Our vegetable garden has been more of a miss than a hit the last few years, but I’m trying to get back in the game this year.
My first step has been prep. Years of neglect mean weeds are well-established throughout the garden. I’m not prepared to tackle the whole garden, but I’m going to try to reclaim a few areas. Rather than dig up all the weeds or till them under, I’m trying to suffocate them with mulch.
I first wrote about deep mulch gardening back in 2016. So this has been on my mind for a while.
I picked one quadrant (the others will not be planted and will be mowed or tarped), and laid down a whole bunch of cardboard.
We’ve had two bales of hay sitting beside the garden for a couple of years. I had intended to use them for mulch, but then gardening didn’t happen for a while. When the excavator was here a few weeks ago for the garage, I had him throw the bales over the fence (they had gotten too squishy for me to pick up with our tractor).
Ellie and I broke up the bales and spread the hay in a deep layer over all of the cardboard.
Between the raspberry rows, I laid more cardboard and then layers of bark that Matt’s Dad picked up when he was cleaning up some dead trees in the fenceline between the fields. They’re like really big woodchips.
It’s going to take a lot of work to get the garden back. If I’m going to have any success, I have to figure out a way to manage at least some of the weeds, and mulch is this year’s experiment. I feel like I’m already behind for this year, but I’m trying to remind myself that gardening is a multi-year undertaking.
The asparagus and rhubarb are up, though fluctuating temperatures seem to have slowed them down over the last couple of weeks (and weeds may be choking them). The grapes are alive, and I really need to figure out how I’m supposed to prune them. The raspberries look happy, including some new canes I took from Matt’s Dad last fall.
I have to dig out the weeds around the raspberries, asparagus, grapes and rhubarb. Then I’m going to try to put down more cardboard and more mulch wherever I can.
In the mulched quadrant, I’m going to plant annuals. What ones, I’m not exactly sure yet. I’m also not sure how I’m going to plant in the mulch. I may try to add soil and/or compost on top of the hay to make a raised row garden, or I may just scrape the hay back, punch through the cardboard and plant in the soil underneath.
There’s still lots to figure out, and we’re a looong way from having a thriving vegetable garden (unless you’re a weed… or a bee wearing pollen pants).
But it does feel good to be back in the dirt. And I’m glad to be trying out some of the techniques I’ve read about and thought about for a long time.