But we will be setting them into pre-existing garden beds so no bed prep is necessary except the usual fall cleaning and adding of soil amendments. Yay! We plan to set out 9 bushes, each into its own 5’x5′ bed. Hopefully, deer won’t become a problem. Do raccoons like blueberries?

I’ve decided to plant only one more apple tree. We’ll set out a Yellow Delicious this winter. The only reason I’ve decided to plant only one instead of the original four is because the beds are hard to dig, take a while to dig, and right now I just can’t get to it. Instead I’ll set the tree into a corner of an existing 3’x50′ bed where sunflowers will be planted next year. I think it’ll work. We will set out two pecan trees this year, though, because they grow pretty well here and no special bed preparation is needed.

I’ll also be broadcasting crimson clover into the beds where sweet corn will be planted next year. The clover will be cut back in March. The top growth will be added to the compost as a nitrogen fix (it is very hard to get green stuff early in spring) and the stalks and roots will be turned into the soil to add nitrogen for the corn. The beds are still not ready though as hot peppers are still producing. Once the peppers are out, though, the beds will be cleaned of any weeds and debris that may not compost over winter such as sweet gum ball, pine cones, and/or large sticks. Matter that is in the decomposition fase will suck nitrogen from the soil and we don’t want that.  Anyway, once the bed is all clean the amendments will be added and turned under and clover will be broadcast. I just sling the seed onto the beds, chop it into the soil with a bow rake, and then water it really good. That’s it.

Well, I could sit and rattle on and on about my garden (it is my passion), but I have to get out of this chair to get things done. Happy growing!