Easier Weeding

I haven’t had time to post lately. This has been a very busy summer, made busier since my mom broke her arm, and I have been trying to help her and my dad during this time.

As I worked outside, yesterday, weeding the grass out of my daylilies…

daylilies

Daylilies

and hydrangea bushes

Before weeding

Before weeding

After weeding

After weeding

I kept thinking… there has been nothing to this summer except weeding, weeding, and more weeding. I even weeded my mom’s flower beds for her last week, while my husband and dad worked to build and install a cover over the area where she fell and broke her arm.

With all the weeding there is to do, I have had to come up with an easier solution, something that takes the load off and does not mean adding a lot of chemicals to the soil.

I had my husband buy some tarps and I placed them over the raised beds that are empty right now. Without the tarps, I would be growing beds of weeds.

Tarps over raised beds

Tarps over raised beds

I can also move the tarps around the garden to cover areas between the beds or in open areas. Since they are dark in color, when the hot summer heat hits them, the weeds practically melt away. It is also a good way to heat up the soil and kill any pests that are trying to live there.

When we removed our pool cover this year, my husband decided we needed a new one for next year, so I recycled it into a weed killer :). I had planted corn in the very back of our garden, and was in the process of weeding, fertilizing, and hilling the soil up around it, when my mom broke her arm.

Weeding the corn

Weeding the corn in process

I never got the job finished and the corn was a total loss. I decide to use the pool cover to melt down the old stalks in the heat, turn them into compost, and kill all the weeds that had overgrown the patch.

Pool cover over corn stalks and weeds

Pool cover over corn stalks and weeds

Once a crop has completed producing, I plan to use a tarp over each bed and see if I can compost the old plants directly in the beds. My goal for next year is to become even more chemical free by making as much compost as I can and filling my beds with it, so I don’t have to rely on any chemical fertilizers.

So… if you are totally overwhelmed with weeding this summer, use tarps to cover the areas that don’t have plants you want to save. It is a good chemical free way to kill out the weeds and make the areas ready for new future crops.

Wisdom is good with an inheritance, and profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, but the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.” Ecclesiastes 7:11-12

 

 

 

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Compost

I made a compost bin yesterday in a corner of the garden. If you read any books on composting, especially by men, they recommend making a bin from chicken wire. This contains the heap and allows for air circulation. There are other materials used for compost bins such as pallets, plastic, etc., but chicken wire is cheap.

I found two pieces of leftover chicken wire in our barn. They were the perfect size and I didn’t have to cut them. Since I am trying to save money in the garden, after the purchase of all the straw bales for my straw bale gardening experiment this year…

Strawberry plants in straw bales.

Straw bale garden.

I didn’t want to spend any money on the compost bin. I also wanted to get a good, hot compost bin going so that I won’t have to spend as much money next year on fertilizer, or other additions for my soil.

I used rebar hammered into the ground for the base. I added fiberglass tomato stakes over the rebar. They have a center hole that allows them to slide right over the rebar. I attached the chicken wire to the back side of our preexisting fence and the stakes with cable ties.

Chicken wire attached to fiberglass tomato stakes with cable ties.

Chicken wire attached to fiberglass tomato stakes with cable ties.

I then used a smaller piece of the chicken wire to make a “door” between the red post on the left side and the yellow post. I attached this piece to the yellow post with cable ties in several places, and when I want to open it to add wheelbarrow loads of weeds, grass, and leaves, it bends back and can be propped open.

To close the door, I hammered nails into a wooden tomato stake and bent them up. The chicken wire attaches over the nails and holds the “door” shut.

Nail holding "door" closed.

Nail holding “door” closed.

I had been weeding and the wheelbarrow fit right though the door area and was easily dumped.

I have been totally sold on making my own compost.

On Monday I planted okra. The bed I used had held tomato plants last summer. I had liberally mulched around the tomato plants with straw. In the fall when I planted this same bed with collards and kale, I left the straw in place and added garden soil over the top and planted  in that. When I started digging in this bed to get ready to plant the okra, I noticed that the straw underneath had greatly decomposed and the bed was full of the fattest earthworms I have ever seen. The soil was rich and black.

