Category: Vegetable Gardening

Vegetables for your Fall Garden


Believe it or not, fall is the best vegetable growing season along the Gulf Coast. Snap beans, all the brassica, Swiss Chard, Cucumbers, potatoes, squash (summer and winter), tomatoes and turnips can be put in now or shortly. Others like carrots, beets, garlic, lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, radishes, spinach and turnips can wait until November.

 Beans: Put in snap beans in the next week or two. Good varieties include Blue Lake, Derby, Roma II, Topcrop, Jade, and Masai (haricot vert). Pintos include Arapaho and Dwarf Horticultural. If you like limas (and who doesn’t), plant Henderson Bush, Jackson Wonder, and King of the Garden. Plant all by seed.

Brassicas: Brocolli (Green Magic, Packman, Premium Crop), Brussels sprouts, cabbage (Bravo, Market Prize, Rio Verde), kohlrabi, and cauliflower can go into the ground around the first of October. The brassicas are cold hardy plants, so you can actually do succession planting for these for a supply well into the spring.

Cucumbers: Sow seeds now until the middle of September for maximum growth. Slicer varieties include Dasher II, Poinsett 76, Sweet Slice and Sweet Success. Pickling include Calypso, Carolina and County Fair 87. Most gardeners find that pickling varieties can be used for slicing and vice versa.

Potatoes: Plant slips around October 1. Suggested red varieties include Norland, Purple Viking, Red LaSoda. Irish recommendation is Kennebec.

Squash: Plant winter squash seeds now. Varieites might include Butternut types, Cushaw and Royal (acorn). Plant summer squash around October 1. Suggested varieities are Burpees Butterstick, Dixie and Multipik.

Tomatoes: Put the plants in the ground now. If you planned to start from seed, it’s too late for a fall garden. It takes at least a month and a half to grow seedlngs from seed, and the plants need to go into the ground now. For larger tomatoes (four ounces and bigger) try old favorities like Celebrity, Early Girl, Better Bush and Amelia. For smaller tomatoes, thy Charry Grande, Gold Nugget and Juliet. If you like to make tomato paste, try the standard Roma, or Viva Italia.

Later Plantings

Beets: Beets can be planted from seed and should go in around the first of November. Varieties might include Detroit Dark Red and Ruby Queen. Beets are a cold-tolerant and a great winter crop.

Carrots: Plant seed by November 20. Suggested varieties: Imperator 58, Nantes Half Long, Red Core Chantenay.

Swiss Chard: Plant seed by October 20. Many good varieties to choose from. Some include Bright Lights, Lucullus and Ruby.

Collards: Plant seed by October 20. Many choices.

Garlic: Best time to plant cloves is anytime in November, or even December.

Lettuce: Plant around Dec. 1.

Mustard: Plant seed by December 1. Some varieties include Blue Max, Georgia Southern.

Onions: Plant bulbs in December. Varieites include Candy, Early Grano 502, Granex, and Texas 1015Y.

Parsley: Plant by Nov. 1.

Radish: Plant around December 1. Champion and White Icicle are two good varieties.

Spinach: Plant around December 1. Varieties include Bloomsdale, Early Hybrid and Melody.

Turnips: Plant around December 1. Varieties include Tokyo Cross and White Lady.

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Preparing your fall garden


September vegetable garden chores

In a few weeks, slightly cooler weather will be arriving along the upper Gulf Coast. Now’s the time to get your garden ready for fall crops.

The first step, of course, is to clean your beds. Remove all the spent vegetable plants, chop them up and put them in the compost.

The next thing to do is remove any weeds, including that rampant pest, Bermuda grass. Try to get as much of the root systems out as you can. Since many of them probably are seeding, don’t put these in the compost. Instead, if you have a green waste pickup, put the weeds in there. If you don’t have this service, dispose of them some other way. Hopefully, you won’t burn them. As a last resort, put them in the trash.

Spread organic compost over the entire garden.

You might want to mix the compost into the top couple of inches of soil. Some gardeners simply spread the compost on top of the ground, and let it work itself in over the growing season. After laying the compost, spread about a quarter of a cup per square foot of organic fertilizer and rake it into the compost. Then wet the compost.

In the southeast Texas area, there are several organic composting facilities, but none elsewhere along the coast that I could find. For Southeast Texas, you can find natural composter facilities at this site: http://www.findacomposter.com.

