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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Putting the Garden to Bed and a Book Review

(A picture of my garden today, covered with leaves and hay. Carrots, to the left of the picture are waiting to be pulled.)
Hi everyone! It's that time of year...time to put the garden to bed for the winter so that it wakes up in the spring ready to grow! The best mulch for your garden is probably laying on your yard right now--leaves. As leaves fall from the trees, gather them and lay them on your garden. If you rototill, you can till those leaves in for even better results. If you have homemade compost, or if you buy it from the store, rototill that in your soil now, also. Then leave the garden sit for the winter. Unless you're like me and you're trying the Stout method of gardening.......

Ruth Stout wrote a couple of gardening books and is considered the mother of the modern mulch method. You know how you go past all those fancy-shmancy subdivisions, and they have those perfectly manicured yards, with flower beds full of mulch? Well, Ruth Stout advocated doing that! But, she also thought that the mulch should be on your veggie gardens, not just your flower beds.

I think I shared with you that hubby tilled a beautiful 50x35 garden plot for me last year. I was more than excited, let me tell you! I fed it in fall and planted it in the spring, only to be discouraged by the amount of weeding I had to do. Normally I love pulling weeds, but this garden was just too much for me to keep up with. I remembered a cousin had read this book by Richard Clemence about Ruth Stout's mulch gardening method, so I shot her an email to ask her about her experience with it. I also checked out the book at the library. My cousin said that she had loved Ruth's method, and that when she is able to garden again, she will continue to use it. I read the book and it made so much sense to me. All of the reasons that we use mulch on our flower beds--conserve water/moisture, keep weeds at bay--apply to the veggie garden. How much more do we want/need moisture and want to avoid weeds in our veggie patches than our flower beds!!! So, hubby called a friend and we got some of his old rotted hay and I laid a few sheets of newspaper first, and then layers of hay on the papers. I have only used this method for one growing season--and not even for planting time--and I am SOLD already!! The lack of weeds in the garden was FABULOUS!! Oh, sure, there were a few that popped up here and there, but per Ruth's instructions, I just laid down more hay. For the size of garden I have, I did an insignificant amount of weeding. IT WAS GREAT!!!! I'm now in the midst of laying down leaves over the bare sections of garden (the corn did not get hay this spring and was drowning in weeds) and will then lay more hay. The other beauty of this system is that the hay and leaves break down in the soil and feed it! While I still have a compost pile going, Ruth always just laid her compost items directly in/on the hay in her garden. Simple!

Next year will be the first year that I'll actually plant in the mulch. I'm counting on it going smoothly, with well fed soil being a great start to my seeds and plants. If you're like me, and you have too many weeds to pull, do a little winter reading and see if Ruth's methods won't just work for you!

Prep On!
Gen-IL Homesteader

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Anonymous said...

Not sure if you'll get this, but here it goes. What we did this year that worked great also, we put grass clippings around our plants. This really helped keep the weeds down. I'm sold on this technique as we layered till we had 8 inches. Not much weed picking at all and the soil became really rich and kept moisture well.

I haven't completely cleaned out the garden yet. Guess I'll put that on my to do list. lol Hope you are doing well.

Gen-IL Homesteader said...

Hi Shelly! Yes, I started out with grass clippings, too, but didn't have enough, so we got hay bales instead. That thick mulch really makes such a difference, doesn't it?
I have carrots to pull, yet, and more leaves and hay to lay. It looks like this weekend will be chilly for us so I'm trying to get it done this week. Just one more thing on the list......Doing great here! Hope you are, too!

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