June 6, 2018

What's Growing in the Garden

Thanks to subtropical storm Alberto, everything! Both wanted and unwanted. It was time to get weeding!

Before: not a pretty sight, is it?

My rain gauge froze and broke last winter, so I don't know how much rain we got, but it went on for days and days and flooded all the low places on the property. It also left the soil we'd prepared for planting very, very muddy and sink-to-your-ankles soft. Earlier this week I was finally able to get back into the garden and start weeding. With the ground soft and the weeds young and tender, it was an easy job.

After: one section of the garden done and ready for mulch.

I'm almost ashamed to say that in my very earliest days of gardening I threw all of the weeds away. Weeds were bad and bad things were gotten rid of.  Eventually I figured out to add them to the compost pile. Then I read Sepp Holzer's Permaculture and was surprised to find out that he just tossed the weeds back onto the ground. Having goats changed my perception of weeds as well, because some of them are obviously great delicacies! So now when I weed the garden, I do different things with different weeds.
  • Anything that the goats will like is put in a basket and then dried to toss onto the hay pile. These tidbits add variety and interest to their hay plus extra vitamins and minerals.
  • Anything that hasn't gone to seed I leave in the garden to die and decompose back into the soil. Every plant takes up nutrients as it grows and when it's removed from the garden those nutrients are removed as well. I'd rather keep them in my garden.
  • Anything that's gone to seed is piled in the chicken yard. They love to scratch through the pile to find fresh greens, bugs, and seeds to snack on.
  • The exceptions are things like horse nettle and nutsedge. The goats can't eat them and their painful little thorns put them on my get-rid-of list. 
  • Anything that is edible, medicinal, or that acts as a ground cover gets to stay: marigolds, chicory, clover, violets, lambs quarter, heartsease, etc.

I also have learned to leave one or two wild amaranth plants.

Wild amaranth

Their young leaves and seeds are edible, but also, I've observed that cucumber beetles really like them!

Wild amaranth and cucumber beetles

Amaranth grows abundantly, so I pull most of them, but if I leave one or two they serve as trap plants to attract the beetles away from things I don't want them to eat!

Also, volunteers get to stay!

Volunteer tomato plant

Volunteer cucumber plant. Already blooming!

Once in awhile something is transplant-worthy.

4 o'clocks

I planted 4 o'clocks a number of years ago. I don't even remember why now. They are an attractive plant with beautiful flowers that bloom all summer long. They grow thickly, about 3-feet tall, which means they are kinda in the way in my kitchen and canning garden. Hopefully this one will transplant, although June is not a good month for that because of long hot, dry days ahead.

So what did I plant in this section of the garden this year?


Swiss chard

Bush beans

Yellow straight-neck squash


I replanted spaces in the rows where the seed didn't germinate. Mulching is next. I start with paper seed and feed bags and cardboard in between rows and then cover everything with wood chips, dried leaves, or straw. Then I've got the rest of the garden to do. I've definitely got my work cut out for me.


Ed said...

You should see Amish gardens which put us all to shame. They of course have a plethora of labor in the form of children who weed the garden on a daily basis. Because no weeds have grown enough to ever seed out for decades, their gardens are virtually sterile of weeds. I always have garden envy when I drive by them.

Mama Pea said...

Lots of interesting ideas in this post, Leigh. Loved all the pictures.

Question for you: You use wood chips as mulch. Since we bought our wood chipper/shredder with our good neighbor, I've tried using the chips as mulch, too, but am not happy with them as they just don't decompose in our climate. That can be good in some applications but not in the garden as I till in nutrients (and like a nice seed bed for planting the smaller seeds) and cursed myself for years (literally) after mulching the blueberry patch with them because I tend to pick berries on my knees (most of our bushes are small ones from crossed domestic and wild blueberries) and the chips are most painful.

All the weeds I pull either go into the poultry yard or compost bins so I don't feel they're wasted. I tried "composting" our dreaded quack grass right in the garden rows, but if their roots get so much as a smidge of dirt on them, they take hold and grow again!

And have you ever notice those "volunteer" plants grow healthier, faster and better than anything we plant??

Michelle said...

I have a goodly supply of paper feed bags that my husband was muttering about burning; far better to use them as mulch to keep the weeds down in our little garden. How do you keep them from blowing away? I don't have a supply of rocks, and covering them with dirt seems labor intensive and just provides a shallow bed for more weeds.

Goatldi said...

Fantastic all around!

I love the weed uses list. I do something similar for both the chickens and goats. It is picked and tossed into their areas fresh. I do like the drying idea .

I realized over time that goats have definite prefences of favor in hay cuttings. One of the favorites is first cutting alfalfa that contains many "leftovers" from what was harvested before last season. Snacks galore !

Happy that you are having a good jump start to your gardening season.