There are many types of bagged compost labeled “organic,” but in many, the “organic” label is misleading. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Cool-weather weeds are a problem. However, since most weeds are annuals and reproduce by spreading their seed around, prevention is worth more than the cure. Some gardeners like to lay down a mulch of straw or pine needles to discourage weeds. Some even put a layer of newspaper down beneath the mulch for further weed protection. After laying paper, wet it down to keep it in place while you spread the mulch.

Wait a few days before planting, but, if you’re in a rush, go ahead and plant.

Good gardening.

Vegetables to plant in your summer garden*


June is here, hot and heavy. Last week the temp was 95, but the heat index was 131. Either is enough to limit time working in a vegetable garden.

The tomatoes are just about done. Peppers are still thriving, and cukes are still producing some, but now’s the time to put in some summer crops that thrive in our hot summers along the Gulf Coast.

There is a great deal of information here, so you might want to print this out and put it in your journal, notebook or pin it to the wall.

Here are some plants that do well in the summer heat:

Eggplant

This vegetable contains essential minerals,  such as copper, potassium, iron; vitamins C,  B6, A, K and also antioxidants.  Eggplant can be set out as late as the last of June. For the best results purchase seedlings instead of starting from seed. If you start from seed, you won’t be harvesting eggplant – if you harvest any, for 100 – 150 days. Planting from seedling shortens the harvest date to about 70 days. You can plant seedlings through the end of June. Recommended varieties and days to harvest:

Variety Days to harvest
Fairy Tale 50
Neon 65
Purple Rain 66
Oriental
Ichiban 61
Pingtung long 65

Cantalope (or Cantaloupe)

High in beta carotene, Vitamin C, B9 (folate), and K; and also niacin, choline, calcium, magnesium,. Phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium, this fruit makes a well-rounded and nutritious food choice. Plant through the end of June.  Recommended varieties and days to harvest. Plant by seed.

Variety Days to Harvest
Ambrosia 86
Caravelle 80
Magnum 45 80
Mainstream 90

Mustard Greens

Mustard greens originated in the Himalayan area of India over a half millennium ago. High in fiber, folate, copper, calcium, iron, manganese and vitamins K, A, C, E, and B6 and has been proven to lower cholesterol levels. Mustard greens, along with their look-alike, collard greens, can withstand both heat and cold. Mustard and collards look a lot alike but they are not related. Mustard greens are part of the mustard family and is actually considered an herb. Collards are actually from the Cole family (Brassica), which includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. The best thing about mustard greens is you can plant them as late as the end of July. Plant by seed.

Variety Days to Harvest
Florida Broadleaf 40
Savanna 35
Southern Giant Curled 50

Okra

Okra comes from the West African word nkru and is a member of the Hibiscus family. Look at okra blossoms next time you grow some, and you’ll see what I mean. Okra probably originated near Ethiopia. The Egyptians cultivated it as far back as the 12th century B.C. Okra has high levels of vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, K, and C. A cup contains 1.93 grams of protein, folate and antioxidants. You can plant okra through the end of July and can plant by seed.

Variety Days to Harvest
Cajun Delight 49
Clemson Spineless 55
Emerald 58
Louisiana Green Velvet 55
Silver Queen 50

Southern Peas

Don’t know why they’re called “southern” peas. Does that mean that only people in the south eat them? They’re also called “cowpeas”, because they were also used as cattle feed. However, give me a plate of purple hulls cooked down with some bacon and onions (and a little jalapeno thrown in for good measure), add a pork chop and some fresh tomatoes, and I’m in heaven. I’ve been known to make a meal out of purple hulls and bread. And crowder peas are my absolute favorite.

All varieties of these beans – black-eyed, crowder, purple hull, zipper and cream, are good sources of protein (100 grams equal 42% of the recommended daily intake). These peas contain lots of fiber as well. These peas are gluten-free, so provide an alternative food source for those suffering from gluten allergies and celiac disease.

I can’t say enough about southern peas. They contain folates, vitamins B12, and a host of copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc. All varieties of cowpeas can be planted by seed through the middle of August.

Variety Days to Harvest
Blackeye #5 65
Mississippi Silver 65
Texas Pinkeye 60
Pinkeye Purple Hull 65
Zipper Cream 75

Peppers

Some see peppers as a flavoring…a way to spice up a dish. Others see it as a food source, rich in vitamins and minerals.

Originating in the Americas, peppers, both hot and sweet, have amazing health benefits. Raw, fresh chili peppers are very high in vitamin C, B6, K1, A, and minerals such as potassium and copper and antioxidants.

Peppers can be planted (theoretically) through the end of July, but don’t hold me to that.

