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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Time to Garden (Blog Twenty-five)

Saturday, I planted white onion sets, potatoes, and spinach in our organic garden.  But before I did so, I harvested the last of the 2010 crop, specifically the onions that I had missed picking last year and that had sprung up this spring.  It is always a nice bonus to have fresh onions, which we will dine on today for lunch with grilled venison tenderloin.Every spring, I silently vow to make the coming garden the best one ever.  But every year, something (work schedule, drought, pestilential insects) derails this quest. So I recently contacted friend Paul Hinlicky, who always has a superb garden, for his advice.

"Mulch," was the first word Paul said.  "Put down a layer of newspaper. I usually separate out all the
glossy, colored stuff  used for advertisements and use only the basic newsprint.  On top of that I put mulched leaves/compost which will decompose over the summer until it can be tilled into the ground in the fall.

"If you don’t have that, you can buy some old hay, small bales are easiest to manage. People will give away old rotting bales. Just spread them thickly over the newspaper. I go for 4 or 5 inches of mulch, because it will decompose over the summer. Mulch holds in the moisture so you rarely have to water. It suppresses the weeds. And it enriches the soil. How can you lose? I also use grass clippings from when I start to mow the grass. Lots of times neighbors bag their grass clippings and put them out for trash. Of course, when you sow from seed you can’t mulch until the seedlings are up and viable, then carefully so you don’t smother them, here grass clippings are best because you can tuck them right in to the little shoots.
"But for transplants like peppers and tomatoes, do the newspaper and hay. Or, if you have trouble getting
 the tomatoes to ripen before the fall, use black plastic which soaks the heat in, which tomatoes and peppers just love. The other thing I love to do is till in horse manure. Best fertilizer in the world."

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