Last year around August, if you drove past our ambitiously large garden, you probably said to yourself, “My goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a nicer looking crop of…weeds.” I love gardens and watching things grow, but I don’t have much interest in spending time painstakingly plucking every single undesirable out of our garden. Can’t we just throw seeds in the ground and then magically harvest them later? No? Okay, fine.
They say stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. With that in mind, we’re changing our garden game plan a little this year.
First of all, let’s set one thing straight. I still have no desire to do any weeding.
I also don’t want to dump bucket loads of weed killer on food that I’m feeding my family. But I do have a secret plan to grow less weeds while growing better vegetables. My plan of attack for the garden is G.R.O.W. (And I must say, I feel rather clever for coming up with this acronym at 6 AM before my morning coffee.)
G: Grass Clippings. One thing we have in glorious abundance around here is grass clippings. We don’t live in town, so we don’t have any neighbors peeking out of the windows from across the street and shaking their heads in disgust when our grass gets over three inches tall.
By the time we got around to mowing the lawn for the first time, the grass clippings piled in windrows that looked big enough to bale. Honestly, I looked at the piles of grass and thought, isn’t it a shame that they don’t make a little tiny baler that could hook onto a lawn mower?
Perhaps mowing was a little past due.
Then I remembered our gardening guru friend Becky from Montana. She always puts grass clippings between her garden rows. It keeps the weeds at bay and also holds in the moisture, something vital for growing in dry land Montana. A ha! Yes, of course, we NEEDED grass clippings in abundance. It’s for the good of the garden. The grass is free mulch.
Which brings me to my next plan of attack:
R: Recycle, as in Newspapers. Old newspapers will get new life blocking weeds. Our full plan to keep the weeds at bay between rows: Place a layer of 6-10 sheets of newspaper on the ground (no shiny paper), wet them down so they don’t blow away, and then place a layer of grass clippings on top. Newspaper plus grass clippings create an all natural weed barrier and also block sunlight, further deterring weed growth. It’s a garden win/win: inhospitable for weeds, and when grass and newspaper decompose, they enhance the soil.
Any weeds that manage to sneak through will be puny and wimpy. I can kill puny and wimpy.
O: Organic fertilizer. Right next to our garden is our shed that the chickens call home. Everyone knows that feed goes in a chicken, and eggs come out. The other fine thing from that end of the chicken is loads of free fertilizer. Yes, today, I’ll call it “fertilizer.” When it’s stuck on my shoe, I call it something else.
After a little internet research, I confirmed I can’t simply clean out the coop and dump it right on this year’s garden. The manure would burn the plants. I’ll let the pile of straw and chicken manure from this winter sit behind the shed and age for a year. Next spring, we’ll have magnificent fertilizer for our garden. Thanks, chickens.
W: Wide rows. This is a concept I just recently learned about, but one that’s really growing on me (pun intended). Wide rows mean planting seeds in a wide band, resulting in a thicker row of plants with fewer paths between. There are several advantages to this method over the traditional single long row:
-Faster Planting: Simply broadcast the seeds over a wide band, eliminating the time spent making perfectly precise single rows.
-Less Weeding: Several plants close together create a sort of living mulch, blocking out the light and creating a natural barrier to weed growth. More veggies, less weeds. Perfect.
-Save Space: Wider bands of plants mean more space is devoted to food and less space is devoted to empty dirt walkways.
-Faster Harvesting and Weeding: With a wide row, a person can reach more plants from one spot. This means less bending, stooping, and moving to harvest that row of radishes or weed the row of lettuce.
I found the information about wide row planting on the National Gardening Association’s website. I have to say, I’m sold. I love getting more with less work. We’re going wide this year!
So, that’s my new plan of attack for the garden: grass clippings, newspaper, chicken poop, and wide rows. Less weeds, better veggies. A little more work in the spring mulching, and less work weeding in the heat of August.
As I write this, it’s chilly and rainy and most of the seeds still sit in paper packets. If I can find the time to make the plans in my head become a reality in the garden, I’m sure it will be marvelous. I’m also sure my four young kids will be extremely helpful. Optimism is easy in the spring.
Here’s to getting some warm sunshine to help the crops and gardens grow!