Variety Days to Harvest
Hot
Anaheim 75
Cherry Bomb 65
Jalapeno 70
Kung Pao 85
Mexibell 75
Mucho Nacho Jalapeno 75
Super Cayenne 70
Sweet
Banana Supreme 65
Big Bertha 70
Blushing Beauty 70
Golden Summer 65
Gypsy 65
Jackpot 75
Lilac 70
Senorita (Mild jalapeno) 80

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are packed with Vitamin A, C, B2 and E. They also contain potassium, copper, manganese, and iron and small amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and folate. Antioxidants are also present. Pumpkin seeds are edible and nutritious.  You can plant pumpkins by seed through the end of July.

Variety Days to Harvest
Cinderella 95
Spirit 100
Small Sugar 100
Sweet Spookie 90-105
Lady Godiva 110
Trick or Treat 110
Triple Treat 110
Streaker 110
 Jack-O’-Lantern 110
Big Max 120

Sweet potatoes

The tubers of this plant are high in fiber, vitamin C, B5, B3, B6 and also high in manganese, magnesium and copper. Beta carotene, which gives it the distinctive color, is an antioxidant. Plant sweet potatoes through the second week in July.

Variety Days to Harvest
Beauregard 150
Centennial 150
Jewel 150

Watermelon

Watermelons are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant.  It actually has more lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable. They are a good source of vitamin C, B5, and A. It also contains potassium and copper. It is also the richest source of the essential amino acid Citruline, which is found in the white rind. Plant by seed through the end of July.

Variety Days to Harvest
   
Bush Sugar Baby 75
Crimson Tide 84
Golden Crown 80
Jubilee 95
MickyLee 85
Yellow Doll 68

*I have put links on actual planting, care and harvesting methods on each vegetable. Note that the sites they are linked to may not contain some of the information presented here, or, because they have been published in different parts of the country, do not reflect some of the recommendations I have made.

Plant tomatoes soon!


I know it’s still January, but spring comes very early along the Gulf Coast. I’ve already ordered seeds for my spring vegetable garden, along with some annual flower seeds to enhance the look of my native garden.

The USDA tells us that the “average” date of the last frost here is around February 27. It also reports that we are “almost” assured that we will receive no frost between March 20 and November 1, making the frost-free growing season around 270 days.

I shoot for the average, and always plan to get my spring garden planted by the end of February, or the first week of March at the latest.

I try to get tomatoes in as soon as I dare, because even the shortest maturing tomatoes take about 55 days to produce fruit. That means that tomatoes won’t begin to come in until the third week in April. Tomatoes with longer maturities may go into May. By that time, it’s beginning to get really warm. Since tomato pollen is no longer viable when daytime temperatures reach 85-90 degrees and nighttime temperatures are at 75 or higher, it’s important to make sure they’re planted early enough.

If I wait until March 20, the date I am almost assured of no more frost, some of my tomatoes won’t be maturing until late May. By then it’s going to be far too warm for them to set fruit.

Here are some varieties which do well along the Upper Gulf Coast, along with how long it takes for the harvest to come in.

Variety Days to Harvest
                   Large Tomatoes(12 oz. +)
Better Boy 70
Bush Goliath 68
Sunny Goliath 70
                 Medium 4-11 oz.
Carnival 70
Celebrity 70
Champion 70
Dona 65
Early Girl 52
First Lady 66
Heatwave 68
                  Paste
Chico III 70
Roma 75
Viva Italia 75
                      Small (under 3 oz.)
Jaune flame 75
Jolly 70
Juliet (Grape) 60
Small Fry 65
Sun Gold (Cherry) 65
Sweet Chelsea (Cherry) 65
Sweet Million 65


It’s not too late to start a winter herb garden


There’s nothing like the fragrance of rosemary in a warm kitchen during cold and dreary winter days. Or the taste of fresh chives chopped on a baked potato. Or cilantro in that salsa you’re making.  These herbs, as well as others, can be grown outside during the winter. B

Parsley

High in vitamins K, C and A, parsley’s spicy and slightly peppery taste pairs well with tomato-based sauces, potatoes, poultry,grain-based salads, seafood and egg dishes.

Parsley is very easy to grow. Spread the tiny seeds out in a pot, or into your garden bed. Cover the seeds lightly with some compost and press down to make sure the seeds are in contact with soil. Water gently every other day (unless of course it rains) until they sprout. Then continue watering as needed.