To plant the okra, I only added composted cow manure to the rows so the worms would not be harmed and left them to continue their composting of the straw, leaving behind their castings, which is the best fertilizer of all.

Are you composting to save money?

“He also took some of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters; he set it like a willow.” Ezekiel 17:5 (NASB)

 

Gardening

I have started to plant the “conditioned” (see also… Straw Bale Gardens by Joel Karsten for the conditioning process) straw bales in my garden, and it has been fun and exciting. It is always fun to try something new.

Strawberry plants in straw bales.

Strawberry plants in straw bales.

Lettuce is planted in front, basil on the side, and a bush tomato plant in the back.

Lettuce is planted in front, basil on the side, and a bush tomato planted in the back.

I have saved room in this straw bale bed to add more tomato plants that I have been growing from seed. Right now, I have a pretty good crop of mushrooms that are part of the decomposing process of the straw bales. They will eventually die back and the plants will take over the bales.

Sugar snap peas planted and trellis added for support.

Sugar snap peas planted and trellis added for support.

I planted sugar snap peas in this area and by placing an old trellis between the bales and zip tying it to tomato stakes placed in the ground, it made a great place for the peas to run up on.

I am trying bush tomatoes  in pots this year.

I am trying bush tomatoes in pots this year.

I planted two bush tomato plants in pots, then added these walls of water to protect them from the lower night temperatures. I have had these walls of water for several years and just never put them to use. I am trying for less wasting of resources this year, and that has also been fun… trying to see different things I can do with what I already have available.

The straw bale gardening has been the most exciting gardening project that I have ever tried. Due to the shortage of straw last year, the bales were a little pricey, but the experiment has been worth the money. Hopefully the straw crop will turn out better this year, and the price will come back down for the next gardening season.

If you are trying to save money in the garden, it is probably better to work on making more compost to add to existing beds. If you have never started a garden, the straw bales would be a great way to begin. There is no tilling of ground, or the adding of anything but fertilizer and water. It has perfect pest and disease control built in, since none of these exist in fresh straw bales like they do in your soil.

I am not protecting any of the plants in the bales from cutworms, or squash borers since the rough straw sticking out is a natural deterrent. Also, there is very little weeding to do.

Another good benefit from the straw bales is that once they have been used for the season, they can be composted to use in the garden next year.

So if any of you are thinking about a garden, keep following my progress with the straw bales over this season and see if it might be worth your time.

“See then that ye walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-18

 

A New Thing

The straw bale gardening saga continues…

Last week, I managed to move all thirty straw bales into the raised beds where I want to try this experimental gardening technique. It wasn’t a hard job. Since straw is in short supply this year, the bales were smaller and lighter. That was great!

The bad news is that they didn’t cover as much area as I had hoped. I was only able to fill three full 4×8 raised beds and one-half of two raised beds. The bales have to be placed on their sides, so they took up less space.

Straw bale gardening.

Straw bale gardening.

Another view.

Another view.

Just because of the way the bales stacked in the beds, I ended up with a corner that no bale would fit. I am saving these areas for planting flowers to add visual interest. I used re-bar and plumbing PVC hoops to hold the bales in place and separate them into planting sections.

I began the conditioning process. I am using regular lawn fertilizer (not herbicidal), to get the bales heated up fast. I emptied out a canister of black pepper in the garden to keep the cat out of the raised beds without straw. It came in handy for sprinkling the fertilizer on the bales. Day 1-9 of the conditioning process includes 1/2 cup of fertilizer sprinkled per bale alternating each day with “watering to saturation”.

Lawn fertilizer and empty pepper container for applying the fertilizer.

Lawn fertilizer and empty pepper container for applying the fertilizer.

Fertilized straw bale.

Fertilized straw bale.

I am on day five which requires 1/2 cup of fertilizer per bale. It is pouring rain at the moment, so that might have to wait.

Since I used one of my beds that I intended to turn into an herb bed, I switched to using big pots for my herbs.

