Saturday, February 28, 2015

Using Cardboard in the Garden for Weed Management - Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, using cardboard in the garden for weed management is key to a healthy, low-maintenance no-till garden. That post discussed the benefits of using cardboard while this post will discuss how to use it properly.

Finding Cardboard

I am particularly fond of extra large boxes from furniture and appliances for expanding my garden. Look around the dumpster/recycling area of hardware, rent-to-own and furniture stores or call them and see if they will hold large boxes for you. Stockpile leaves, pick them up from friends or neighbors, or weigh down your cardboard with bricks, wood chips, or about anything else to keep the pieces in place. Whole leaves work, but shredded leaves are better. One of these leaf shredders is worth the investment for year after year of free leaf mulch! For added nutrients, you could also add compost on top of, or beneath, your cardboard.

Laying Cardboard

  1. Lay the cardboard, overlapping the edges by at least 6 inches to make sure NO sun can get to the grass and weeds. 
  2. Cover all the cardboard with about 8 inches of leaves. 
  3. Wait for nature to do the tilling.


For best results, add cardboard and mulch in the spring and summer when grasses are just starting to grow. Covering the soil from fall into winter works, but I noticed with my last expansion that the cardboard started breaking down while summer grass and weeds were still going strong mid-summer. Adding cardboard and mulch in March allows the heavy-duty cardboard to stay intact throughout the summer, suffocating all weeds and grass all in one season. Because Bermuda grass is so invasive, it will come up anywhere there is a crack in the cardboard. Be sure to remove any greens that show through the mulched area. If it gets out of hand, just add a fresh layer of cardboard and mulch. It sometimes takes 2 or 3 occasions of mulching to kill all the grass. Just keep adding cardboard and mulch and the grass will die. To get all the details of how to keep Bermuda Grass out of your garden, buy my book "How to Get Rid of Bermuda Grass...Permanently!" on for only $2.99.

Planting in the Mulched Area

To use the mulched area to grow food the same season you mulch with cardboard, follow these tips:
  • Do not use this space for closely spaced crops like corn, lettuce or onions, but this area is perfect for large, vining crops like winter squash or melons. Crops that are spaced far apart like tomatoes can also be planted here. 
  • To plant in these areas, cut a hole in the cardboard, remove all visible grass and roots, loosen the soil a bit, and plant the seed or seedling. 
  • Vining plants are perfect for a mulched area because you only have to dig one hole and the growing vines will help keep the cardboard in place. 
  • Add about an inch of compost to the area under the cardboard around each plant to make sure it has all the nutrients needed.

Other Uses for Cardboard

Cardboard is still useful in the garden, even after all your garden expansions are done. You can use it any time of year in your walkways to keep weeds from growing; just lay it down and top with your desired mulch. You can also lay cardboard in your beds or rows over the winter, topped with leaves or other mulch, to prevent winter weeds. Just remove it in the spring when it's time to plant. This method is particularly useful for chickweed, which will grow in spite of thick layers of mulch!

 Have you ever used cardboard to expand your garden?

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

March Gardening Video

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Garden Consultations by Tiffany Selvey

Have you ever wanted to have an experienced gardener come to your house to help you determine the best site and set up for your garden, as well as the best kind of crops to grow for your location? Tiffany from Songbird Gardens is offering on-site garden consultations for the spring and summer gardening season.

If you are in the Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers and Bentonville areas), I will come to your house, inspect your location and give you a written report for starting a garden in your space. Some of the things I will look at include:
  • Soil quality to determine whether in-ground or raised beds are ideal for your space. 
  • The location of shade and sun to determine the best location for plants with different light requirements.
  • The best types of plants for your location and lifestyle. (What do you like to eat? How much time do you have to garden? etc.)
For the $40 consult fee, I will come to your home, inspect your space and give you a written report for the best practices for your new garden.

If you are looking for a complete garden plan in addition to the basic consultation, I will create a detailed plan, including layout and planting dates for an additional fee.

For more information or to book your consultation, email me or fill out the form below.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Making Simple Newspaper Pots for Seed Starting

Over the last few years, I have experimented with all kinds of seed starting methods. I’ve used store-bought seed starting mix, all kinds of different ingredients, peat pots, plastic containers in the windows -- you name it, I’ve probably tried it. Of all the options I have tried, making simple newspaper pots for seed starting is the easiest, cheapest and best seed starting process.