Although there are many cultivars of parsley, there are basically two types – flat leaf (also called Italian parsley) and curly leaf.  Originating in the Mediterranean area, people use it as a spice and a vegetable. The taproot is used as a food in European cuisines.

Parsley has high nutrient value, particularly in folates, iron, copper and many trace elements,  vitamin value, particularly in vitamins K, C and A.

Cilantro (Coriander)

Closely related to parsley, cilantro is also a great source of antioxidants. Using it to flavor food can also help to lower salt intake.Used for thousands of years, the dried leaves have been found in a cave in the Middle East dating back to 6,000 B.C. Cilantro has also been found in digs in ancient Egypt.


Some studies suggest that this herb may decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease and, when used in cooking meat, can reduce heterocyclic amine (HCA), a chemical derived from meat cooked at a high heat. HCA has been associated with a higher risk of cancer.

The leaves of this plant are called cilantro, while the seeds are called coriander. Cilantro and its cousin are related to about 3,700 other plant species including carrots and celery.

Rosemary

This is a fragrant evergreen herb – also native to the Mediterranean. Part of the mint family, which includes oregano, thyme, basil and lavender and dozens of other plants, it’s a good source of iron, calcium and vitamin B-6.

Rosemary is best started from cuttings, although seeds work almost as well.  It likes dry,well-drained soil, and prefers sun, but it will do okay in partial shade. It is a perennial, and can live for many, many years. Not only is rosemary a great herb, but it also makes a very attractive accent plant in the garden, adding its fresh fragrance to the outdoors.

Studies indicate that rosemary also has some beneficial effects in slowing human and breast carcinoma cells and other studies concluded that it might be useful as an anti-inflammatory agent. Many people put rosemary in bath water to soothe aching joints. It is high in iron, calcium and vitamin B6.

Chives

Chives are close relatives of garlic, shallot, leeks and scallions. In colder climates, chives may freeze back, but in southeast Texas,they rarely do, especially if they are in a sheltered area. They can also thrive in partial shade.

Use chives as garnishes, salads, egg salad sandwiches,vegetable stocks, potato dishes, omelets, and really anything that meets your taste. They do not do very well when cooked too much, so if you use them in soups or omelets, introduce them just before serving.

Originating in China and Siberia, hardy and drought-tolerant, chives can grow up to one foot tall in closely grouped stalks. They sport attractive lavender flowers in mid-summer. Chives do exceptionally well in containers.

Chives are high in vitamins K and A and contains large amounts of flavonoid antioxidants. They are high in calcium, iron, magnesium,potassium, copper and manganese and provide large amounts of thiamin, niacin, zinc and other beneficial minerals and acids. There is also some evidence that chives can inhibit salmonella populations.

Indoor herbs

Most herbs can be grown indoors, although parsley and cilantro thrive in cold weather. Oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, chives and most other herbs do as well indoors as outdoors. However, all of them require some light.

Herbs in containers

Whether you plant herbs indoors or outdoors, remember that herbs in containers require different treatment than herbs grown in the ground.Container-grown herbs, like any other potted plant, need good potting soil,instead of garden soil.  While garden soil is suited for herbs grown in the ground, where water and air can move around easily, and nutrients are readily available, the same isn’t so for container plants. Potting soil is generally made up of composted bark and leaves, peat moss, and perlite or vermiculite. They generally need more water than herbs in the ground.

Planting in the ground

Plant herbs in gardens using a good lawn and garden mix and add organic compost as well. Make sure it is well drained. In fact, you can plant most herbs in among your vegetables. Don’t crowd them though. Since good garden soil should be alive with microorganisms, worms and tiny insects which aerate the soil, and mycorrhizal fungi which helps herbs obtain nutrients from the soil, the herbs in the garden probably won’t require as much care as those indoors.

General rules for herbs

  • Harvest regularly.
  • Don’t overcrowd.
  • Don’t allow the plants to flower early in the season. Keep pinching off flowers that are forming. Some plants, like cilantro,are annuals, and, once they form seeds, they die. Keeping the plant from forming flowers (and thus seeds) is a way of prolonging the life of herbs.
  • Be sure to check the labels of any chemicals placed on herbs. Look for the words “safe for edibles” on the label. This goes for both fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Water properly. Herbs don’t need a lot of care.  Water them in the morning when they need it. Put down some good mulch but leave some space between the mulch and the plant’s stem. Water the soil around the plant not the leaves. Watering the leaves will only produce mildew and disease.
  • Choose healthy plants. Or plant them from seed
  • Don’t be afraid to prune or cut back herbs. This makes them hardier, thicker and better tasting.