Herb pot beginnings with rosemary in place.

Herb pot beginnings with rosemary in place.

Even though I didn’t have as many bale-filled beds as I would like, I am very excited to get them conditioned and planted. It is always fun to try something new in the garden:)

Are you trying anything new this year?

“A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”  John 13:34

 

 

Straw Bale Gardening

I am soooo….. excited. I had 30 bales of straw delivered this week to begin my straw bale gardening experiment. This, apparently, was a bad year for straw production and there is a shortage. After calling several places with no luck, I called our local agricultural center. They referred me to a garden center in a near-by town, and they delivered for a good price.

It is recommended to have 5 straw bales per each family member to have an adequate supply of food, so 30 bales was the right amount to feed us, our children, children-in-laws, and Finn (grandbaby), doesn’t eat much.

Straw bales delivered.

Straw bales delivered.

Some of the family members that I didn’t need straw bales for… still managed to enjoy them. Scout (cat) decided to take a nap on the bales, and of course if the cat can get up on the bales, Jazz (dog) has to copy the cat.

Scout and Jazz hanging out on the straw bales.

Scout and Jazz hanging out on the straw bales.

Jazz guarding the cat in her pink sweater.

Jazz, in her pink sweater, guarding the cat.

Two character cards come to mine when I look at these sweet, funny, animals.

Diligence vs. Slothfulness

“Visualizing each task as an assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it.” (Jazz guarding Scout.)

And

Tolerance vs. Prejudice

“Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity.” (The tolerance of both Jazz and Scout for each other, even though they are so totally different.)

Have a great weekend in this beautiful weather!

 

Simple Ways

In December my mom gave me a piece of her Lenten Rose to plant. It was supposed to bloom in January, but has just recently began to bloom, probably due to the really hard winter we have had.

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose

Another view

Another view

We took a trip to visit with my parents yesterday. My daughter and grandson went along with me and my husband. It was a very enjoyable day for all of us.

I always learn something about the old, simpler, ways of doing things, when I listen carefully to what my parents are trying to tell me. My dad has been trying to root cuttings of a white fringe tree to share with each of his children and grandchildren. He can get them to produce leaves on the woody cuttings, but no roots develop. My mom happened to mention to him, “Why don’t you try what my mother used to do?”

My grandmother used to root cuttings from plants just by sticking them in the ground on the north side of the house. Once rooted, she pulled or dug them out and put them in pots, or in the ground, where she wanted them. I asked my dad why this would work, and he told me it was due to the shade and moisture in the ground on the north side. The north side provides the perfect medium for new growth.

I found it interesting how simple a good solution can be. There is no rooting powder to buy, no special soil to mix up, just sticking it in the ground in the right place.

Life doesn’t always have to be complicated. When we learn to stop striving and do things a little more simply… that is when everything turns out the best.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

Starting The Winter Garden

I started on my winter garden this week. I cleaned off three beds and planted collards, mustard greens, turnips, kale, spinach, mesculan mix, and a small late crop of bush greenbeans. In one bed I left one squash plant and cucumber vine. They both were looking worn out, but I scratched in bone meal, organic manure, and humus at their bases to give them a boost, then placed them under the sprinkler.

I never have the heart to pull out something that may still bear fruit. Does God feel that way?

Raised beds with winter crops planted and cucumber and squash still there.

Raised beds with winter crops planted and cucumber and squash still there.

I made it easy on myself for the beds. I decided to use lasagna gardening, where you just add layers to what already exists. The beds were covered in straw mulch which I left in place, then added peat moss, Miracle Gro garden soil, organic manure with humus, fertilizer, and bone meal. I sprinkled on the seeds and raked them in.

I also kept a cosmos in one bed. It was so pretty, I decided it should stay until it frosts.

Cosmos

Cosmos

“And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” Luke 13:9 (KJV)

Unusual Tools For The Garden

When I am working in the garden, I use every tool I can think of that will help save me extra work later. This week I used the lawn mower and weed eater in the garden. The grass was getting really high between the raised beds. I still have a lot of weeds trying to take over the whole garden.

