Tag Archive for mulch

What to do in the Garden in October!

October is a busy garden time as we prepare for the first frost of the year in Oklahoma. It’s time to put a lot of the garden to bed for winter. Adding compost to each bed is a great way to prepare for spring. It adds nutrients and moisture holding ability to your soil. I just layer mine on top in October and let the worms and other beneficials churn it into the soil over the winter.

Adding a cover crop or mulch to the beds will also help prepare your beds for spring. I have never planted cover crops, but if you want to learn about them, click here.

We heavily mulch our beds over the winter with leaves, straw, or some other material we can get for free or cheap. I have an awesome friend who “buries” me in leaves every fall, so I take advantage of that and use it in most of my beds. It works GREAT! Sometimes all you need to do is put the word out and you can get all the materials you need. They have so much, they are glad to get rid of it. Before I found that great source, I would drive around the neighborhood and grab bagged leaves off the curb of my neighbor’s houses.

straw mulch

The mulch prevents erosion of your garden soil and prevents the soil from compacting into a hard layer over the winter as precipitation falls. Have you ever been in the woods and lifted up the layer of leaves that have fallen from the trees? It’s rich, black, and sweet smelling soil under there that is teeming with microorganisms and nutrients. Nature knows what she’s doing. I try to duplicate that with my mulching. In spring, we just scoot the leaves that are left over and plant right into the bed with no other prep needed. Click here to see how we put our garden to bed for winter.

There are a few things we grow over the winter, so those beds are planted and we are eagerly awaiting crops from them. Last year, we grew and ate kale, Brussel sprouts, and herbs all winter and into spring. We are going to try that again this year. We also planted cabbage, lettuce, carrots, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, swiss chard, and a third round of green beans for the fall, so those beds are still working away.

October garden produce

Soon it will get too cold for the tomatoes, peppers, okra, and the like to continue producing any more and we will clean those beds out and prep them for winter as well. I let them grow as long as they will to get as much food stored up for winter as we can. We pull the tops off the plants and compost them if they are bug and disease free, and we leave the roots in the ground to add more nutrients to the soil. By spring, they are composted and the bed is ready to go.

October is sweet potato harvesting time. One bed of sweet potatoes has flowered and been harvested, and the other is just flowering, so we will harvest those right before the first frost. We are watching the weather closely. We got 60 pounds out of the first bed, so we are hoping for that much from the second one. We love sweet potatoes and they store great!

gardening with kids digging sweet potatoes

Another October project is garlic planting. Garlic is planted in October in Oklahoma and harvested in June, so chose a bed you aren’t planning to use for anything else. I rotate my crops from bed to bed each season, but the garlic stays in the same bed year after year. Click here to learn about growing your own garlic. 

October is the last busy month in the garden until spring. The garden is giving its last hoorah. We are enjoying every bite of what we know is limited tasty goodness and we have prepared as much as we can to eat this winter. We’ve been dehydrating, blanching, freezing, and curing everything we can manage to and we hope that will supplement what we are eating until the garden wakes up and bears more beautiful gifts for us next season.

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what-to-do-in-the-garden-in-october

What to do in the Garden in July!

What to Do in the Garden in July

July is HOT in Oklahoma! I guess bugs like it HOT! At Little Sprouts, we are working tirelessly to keep up with the bug infestations. Squash vine borers, squash bugs, cabbage looper worms, aphids, ants, and anything else you can think of are eating our stuff like a hungry band of gobbling gobblers. We are also fighting rabbits and raccoons who swoop in at night and eat stuff that’s almost ready to pick-annoying!

We do not use chemicals on our garden at Little Sprouts so we have to come up with creative ways to manage our pests. We are hand picking large bugs and tossing them in a bucket of soapy water. We are wrapping our hands in duct tape and removing scads of squash bug eggs and nymphs, and we are taking dead vines and plants out of the garden at a frantic pace.

The heat of summer has swooped in and is burning up a lot of our plants, so we are watering whenever we can. We water early in the morning to prevent the addition of more fungus in the garden. We had over 27 inches of rain in the garden in May and June, so we have a lot of tomato blight and other funguses. We are working on removing as much of that as we can as well. After all of that rain fell, the temperatures soared and burned up all the moisture there was available, so now we are super dry. Also, due to the heat, we need to make sure everything is mulched well so it will retain as much moisture as possible and repel as much heat as possible from the roots of our plants. To see how much water we make sure our plants get, click here.  

