June 14, 2011

Organic Gardening: Weed and Deer Prevention

The garden is in! It's so satisfying to look at a newly planted garden. All the hard work and effort prove to be so worth it. At this time last year I was out pulling and hoeing knee-high weeds. I let my garden go in-between my early spring and after-the-last-frost plantings and paid the price. The weeds had gone wild and were difficult to get under control. This year I decided to try a different approach. I placed cardboard boxes in some of the walkways and in areas I wasn't ready to plant in. When I removed them, there was wonderfully weed-free soil underneath. Glorious! Up until planting, I also made sure to avoid walking in the beds - this prevented the soil from becoming too compacted.

I've gone back and forth on whether or not I should put down the not so seed-free hay we have in our barn as my mulch. I was planning to use grass clippings over newspaper, but knew I wouldn't have enough to cover the entire garden area. I decided to use the hay - it's free, it's plentiful and if laid out in a thick enough layer, will choke out the weeds. In addition, it's completely organic and will eventually be returned to the soil. I laid down a few layers of newspaper (making sure not to use the glossy, color inserts) and placed the hay on top.

Another challenge I have living out in rural farm country is keeping the deer and other critters at bay. My garden is a nightly feast for them if I don't protect it. The evening after putting in my lettuce, I found deer prints leading to a fully eaten head of leaf lettuce. I tried the highly recommended Irish Spring soap trick but the next night tracks and partially nibbled lettuce were located RIGHT next to the soap. Clearly not an adequate solution. It wasn't until the weekend that my husband was able to put in our fence. It's an electric one - easy to set-up and install - and works like a charm. It doesn't harm the animals, but rather gives them a healthy shock that prevents them from coming back. Once up, animals no longer visit my garden for a midnight snack.

I just purchased a new gardening book, The Vegetable Gardener's Bibleby Edward Smith. I highly recommend it for organic gardening tips and suggestions. The pictures are beautiful and the great amount of detail is helpful. It has introduced me to some new ideas on garden layouts and different ways to prevent weeds using an inter-planting technique. Next year will bring some exciting changes. For now, I can't wait for my sunflowers to pop up!


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