Saturday, January 24, 2015

Leaves: Making Use of this Free Garden Gold

It can seem a bit sad to watch the leaves fall because it indicates that winter is coming. However, each year I get excited for the trees to shed their foliage because my garden gets a healthy layer of valuable, free, slowly decomposing material.

Benefits of Leaves in the Garden

There are several benefits of adding a layer of leaves to the surface of your garden over the winter. Keeping the soil heavily mulched prevents compaction and soil erosion from winter rain and snow, prevents winter weeds, and keeps the soil biology active. Microbes and fungi in the soil still need to feed over the winter even though there are few plant roots to feed and keep them active. Leaves slowly decompose, offering a steady supply of food so the soil is active and healthy when it’s time for spring planting. If you want leaves that are completely decomposed by spring, run them through a leaf shredder before adding them to the garden.

I also keep bagged leaves by my compost bin for an endless supply of brown materials to make compost throughout the year.

Garden Expansion

Leaves are also a valuable element for expanding the garden. In November I prep new beds by laying down a thick layer of cardboard and topping it with at least 8” of leaves. When it’s time for spring planting, I dig a hole and place my plants. By the end of summer, all the grass is gone and has been replaced with dark, loose soil. No tiller needed!

Not only do I move all of my own fallen leaves to the garden, I import them from my neighbors. Several of my neighbors rake and bag their leaves in special bags that they buy from the city. I have asked them to bag their leaves in regular trash bags and I will come pick them up. They save money and I get extra leaf mulch.

What is your favorite way to use leaves in the garden?

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sneak Peak of the 2015 Garden Plan

During these cold months I have been working to provide my readers with high-quality posts to help you become better gardeners, whether you have a large backyard or a couple of containers. I hope you will consider subscribing via one of the many options to get notifications of new posts. I won't bore you with repetitive photos of what is happening in MY garden this year -- although I'm sure there will be a few! -- but the content will be more focused on teaching you the basics of gardening, in a way that anyone can understand. Upcoming topics include fertilizing organically, growing tomatoes, simple garden trellises, reading soil tests, no-till gardening, preserving recipes, natural pest control, proper watering methods... the list goes on.

There are many ways to do things, and different gardeners believe that their way is "right." My purpose is to teach you the basics so that you can enjoy learning and experimenting on your own. My methods are not the only right way, but they are always successfully tried in my own garden, sometimes for years, before I share them with my readers.

I have big plans for my backyard garden this year, which includes selling some to my friends and neighbors. I certainly grow more than we can eat! And that's the goal -- for the garden to be a little profitable.

Here is a sneak peek at what I have planned for Songbird Gardens this year. In addition to the large vegetable garden, I have started adding permaculture guilds around the lawn section to increase sustainability and to attract more beneficials to our little pieces of garden heaven. My yard is actually about 30 feet longer than this view, but only allows garden plans up to 92 feet. Even so, it works well enough to create a great garden plan which helps me stay organized!

Click and zoom for a larger view officially returns on February 1, so subscribe below or via the box on the upper right side of the page to get updates. I truly believe it will be worth your time if you aspire to grow your own food!

What are you looking forward to most this gardening season?

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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Winter Break

It's at this time every year that things start winding down in the garden. It's been a great year.

This was the first year that I have been able to sell produce. I hope to expand that next year to be able to offer more fresh, locally grown, organic produce to my friends and neighbors. I'm also adding more flower beds to the garden this year in hopes of offering cut flower bouquets in next year's boxes.

Since the garden is going to bed for the season, so is the blog. I have found that it's best to rest during the quiet season rather than struggle to try to find reasons to write. I will, however, still be active on social media. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for glimpses of daily life. I will be back after the holiday season to share all about my 2015 garden, which promises to be the biggest and best garden yet!

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Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Use Cover Crops in the Home Garden

Online research offers a lot of information on cover crops for large agricultural practices, but what's a gardener to do when they want to use cover crops in the backyard garden?

How to Use Cover Crops in the Home Garden outlines the benefits of cover crops, the easiest crops for warm and cool seasons, and how to use them. Experience the benefit of using cover crops in the garden with this simple guide.

Visit my book page to download for kindle and find out how easy it is to use cover crops. 

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

October Gardening

We have just about reached the end of the growing season in NWA. If you have a greenhouse, you have a whole extra growing season. I don't have one... yet. Even without a greenhouse, there are a few things that can be planted this month. 
  • Garlic
  • Flower bulbs
  • Strawberries
  • Cover Crops
Here are a few things that need to be done in October:
  • If you have some annual herbs that you would like to overwinter inside, now is the time to bring them in. 
  • Put the garden to bed- heap all those raked up leaves on the garden! They will decompose over the winter and offer weed control.
  • Clean, oil, sharpen and put away tools.
  • Prepare cold frames if growing over the winter. 
  • Protect perennials with straw mulch (after the first freeze kills current growth).
  • If you're lucky enough to have a greenhouse, bring those frost-sensitive plants in.
Is your garden getting ready for winter?

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Garden Plan

Click for a larger version
While it may not look like it, the garden is actually getting pretty close to being put to bed for winter. I have 5 beds planted with cold weather crops (kale, turnips, arugula, mustard, perennial chard and lettuce). Several beds are planted with perennials, so I don't have to do anything with those beds. Strawberries, onions and asparagus are cold-hardy. All the empty beds have been planted with Austrian winter peas as a winter cover crop. This will prevent winter weeds, loosen the soil and add nitrogen. Having winter cover crops makes my job so much easier when it's time to plant spring crops. Once it's removed, I will have loose, rich soil ready for planting.

See the rest of the plan, and my entire crop list on my page.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Get Rid of Bermuda Grass... Permanently

With so many gardening topics, many of which are too detailed for a blog post, I have decided to branch out to eBooks. While I have loved having my articles in publications like Do South Magazine, Citiscapes and Edible Ozarkansas, none of those outlets really allow me to get into the details of growing food.

Why Write an eBook?

My reluctance to enter the world of garden books is that it seems like nearly every topic is saturated. However, one of my frustrations, and perhaps one of yours too, is that garden books tend to make the process of growing food complicated. I love reading books about growing food written by scientists. I like understanding how the soil environment works to make nutrients bioavailable. I enjoy that, but does the average gardener who just wants a few fresh tomatoes really need or want to know about mycorrhizae? I doubt it.

I like to share information in the same way that my grandpa shares info; with just enough information that you know how to do it and why it works. Gardening should be accessible for everyone, not just those with a biology degree and not just those with $1000 to invest in fancy raised-beds, but truly everyone.

With the task of making gardening easy-to-understand and accessible to all, I am branching out into eBooks. I released my first eBook "How to Get Rid of Bermuda Grass.... Permanently!" last week with great results. In this book I share why conventional methods don't work, why Bermuda is so darn difficult to get rid of and, most importantly, two methods of removal that do work. With 4,000 square feet of garden space, I do not have time to battle Bermuda grass. This is why I have developed these methods that continue to work years after they were first done. If I can do it, anyone can.

Are You Tired of Battling Invasive Grasses?

If you are tired of battling invasive grasses, consider purchasing my book. It contains valuable information on getting rid of, and keeping out, Bermuda grass. If you read it, please leave me a review. I'd love to know what you think! Feedback will help me improve my future books.

What gardening topic do you want to know more about?

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