This year Jessie’s baseball season is starting later than usual. This has allowed me to have more time working in the garden and the yard. Jessie hasn’t been happy about the delay but I have been gratefully soaking up every minute I can of this beautiful spring weather before it’s crazy south Alabama hot.
Each spring for the last 5 years I’ve done a small vegetable garden. Each year I keep wondering will this be the year I tell the hubby he has to build me a raised bed?
The first year I planted in containers and the containers were on my back deck. The deck gets too hot to walk on with bare feet and I wondered if their location was why it didn’t do as well as I hoped.
For the last few years I’ve planted in the ground. Since my prenancy with baby #2 (22 years ago!), I’ve had a sciatic nerve issue that flares up pretty regularly, and especially when I do a lot of bending. By the end of the summer garden, I always feel unsure if I can do it again.
I’m trying a couple of things that I hope will make my life easier (and my back less painful) by keeping the weeds down as the season goes on.
Newspaper/Paper Bags for Weed Control
This year I put down newspaper as a barrier for weeds. When I ran out of newspaper a friend gave me lots of brown paper bags. This layer of newspaper or brown bags prevent weeds from getting sunshine and helps retain moisture in the soil. Here’s a link to read more.
The layer of paper will break down over time and disintegrate into the soil (and that’s good for the soil) so the process will need to be repeated next year.
When I talked to an experienced gardener, he said either will help with weeds, but he prefers newspaper because of the way it breaks down.
Although you can put paper over existing weeds, I had pulled the weeds and then tilled the garden before I put newspaper down. I’ve got my fingers crossed this is going to save my back some weed pulling.
After you put the papers down you cover it with a layer of soil. I didn’t want to have to buy that much soil (I did buy some) so I raked some soil away, put down the papers, wet them really well and raked the soil back over to cover the newspaper/bags.
A Different Way of Fertilizing
The same experienced gardener mentioned above (that I’m convinced knows almost everything about everything in the garden!) told me how he fertilizes.
I had already bought a different fertilizer but after talking with Bob, I bought chicken manure compost and fertilized my vegetables the way he does.
Per his recommendation, I used a cup to distribute (he says a handful) of chicken manure compost around the base of my plants and then watered it in. He said as long as it doesn’t touch the leaves I’m good. This is not straight chicken manure, which is too “hot”, but chicken manure compost.
Chopped Leaves as a Mulch for both Moisture Retention and Help With Weed Control
I’ve been dissatisfied with the mulching options I’ve tried in past years. Pine straw worked fairly well, but I had to use a lot and I was afraid I wouldn’t see a hidden snake. I tried cypress mulch (it was on sale and I hadn’t researched it) but its prickly when planting or sitting on the ground for weed pulling and I just didn’t think it worked that well.
I read that chopped leaves was a good mulch and also FREE. Because we have a pool and purposely don’t want to increase our work load there, we don’t have big trees of our own, just crepe myrtles. But neighbors on one side have a row of trees beween our two yards. My daughter also had leaves she had bagged so we got some from her and used the lawn mower to chop them all into smaller pieces. If they’re too large that can cause a problem.
What I Planted in the Garden
This year I went with less tomato plants overall but more varieties. Although I want the other vegetables too, tomatoes are my very favorite. I LOVE them. I bought 1 plant each: Better Boy, Pink Brandywine Heirloom and Homestead Heirloom. I also bought 2 Heirloom Spoon Tomatoes. I’ve never seen or tasted them before. Dothan Nurseries posted about them on facebook calling them the World’s Smallest Tomato. They shared a picture showing about 15 fitting in a tablespoon. I was intrigued and had to try them.
I planted several (don’t remember how many, 6 or 12?) squash plants and several bush (rather than vining) cucumber plants.
The last several years I’ve planted the small variety of pickling type cucumbers. They’ve done ok, but I haven’t gotten what I thought was a big harvest so I wanted to try a different variety and bush type were recommended to me. I haven’t known anyone else in our area who grows the small cucumbers and I’ve wondered if they aren’t well suited to our insane summer heat.
I planted one jalapeño pepper plant, which I’ve never grown before, because I’m dreaming of some yummy salsa from homegrown tomatoes and jalapeños. I’m also planning to add cilantro to the garden soon for salsa making.
I added some flowers to the vegetable garden. Do you know why?
At times, my cucumber plants have had many blossoms that don’t become cucumbers. I read that sometimes this is a pollination problem. So, I added two lantana plants to my garden, one on each side, to attract pollinators. I transplanted them from other places in the yard before they started to bloom so neither are blooming just yet. I fertilized them and hope they will soon.
Having learned that marigolds have a scent some pests don’t like, I hoped that planting some near my tomatoes would help keep pests off of them. I’ve been trying not to resort to using chemical pesticides (and haven’t so far) but bugs have been a big problem with my tomatoes every year. After I planted the marigolds, I learned I probably didn’t have enough of them planted to be a big help. I still think they are a pretty addition to my garden and I notice them every day.
I don’t think marigolds, in general, are pretty. I had never seen this cream color before and I really took a liking to them. I found these at Dothan Nurseries. I’ve not ever noticed them before at other places where I shop for plants. Dothan Nurseries does seem to have some pretties that I don’t see everywhere else.
New Flowers I Planted This Spring
Last year I wrote in Just Start, how I started a flower bed in my back yard and how I built my flower garden frugally by adding a plant or two at a time.
This spring I’ve added a “Darling Daisy”. Twice before I’ve bought one of these off a clearance rack and they didn’t make it. This time I bought a regularly priced healthy plant and made sure I added some good soil to the planting hole and it’s doing well.
I love all daisies! I’m loving seeing this new addition each time I water the flower garden and when I enjoy my coffee outside in the mornings.
I went to Lowe’s with the hubby for some other man-purpose and although in a hurry, I found this verbena on the clearance rack for $1.00. I knew it had to go home with me. It’s an annual and I won’t spend a lot on annuals, but $1 fits the I’m-poor-cause-I -owe-the IRS- budget. I just transplanted it last night so it will look fuller and healthier soon.
Flowers For My Shady Spots
I love having something flowering on the front porch but it doesn’t get any direct sunlight. Last year impatiens did well there so I’m going with those again. Begonias have done well on my porch too, but this year I’m feeling impatiens.
I bought a six pack for 1.98. Four of them went in a planter for the front porch. I planted two in individual pots for the table on the pool deck that is shaded by an umbrella. Part of the day this area gets direct sunlight and it may be too much for them. I’m going to try them there and move them to a better location if it’s too much direct sunlight.
I want a lot of bang for my buck.
I mostly plant perennials (plants that come back every year) to be frugal and not to have to replant everything each year. Some perennials will also spread, or seed new plants that will give you plants you can move elsewhere in your yard or to share. Most of the flowering perennials seem to need full sun.
I usually plant just a couple of annuals (plants that don’t come back, when they die, they die) each year.
The impatiens I bought are beautiful color, inexpensive annuals and give me blooms in the areas where I can’t grow a flowering perennial.
For $1.98, the impatiens are a lot of bang for my buck. Two separate areas have flowers in 3 separate pots. $1.98 folks. That’s as frugal as it gets.
That’s what’s new this year
I’m so hopeful that the paper, leaves, and chicken manure compost will have a favorable outcome for my garden. I get so excited when I see the plants growing and look forward to picking anything that grows there.I’m convinced that watching something you’ve planted live and grow is just plain good for the soul.
Hope you’re having a wonderful spring! I would love for you to share pictures of your vegetable gardens or flower beds in the comments.
Till next week,