April 30, 2008

Garden Talk

It's been over a year since I really had any garden news. Last year, before we closed on our old house, I was busy dividing, moving and replanting stuff anywhere I could find room. The buyers agreed to my taking plants out of the garden and my only regret is that I didn't take more, because they are not gardeners and the things I left are looking mighty overgrown. Sigh.

But moving on -- last year I didn't have the time or interest to do more than water things to keep them alive (and I didn't even do that well at that -- I lost a blueberry bush, a Japanese maple and a few other things).

This year we are living in the house and I have more time, if not more energy, for taking care of the garden. I'm definitely slowed down by the third trimester belly more than I thought I would be. All my other children were due in the fall and so during planting time I was just beginning to show. With this baby due to arrive in the middle of the summer, I'm already big and my back hurts when I dig, bend over or do just about anything plant related for too long. So I have to wait for my husband or the more competent of the children to help me out.

Still a lot of last year's moving of plants and some strategic bulb planting in the fall have really paid off in the spring garden. A long straight bed by the side of the driveway is filling out nicely with things that are pretty drought tolerant and require little care (irises, day lilies, creeping phlox to name a few of the things in there). The front flower beds are filling in nicely with many of the same things, along with bleeding heart, peonies, lambs' ear, and lots of tulips and daffodils. Both front and driveway beds have also been sowed with easy seeds like zinnias, nasturtiums and sunflowers. I can find the seedlings from those pretty easily, but a few things or a few things in a few places either seem to be in hiding or slow to germinate.

At the end of last summer I started a new bed as a continuation of one of the beds in front of the house, laying down thick layers of newspaper and mulch to kill everything underneath. The grass is fairly dead, but violets and wild onions laugh in the face of such things and are sprouting up everywhere, leaving me little choice but to go after them with my trusty weeder (if only in short spurts before my back starts hurting).

In the backyard, we're working on a vegetable and berry bed. Ideally, I would have either started it last year with paper and mulch or cut out all the existing soil, weeds and grass or made raised beds, but for this year at least we went for the quicker tilling up the soil. Naturally, it's already full of weeds, but as I get a chance and when I get more mulch, I'm laying down newspaper around the plants and mulching over the paper (so far I've gotten the berries and down to the tomatoes finished). It's not perfect, but works pretty well at keeping the weeds at bay and I much prefer the newspaper method to permanent weedblocking fabric). The garden back there is my most ambitious. I've now got five blueberry bushes, several strawberry plants, and raspberries, plus tomatoes, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, okra and beans. I've also planted herbs in pots. I just hope I haven't taken on more than I can deal with this summer with a new baby added to the mix.


I'm so glad to read you do the newspaper thing. I'm a big fan of mulch and composting, but have only recently heard of folks putting down layers of paper as a weed barrier. How much do you put down, and is it really effective? Does your mulch cover it well, where no paper shows through?

Posted by: Jennifer at April 30, 2008 07:10 PM

I've been using newspaper as a weed barrier for several years and have always been pretty pleased with how well it works. You have to use layers of at least about 6-8 sheets according to most of the books. I don't really count. I use a section at a time or two sections if they seem really thin. We don't actually subscribe to the paper, but my husband brings them home from the office and we save grocery store circulars and free papers that we pick up while out.

As for the question of will the mulch cover it -- that is totally dependent upon how much mulch you put down. I don't mulch all that thickly, but my general standard is to put down enough mulch to cover the paper. The paper also helps to keep the soil underneath moist, so you don't need a ton of mulch and too much mulch always makes a garden look like a gas station anyway.

Posted by: Jordana at April 30, 2008 08:09 PM

I've been wondering about that myself. What a know about gardening would fit in a pudding cup.

Thanks, Jordana.

Posted by: Janis Gore at May 2, 2008 10:54 AM

Thanks for this information. I will definitely try the newspaper under mulch idea.

Since you are always so good with book suggestions - any gardening favorites that might help the novice gardener?


Posted by: Jennifer at May 7, 2008 11:04 AM