So….I mowed and weed-eated the paths between the beds.

Mowed and weed-eated path.

Mowed and weed-eated path.

This will prevent the grass and weeds from going to seed and making more weeds.

Today we are hoping to have more mulch delivered. My plan for today and tomorrow is to clean out all these weeds and add mulch.

What are your weekend plans?

As I end this post, I will share the life verses Grandma Dugger wrote beside her name at the book signing on Saturday.

Proverbs 3:4-6 “So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

Grandma Duggar seated between her children.

Grandma Duggar seated between her children.

Have a fun-filled weekend!

Projects in the Yard and Garden

Friday and Saturday I worked on two different projects that I have been wanting to complete for some time. Lack of resources in…. money…. and time…. holds me back from completing a lot of my lofty goals.

This weekend I was determined to spend every minute I had working outside. By Saturday evening I had worked so hard, I began having terrible leg cramps from overworking the muscles. I still haven’t completed either project but will give you a look at the beginnings and continued updates as I am able to complete them.

Leftover day lilies and weeds had taken over the front of the garden after our fence was put in. I had pavers and bricks in the garden that I had used before, but they needed to be re-arranged. I began digging out the day lilies and gave them to my husband to plant near the road. Then….I weeded, removed bricks, and tilled the area.

The weeds and day lilies covered the bricks, so you could not see them.

The weeds and day lilies covered the bricks, so you could not see them.

In process removal of weeds and bricks.

In process, the removal of weeds and bricks.

Further progress.

Further progress.

I had pulled so many weeds over the previous weeks, the compost bin was exploding!

Compost bin.

Compost bin.

So, I had the brilliant idea of composting in a black trash bag. I am not sure if this will work, but you never learn anything unless you give it a try.

Trash bag composter.

Trash bag composter.

After bricks, flowers, and weeds were removed.

After bricks, flowers, and weeds were removed.

I surprised myself by how much better the area looked after I had removed everything and tilled the area. I began to use old pavers and bricks to make a weed free area at the front of the garden.

Pavers and bricks at front of garden.

Pavers and bricks at front of garden.

This is as far as I got on Friday after working all day. I felt a sense of accomplishment to have come so far working by myself, even though the job isn’t finished. (Collette was sick  and my husband was working at the roadside part of our property, mowing grass and planting the day lilies.)

Tomorrow I will share the second project that I worked on.

Have a great day!

Moving Grapevines

Grapevines out of line with fence.

Grapevines out of line with fence.

In recent weeks we were able to have a fence installed to train our grapevines on. Several minor problems came to light when the fence was installed by professionals in a straight line. Two of the grapevines were not in line with the fence and one was run over by equipment and destroyed.

This morning I moved two of the grapevines and planted a replacement for the one that had been killed. I am pretty sure this is not the time of year to be moving grapevines, especially since the leaves have just started to appear, but I took my chances and began.

The largest grapevine.

The largest grapevine.

I moved the largest vine first and was able to get some of its thicker roots.

Grapevine anchored to fence with cable ties.

Grapevine anchored to fence with cable ties.

Once I had dug the hole for this grapevine, I anchored it to the fence with cable ties to hold it in the right position and for future training of the limbs. I added a garden soil with fertilizer to the bottom of the hole to give it a boost and make it easy for the roots to spread out.

Garden soil

Garden soil

I dug two more holes. The roots from the other grapevines and some nearby trees made it a more difficult task than I had imagined.

Roots from nearby grapevine.

Roots from nearby grapevine.

The next grapevine was smaller and easier to dig up.

Smaller grapevine

Smaller grapevine

Of course the easiest of all is to buy them new.

New grapevine

New grapevine

Now all my grapevines line up with the fence.

Grapevines in line with fence.

Grapevines in line with fence.

After lunch I will add mulch to the area. Come back Monday for a before and after post. It is amazing to see the difference from the original metal trellis to the new fencing.

As always, I hope to show the improvements we have made just in case it is something you have been considering. That way you can decide if the changes would be worth implementing in your garden.

Have a great weekend!