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I’ve raved for years about having a garden. The perks of one far out way the effort it takes to grow it and in the end all of your hard work pays off in a big way.
I’ve had a garden pretty much every year for the last 7 years, each year I learn some hard lessons about the world of gardening. My least favorite part about having a garden is weeding.
But thankfully, I have learned a few tricks to cut back the enormous amounts of work it takes to keep up on my gardens and I decided to share a few of them with you.
The first 4 years I started a garden I was working a full time job, often times I was taking on extra hours to help pay for our various expenses. This was before I became so savvy with our money, so our expenses were twice as much as they are today and we were making 1/2 the amount of money we are now not to mention we didn’t have kids back then.
Because of all of my time being devoted to work, many summers my poor garden looked more like a hay field and less like a garden. All those weeds eventually diminished the productivity of my garden and overwhelmed me. I felt as if there was no point in having a garden if I wasn’t harvesting enough food to sustain us for more than a couple of weeks.
I despised weeding so much that one year I just gave up and let the weeds take over the entire garden. When the season was over we mowed everything down and tilled it all in. At this point in time, I knew what mulch was but I was reluctant to spend a large chunk of my hard earned money on something I had never personally witnessed work before.
The next year after that epic failure, I decided to give Preen a try. I was an ameture so I thought I could just till it in to the garden and then plant my seeds and it would somehow magically kill all the weeds but not my plants. I learned the hard way that that is not how it works. So that year I ended up with a bare patch of dirt.
This year I decided to do everything the right way. We tilled the land 5 times to kill most of the weeds and make the soil workable. I started all of my seeds inside this winter, allowing them to get as big as possible before transplanting into the ground because I had a plan.
I purchased a Miracle Grow Aerogarden (as pictured above) at tax time and used the LED lighting from it to grow my seeds as shown above.
Once everything was big enough to transplant and the manure had been worked into the site, I transplanted all of the seedlings into the dirt. Once planted, I called a friend and had my husband go fetch me a few bales of straw. I spread the straw out around all of the plants to kill off the weeds and left enough space between the straw rows to plant what was left of the seeds which was a lot because I bought a Mozybaeu Farms Seed Cache with close to 300,000 non-GMO, organic seeds. After everything was planted I still have about 50,000 seeds left for next years garden.
Pictured here: My Mozybeau Farms Seed Cache all laid out. There are around 300,000 non-gmo, organic seeds which I purchased off of eBay for $45. If you would like to see my full review of the product you can visit my youtube channel using the link at the bottom of this post.
So far, I only have to weed about once a week and those are the rare few that pop up through the straw and the ones that are coming up in the bare rows with my other seeds that are just starting to pop out of the dirt.
Once they are big enough, I will pull all of the weeds and place straw around them as well. We’ve gone much bigger with our garden this year because of the mulching. We have 2 gardens instead of 1 and both are now mulched and doing well.
On a side note, the spot we had mowed everything down on the previous year has a ton of volunteers coming up and I’ve been finding carrots all over my yard.
In previous years my husband and I didn’t fertilize the ground before we planted. We live in Iowa which has some of the best soil in the entire world so we never really thought we needed it. As I mentioned before, this year we went all organic and got 300 pounds of 2 year composted cow manure from a friend of ours and tilled it into the garden. Thus far, the plants seem to be loving it. They are much bigger than in years past (partially because of the lack of competition from weeds and partially due to the fertilizer).
I definitely suggest using fertilizer on your soil. As they say “A great garden starts with your soil.”
Every year I deal with some form of pest or another. This year it’s rabbits, ground hogs, flea mites, and other various bugs that devour my plants leaves and will eventually kill the plant. I’m not a fan of pesticides so I’ve been trying various methods to rid myself of the terrible trouble makers.
This year I’ve been spending many hours on Pinterest looking up various ways to naturally rid my garden of ALL of them. To be honest there is not much I can do about the Ground hogs or the bunnies aside from fencing the garden in, and that is not in my budget at this time.
As for the little buggers (pun intended), I’ve come across a few things that have worked so far.
Cinnamon and ground peppers-I sprinkle ground cinnamon or ground Cheyenne pepper on the leaves of my plants and the smell deters the pests. The only downside I have found is how much it takes to cover everything and that you have to reapply it every couple of days (especially if it rains).
Alcohol– You can make a mix of 1 part alcohol to 1 part water and add a few drops of Dawn dish soap to the mix and spray it all over your plants. The pests don’t like the smell and the soap makes it stick to the leaves.
Peppermint essential oil– A lot of creatures hate the smell of peppermint including spiders, mice, and aphids, this is why it is such a great thing to have on hand to spray in and around your home. Simply spray it around your garden and reapply every few days.
Companion planting- I’m a total novice when it comes to companion planting but gardeners have been using this method to keep pests off of their crops for longer than any of us have been alive . For instance, plant Marigolds next to your tomatoes to deter tomato horn-worms or plant them next to squash to deter squash bugs. This is just one instance where planting something extra helps you in the long run, even if it doesn’t give you food to eat later. On the opposite side, planting the wrong plants together will harm your plants so be sure to do your homework before planting.
You can find a full list of companion plants here.
In recent years vertical gardening has become extremely popular because of 2 reasons; easier harvesting and growing more in a smaller area. I definitely see the appeal. This year we decided to try vertical gardening with our beans. So far they are doing better than in past years. As soon as my other Vining plants are big enough I will give them something to crawl on and see how well they do.
I’m still learning new things about gardening every year and will be adding new detailed posts as I learn them. My goal is to have trellises added for the squash, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon, and other Vining plants to crawl up and utilize vertacle gardening in other ways such as for my strawberries.
Do you have any tips or tricks you use to boost productivity in your garden? Leave them in the comments below.
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