Why Use Newspaper Pots

Lots of gardeners start with those little peat pots, including myself. After dealing with several plant failures, I discovered that the roots of many of my crops weren’t able to grow beyond that little net that surrounds the peat pellets, preventing them from growing properly. I was also disappointed to find many of those little nets were not breaking down very quickly in my soil. My solution is creating my own truly biodegradable plant pots out of newspaper. Not only do I save money by making free containers, I also save a lot by mixing my own simple seed starting mix.

Seed Starting Mix

For a frugal, basic seed starting mix combine equal parts:
Soil (store bought or from your own garden)

Making Newspaper Pots

When making simple newspaper pots for seed starting, I used a pint beer bottle because I like the aluminum and it’s taller than the standard soda can, but you could use a kitchen glass, or just about anything to make your newspaper pots.

Planting Seedlings

When it’s time to plant, I put the whole newspaper pot in the ground without disturbing my fragile plant roots. It takes no time at all for newspaper to break down in the soil and give the worms something yummy to feast on!

How do you like to start seeds?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring Planting Class at Songbird Gardens

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Using Cardboard in the Garden for Weed Management -- Part 1

Keeping a low-maintenance, no-till garden relies heavily on using good mulching practices and using cardboard in the garden for weed management. I know it's hard to believe that cardboard can replace a tiller in the garden, but it’s true! We moved into our home on March 28, 2011 and I wanted a garden that year, so I tilled. As was expected, I fought weeds all year, including the seemingly invincible Bermuda grass. I have spent so much time battling this "devil grass" that I even wrote a book on the subject. Get my eBook "How to Get Rid of Bermuda Grass...Permanently!" to find out how to defeat this vile weed once and for all, without chemicals.

Expanding the Garden

That first year the garden was 25 feet by 50 feet. The next year I expanded the garden again to 50 feet by 75 feet without touching a tiller. I don’t even own a tiller because I simply don’t need one, not even for nearly 3800 square feet of garden space.

Expanding the garden without a tiller takes advanced planning. Sure you can go out on April 1 with your tiller and plant lettuce that same day, but I guarantee those weeds and grass are going to come back within weeks, and if you don’t mulch heavily, you’re going to be fighting them all summer. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my evenings harvesting, admiring and sitting garden-side with a glass of wine, not weeding.

Laying Cardboard

The “lasagna” method of soil preparation involves laying layers of cardboard, compost, straw, etc. on top of grass and weeds. It’s an excellent method, but if you can't import these layers then simply lay cardboard and top with leaves. That’s it.

  • It takes several months for cardboard to break down, causing total suffocation of grass and weeds below, returning all that wonderful nitrogen back to the soil. 
  • For best results, apply cardboard and mulch during late spring, when new weed and grass growth starts to appear. Cut holes in the cardboard where you want to plant. Reapply cardboard and mulch as needed if grass and weeds start to break through. See my book for more details.
  • Once the cardboard disappears, you are left with loose, dark soil. Earthworms just love all that rotting stuff and will come up to the dark, moist soil surface leaving worm castings and loosening the soil.
Using cardboard in the garden for weed management is a frugal, efficient way to create healthy soil. Next week I will discuss in more detail how to use cardboard in the garden.

How do you prepare new garden spaces?

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Chocolate Mint Snow Ice Cream (no evaporated milk!)

We had a couple inches of snow this week, and since the first mention of snow came from the weatherman, my son started asking about snow ice cream.  I do not keep evaporated milk, but I was able to make chocolate mint snow ice cream with real food ingredients from my kitchen.

Chocolate Mint Snow Ice Cream

 2 quarts of fresh, clean snow
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 to 1 cup cane sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cream, milk or half and half
a few drops of peppermint oil (omit this for chocolate ice cream)

  1. Mix everything together but the snow, until it is well combined. 
  2. Add snow and mix well. Serve immediately.

This is such a fun and easy recipe, and since it takes no time to put together, you can make this chocolate mint snow ice cream EVERY snow day!

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