Weeding is in full swing. Grass and other weeds are popping up everywhere. We are picking it as fast as we can. We also use boiling cooking water to keep the grass from coming in on the edges of the garden. The boiling water kills the grass instantly and helps us keep it under control. If you want to read some more ways of dealing with weeds naturally, click here.  gardening with kids, onions We are harvesting lots of tomatoes, green beans, a little okra and a few squashes here and there. This weekend I even found two cucumbers, FINALLY! The rabbits kept nibbling off all of our seedlings, so we planted cucumbers 5 times, and finally had to buy some bigger seedlings at the farmer’s market. kids picking tomatoes in the garden Each year presents unique challenges in the garden. Gardeners have to keep adapting and learning right along with the changing conditions. Some years are super hot, some are not. Some years have more bugs, some have fewer. We have to keep a watchful eye on our gardens to get the maximum output from them. It’s fun and rewarding, and of course, you get yummy food! We have to work in short stints at this time of year because even first thing after breakfast, its getting super hot and muggy in the garden. We go out as early as we can and we don’t work out for long. We try to do as much as we can in short stints so no one passes out from the heat. July is time to start thinking about a fall garden.

Here in Oklahoma it’s far too hot for seeds to germinate outside, so now is the time to start planting seedlings inside and letting them get a little growth on them while the heat of the summer finishes up. Our wish list of plants includes cauliflower, cabbage, cilantro, kale, kohlrabi, peas, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, arugula, and some decorative kale. We hope to get some of each of those started in the next few weeks and get them ready to put out when weather permits. planting seedlings for the fall garden I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to cooler temperatures. I am very sensitive to the heat, so I have to be super careful not to get overheated. I love when the weather starts cooling down and it’s easier to enjoy the garden. August is right around the corner. We have the hottest month to look forward to. Here’s to looking forward to winter again! I used to hate summer, but now I can’t say that because it grows so much goodness for us. It sure is a battle in my mind though. I’m dreaming of snow! funny tomatoDon’t forget to pin for later!

What to Do in the Garden in July

 

Weeds, Weeds, Weeds! 6 Ways to Handle them Naturally

6 ways to control weeds naturally!

Are weeds taking over your garden and yard? The definition of a weed is anything that is growing where you don’t want it. There are all kinds of weeds taking over a ton of places I don’t want them in our garden. We have tried everything we can think of to cut down on weeding, but it seems like weeds are overtaking every area of the yard. We are fighting Johnson grass, wild blackberry vines, and thousands of strands of BERMUDA GRASS!

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3 Basics for Planning a New Garden

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

If you are thinking about planning your first garden, there are a few tips that could help your garden be more successful. There are many ways of gardening that are right. I will have much more specific information in other posts, but here is a place to start.

1. Soil-This is the most important part of gardening. Your soil needs to hold moisture and also drain well. Dig up a shovel full of dirt and hold a little in your hand and smash it. If it molds like clay and won’t break apart, you have too much clay and it’s not going to drain well enough. If it won’t hold together at all, it’s not going to retain enough moisture. Good soil will hold together in the shape of your hand but you will be able to crumble the shape apart. If you have a result other than that, consider container gardening or raised beds. If you want to use your existing soil, that’s fine, but you’re going to have to amend it.

2. Sun-This is the second most important requirement. The spot that you choose should have 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Check your spot throughout the year because the sun changes positions over time. Just because it’s sunny there in the winter, doesn’t mean it will be in the summer when you are growing food.

3. Water-Make sure your garden spot has access to water. If it’s difficult to water it, you’re less likely to keep up with it in the heat of summer. I live in Eastern Oklahoma and many days of the summer it’s very hot. You need to have your water system in place before you start. I water before 10 am to keep down evaporation from the heat of the day.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

Mulching will help your soil retain water and keep weeds down, so be prepared with shredded leaves, straw, or some other type of mulch to make your gardening easier.
Each plant has needs for root space, so read those tags or seed packets and draw out a chart of what you’re growing before you start planting to make sure you have room for what you want to plant. Decide whether you want to plant long straight rows of plants or mix your plants together before you make your chart. I love the look of several kinds of plants integrated together. Some plants thrive together and improve each other and others don’t like each other, so do a bit of research on that as well. I have a tendency to try to poke too many things into the beds and it is not as successful as it would be if my plants had plenty of room. I’m finally learning to let each plant have it’s space.
Remember to start small and grow what you love! Get ready for the most amazing experience of your life! You will be AMAZED at how much you love it! Happy Gardening!

