I have read many articles, blog entries and books about people's love of gardening. The authors all seem to be happy working hard in the sun, planting and pulling weeds. Me, not so much. For one, it is hot in the summer sun and I burn. Second, aches, pains and blisters oh my. Thirdly, there is always something else I would prefer to do... cough, cough relaxing in the shade with a book.
Needless to say, I am always looking for something to minimize the amount of work my garden requires, while still producing the all the delicious bounty of the previous years. I know you are probably thinking, hey chick, it takes hard work. You are right but I would still love to work smarter instead of harder. So this winter as I was checking out too many gardening books and memoirs from the library, I stumbled across Lee Reich's book Weedless Gardening.
I was intrigued. I got through the first third of the book before deciding I was going to try it this year. One important thing about his technique is that you don't turn the soil. Upon hearing this, my husband was not enthusiastic. What exactly is the reason that we use a rototiller to turn the soil? I don't know the answer. I thought about it too after discussing our garden with my husband and the best answer I could come up with was because that's the way it is done. Whenever I don't know the reason, I am reminded of the book Your Money or Your Life's introduction about Thinking in a New Way:
One day a young girl
watched her mother prepare a ham for baking. At one point the daughter asked,
“Mom, why did you cut off both ends of the ham?”
“Well, because my
mother always did,” said the mother.
“I don’t know—let’s
go ask Grandma.”
So they went to
Grandma’s and asked her, “Grandma, when you prepared the ham for baking, you
always cut off both ends—why did you do that?”
“My mother always did
it,” said Grandma.
“I don’t know—let’s
go ask Great-grandma.” So off they went to Great-grandma’s.
you prepared the ham for baking, you always cut off both ends—why did you do
said, “the pan was too small.”
Makes you think doesn't it?
So we are going to give it a try. One caveat: in order to see what works better, we have to do it both ways. So this year, I am going to try the techniques Lee Reich describes in about 1/3 of our fenced in garden. It is currently 50' by 90' and I am planning on using 50' by 24'. In order to use the space most effectively, I am planning on doing companion gardening as well. Try researching layouts for companion gardening and images of plans are few and far between. I did find some nice plans over at The KK Report and am hoping to use a similar design. I have space for 9 10' by 3.5' beds surrounded by an entire edging around the garden fencing I plan to fill with borage, marigolds, sunflowers and other beneficial flowers.
I am not exactly sure how I am going to lay everything out in each bed but I will probably copy the tomato beds and make three of my beds tomato centric. I also plan on a similar lettuce bed but I will probably only plant one of those and mix some salad greens into my other beds. I also like the two potato beds but would need to hold more corn and beans and ditch the lavender. It really isn't something we use often even if it is pretty. I also don't have seeds for lavender and am not all that interested in purchasing it. I am trying to make sure I don't buy anything extra this year. We have lots of seeds and we just purchased the garden biodegradable paper mulch for the weedless gardening.
Getting our seeds started
According to my planting zone this month I need to start our tomatoes, peppers, leeks and eggplants.
Normally we use potting soil and our seedlings sprout fine. This year though we read about the seed starting mix you can get. The price is about the same (per quart) as the potting soil. Since our seedlings seem to peter out a bit after the first transplanting or the second one, we are hoping this will give them that extra staying power.
The last couple of years we have tried a number of different potting containers from black plastic seed starters to biodegradable ones such as newspaper and peat pots. So far nothing has impressed us. The newspaper tends to mold in our warm (read: wood stove) heated home. The plastic is plastic and we have to transplant them multiple times. and we always break some and throw them out and I feel horrible.
This year after seeing the soil block makers is Hobby Farm Home, we did a little research. This YouTube video from Johnny Seeds was very informative. Unfortunately, after calling around, it became apparent that it wasn't available locally and we would have to order it. Ordering it would not be conducive to starting our seeds over the weekend. So we did what we always do: try and make it ourselves. Okay, to be honest, I ask my husband to make it and the wonderful, ingenious man that he is, he usually does. I am so thankful he puts up with my whims. He immediately found posts about people making their own with PVC and wooden dowels such as this post from The Dig It Yourself Garden. The problem we found was that our wooden dowel swelled. A lot. Enough so that it wasn't working. We had to find a new solution. Enter a plastic syringe, a piece of 1" PVC pipe and a metal handle thingy (Yes, in my world, thing is a technical term.):
They mixed the seed starter mix with water by hand until it was the consistency of peanut butter, packed a metal measuring cup and made the mold. It came out incredibly well. He made a total of 102.
We made 2 of these.
The small raspberry container has 12 Spanish paprika seeds planted. We planted eggplant and two kinds of leeks in one 45 soil block container. Brandywine and Sweetie cherry tomatoes in the other 45 soil block container.
I wanted to plant a lot more but he was done for the night. (It was getting late.) This morning, when we talked about it, we came to this conclusion: We are going to need at least 250 of these blocks if not 500. Then we will need to make the larger size to fit these 1" circles into. Originally we didn't realize we could buy a soil blocker kit from PottingBlocks.com, now we know that you can. We promptly ordered it. Next weekend's seeds will be started in the new soil blocker maker. (It makes twenty at a time!)
Finally, to complete our seed starting activity, I made my first entry in my Gardener's Journal.
The journal should hold 10 years worth of entries so I am trying to keep track this year, especially since I saved tomato, pepper and multiple kinds of squash and beans seeds last year and am hoping to save more this year. We also have a number of our seeds that came directly from other gardeners through Seed Savers Exchange (their yearbook for members). You can see one of my entries lists who sent me the seeds.
Hopefully some day I will be able to add my name to the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook. For now though, we are gardening one experiment at a time.