M.K. said...

Looks good, Leigh!

Unknown said...

Your garden looks great! We had a deluge from Alberto as well, and my garden looks like a jungle.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Four O'Clocks are some of the finest flowers ever. And everything else looks great!

Michelle said...

Four o' Clocks are a favorite of mine. I have a few this year. Your garden is looking great!

Leigh said...

Ed, it would be wonderful to have many hands to help! The agrarian life really is best suited for family and extended community. With just the two of us most things around here only get a lick and a promise.

Mama Pea, your quack grass is like my wire grass! I pull as much of it as I can, but I make sure it's left to dry out somewhere where there's no chance it can re-root.

Mostly I've mulched with dry leaves in the past, but I find they decompose too quickly. A six-inch layer of leaf mulch pretty much becomes an inch layer before the summer is out. Cardboard and paper bags underneath really help. The chips last a lot longer, as in a couple of seasons, unless we till them into the soil. Then they decompose pretty quickly. I end up raking them into long rows when it comes time to till, and they re-spread them as mulch when the plants get big enough. I do think climate makes a difference. We have a lot of rain certain times of year, plus warm temps, so decomposition is a pretty quick process.

Michelle, it's a great use for them, as long as they don't have plastic liners. I like them better than cardboard because they are a perfect width for covering walkways. Right now I have them weighed down with bricks, rocks, sticks, and clumps of dirt. I'll cover them with mulch next, and that usually keeps them in place. I use cardboard too, but it's a little more work to use. The tape and stickers have to be pulled off and it usually needs to be cut to fit. But it's still a good option.

Goatldi, thanks! I do a lot of fresh tossing too, and usually the girls all come running to the garden fence anytime they see me in there. Then they holler for tidbits. :) So many people think goats will eat "anything," but we goatkeepers know that goats are extremely fussy eaters!

So far so good with the garden. I just hope to get it all mulched before the annual hot dry spell hits.

M.K., thanks!

Nina, thanks! It's funny how bare things look all winter long and then summer hits. We can't keep up with it all!

TB, it will look great as long as I can keep ahead of it! LOL. I love my 4 o'clocks. I saved and planted seed in my front flower bed one year, and they always give me a lovely long show of color.

Leigh said...

Michelle, me too! So I hope my transplant does well. But I still have some in the front yard, so I still get to enjoy them. :)

minwks said...

I also notice that volunteer plants get off to an early start and are more robust. Last year I had a delicious indeterminate yellow cherry tomato that vined up through a rose . I had to pull all the pink roses off as it did not match the yellow colour of the tomatoes ..... just joking.
I am hoping it will return this year.

I am a fiend at weeding. (I am sure you can tell I have a small garden.) I seem to have a succulent plant that grows overnight. I have just begun drying the seedless weeds on the surface. It really makes sense to return those nutrients to the soil.

Regards Janine.

BC Canada

Leigh said...

Janine, welcome! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I've observed the same thing as you, that volunteers always seem to do better than transplants or even things I seed directly into the ground. Weeding can certainly take its toll, LOL. I'm just hoping to get everything mulched before the weeds take over again. :)

Mrs Shoes said...

Your garden looks great! We love sweet potatos tossed in a little oil and seasoning and baked in the oven. Mmmmm. I'm a lazy gardener, so I have raised beds. I mulch with chopped straw; this year I'm trying a method called lazy potatoes, where you sow an inch deep, then when it's time to hill, instead you mulch deep with the straw, the taters supposedly grow in the straw. Worth a try!

Leigh said...

Mrs. Shoes, that's our favorite way to eat sweet potatoes too! Yummy! I like the idea of lazy gardening. We've experimented with permanent and raised beds but haven't perfected them for our climate yet. One thing I've discovered is that they dry out much more quickly than our garden rows and beds during our scorching dry spells. Mulch is key, of course, but our soil heats up so much that raised beds are harder to keep moist.

Chris said...

I'm glad you got the rain, without the destruction, Leigh. I'm sure your land is breathing, as it takes it all in. Maybe it's just me, but it's like I can feel my land breathing, after the rain. The soil becomes more permeable, the earthworms get to work, the plant root fibres, fluff everything up. It all happens when the rain, arrives.

Personally, I love to find ways to use weeds. I consider some trees, weeds too. They're carbon sanctuaries for my soil microbes to consume. For all those noxious weeds which are inedible or just plain thorny, you can make up a tea in a barrel, by covering them in water. Stir when you remember, then use diluted, after a couple of weeks.

I hope you get a lot of harvests from your garden, this growing season.

Leigh said...

Chris, "carbon sanctuaries," I love that! And what a great idea about the noxious weeds. I hadn't thought of that, but it's true, a compost tea would preserve the nutrients. Thanks for suggesting it!