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Summer Squash

Summer Squash

How to Put Your Garden to Bed for Winter

At Little Sprouts we are putting some of our gardens to bed for the winter. Why do we need to prep for spring? The more worms and beneficial microbes you have in your soil the better, and you can help them along by preparing your beds in the fall. We use the no till method of gardening and we garden in raised beds, but all types of gardens can benefit from a little fall preparation for the coming spring. Winter time is still a time of activity in the garden.

What is no till gardening?

What is no till and why do we do it? No till is a method using no tilling and allowing the beneficial microbes as well as creatures that live in the soil such as worms, to aerate the soil for you by doing what they naturally do. I chose no till because it make sense to me. I see God doing it in nature. Plants and trees grow themselves. If you go out into the forest and scrape back all the material that has fallen to the ground and laid there, you find the most glorious rich, light, good smelling soil underneath.

I wanted to try it, and so far, I love it. When plants are spent at the end of their life cycle, we cut them off at the ground rather than digging them up. You can lay the tops on the soil if you like, I do this with healthy tops, but not anything with fungus or bugs infestations or anything like that. Roots offer even more nutrients to the soil as they decompose and help keep the soil structure good as well. Some roots such as beans and peas actually have node of nitrogen attached to their roots which will give even more nitrogen to the soil than other roots.

When doing no till, we just keep adding nutrients and organic materials to the top of the soil and build layers of soil rather than turning it over. The worms come to the top and move the organic matter through the soil for you.

topped off raised bed

The first thing we needed to do in our garden to prepare for spring was top off the beds that needed more soil. Over the winter time, organic matter in the soil breaks down and rain and use compact the soil. The more inches of soil you have in your raised beds, the better, so if your soil is getting low, bring in some good quality compost to top it off.

Get good compost.

We ordered a truck load of soil from Gem Dirt in a town nearby. They deliver and their garden mix is over 60% compost. I didn’t want to open 1,000 bags of compost and waste all that plastic packaging. And I wanted a source I could trust not to contain herbicides in their compost, so I chose Gem Dirt. The delivery was expensive as they had to drive several miles, but not as expensive as buying that much material by the bag at the garden store.

We have most of our empty beds topped off now, but will continue topping off as we lose the plants that are still growing in this nice warm fall we’re having. Now that we had our first frost last week, we will be able to top off most of the rest of the beds. We have over 60 containers in our gardens ranging from half whiskey barrel size to 3 x 10 feet. Maintenance is a big project!

Put lots of mulch on the garden during winter.

Once the material is added to the top of the beds, it’s time to mulch. We mulch in spring and summer anytime soil is exposed, but in the fall when we put the gardens to bed, we mulch HEAVILY to keep the moisture in the soil over the winter. It keeps weeds from growing, and keeps the beneficials happy. This year we are mulching with straw and dried leaves.

Make sure you are using straw and not hay, as hay will grow LOTS of grass for you. It still has the seeds from the grasses in it. With straw, we get a few pieces of wheat here and there, but it’s easy to pull and there is not a lot of it. When we run out of straw, we will finish with dried leaves we get from our friends and neighbors. Worms LOVE leaves and they work them into the soil for you over time as well.

straw mulched raised bed tucked in for winter

mulching around existing plants is okay too

You can mulch around small plants as well.

Winter is a time of planning and waiting.

Then the only thing left to do is wait for planting time. When it’s time to dig the ground for planting, we slide the mulch to the side and we plant our seeds or seedlings. When plants are 4-6 inches tall, we replace the mulch back around the plant or add more mulch if it’s all broken down.

With all of this wonderful mulch in place when we start in the spring, the only other thing we have to do is occasional weeding if a seed has blown into the garden, watering, and fertilizing. When plants are growing in the beds, or garlic or something is under the ground,

We water the beds once a week with about one inch of water if we don’t get that much rain. About once a month we fertilize the beds with Annie Haven’s moo poo tea. You can order moo poo tea bags here. It’s the only fertilizer we use. We order my tea bags in bunches, and store them until we need them. How do we brew moo poo tea? We simply place the tea bag in a five gallon bucket of water and wait 3-5 days.

Then we use the tea to water each plant and it gives it all the nutrients it needs. Our plants have totally taken off since we started ordering moo poo tea from Annie. We water in any new seedlings with it and soak my seeds in it before planting. The bags are reusable up to 3 times and then we compost them. No waste and great results!

Now is a great time to tuck all those beds in for the winter and enjoy the rest!

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How to Put your Garden to Bed for Winter