Interfaith’s Organic Vegetable Garden


Sarah Munday, with Interfaith of The Woodlands’ Veggie Village, at the Alden Bridge Community Garden.

90% OF FOOD HARVESTED DONATED TO INTERFAITH FOOD PANTRY

Veggie Village, community donation gardens, are welcoming places where people work and learn together while providing fresh organic produce to the Interfaith Food Pantry and Senior Living Complexes. The gardens are located at the Alden Bridge Sports Park and Wendtwoods Park (in the Village of Creekside) in partnership with The Woodlands Township and many community volunteers.

Read more about Veggie Village

Cold weather heeby-jeebies


The temptation to get out my Felco pruners and my lopper and going to work on all my plants that have been damaged from the freeze. The soggy mushy crinums. The drooping brugmansia, the unattractive plumbago, even the perennial butterfly weed, its dry stems and brown rustling leaves that I think are very attractive, but  at the same time, I’m longing for the green to sprout.

Only a couple of things hold me back. One, if I cut off the damaged limbs and various appendages of my plants, it will be difficult for me to tell where the damaged part ends and the live part begins. If I cut into the green that might cause the plant to sprout during some warm days. That would be okay if there are no more cold snaps, but with our recent weather (it’s snowed twice this year) that would be hard to predict. If I do prune, the plants do sprout again and another cold period arrives, the sprouts will also be frozen and the entire plant may not recover.  I don’t know if we’re going to have another cold storm. We’re in mid-January. Spring generally starts here on the upper Gulf Coast in very late February or early March. But with this kind of weather, who knows what might happen. Additionally, the dead material will help insulate the plant until spring actually arrives.

In my vegetable garden, I covered my Brassicae (cabbages, brocolli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) with frost cloth and a tarp, but I could just as well have covered them with ice cubes. When I checked on them Tuesday afternoon, they were stiff as a board and as brittle as thin glass.

What a surprise when on Thursday afternoon, after the worst had passed, they were not only thawed, but what I thought would be mush instead were tall and sturdy leaved, green and thriving plants. And they are all close to harvest.

The reason that Brassicas and other cold -tolerant plants can withstand lower temperatures is because of their sugar content. Cold-weather crops have more sugar in their cells. Sugar water has a lower freezing temperature than plain water. Plants that are not cold-hardy have much less sugar in their cells, so have a higher freezing temperature. When the water freezes and then thaws, it causes the cell walls to burst. Plants with higher than average sugar content have a much greater advantage surviving freezing temperatures. If you notice, many cold-weather plants taste sweeter after a freeze or frost.

Our roses didn’t seem to be very affected at all. Most of them are natives from the Great Plains, and are, I’m sure, used to cold weather. Even the Duchess de Brabant bloomed throughout the weather and looks totally unscathed. But the crinums, angel trumpets, Turk’s cap, and a host of other plants are going to have a struggle – if they survive at all.

I do plan to take my own advice (if I have the stamina, patience and intestinal fortitude) and wait until early spring to prune everything. But when I look at my once-beautiful plants, I feel like Dr. Strangelove, my hand uncontrollably drawn to my left-handed pruners instead of the “button.” I have been spending cold evenings in my garage, polishing, cleaning, oiling and sharpening them. Maybe it’s just the cold weather and a slight case of cabin fever – not me becoming a serial planticidal maniac.

Spring vegetable varieties that do well in The Woodlands


As reported in the last blog, it’s not too early to begin planning for your spring vegetable garden, if you’re so inclined.

My winter cabbages are well on the way, lettuce is up and broccoli is looking good. Raccoons got into my onions and wreaked havoc. None of them have sprouted yet, so I’m doubtful I’ll have a good crop. I’ll probably need to plant again.

I’m already planning for my spring garden.

Tomatoes

Everyone loves tomatoes.  Some of my friends start them from seed. However, starting tomatoes from seed is not for the faint-hearted, or the impatient, or the forgetful…I fall into at least two of those categories, which is why I prefer to buy my seedlings, come warm weather.

Tomatoes from seed need to be started in January INSIDE. Why? Because it takes about six weeks for tomato seeds to sprout and grow into seedlings large and healthy enough to transplant into the ground. And, since spring weather here comes around the middle to the end of February, tomato seeds need to be planted early. Since it’s a little involved, I’m going to spare you the details. However, if you’re really interested in experimenting, here’s an excellent how to video: Growing Tomatoes From Seed To Harvest. Remember to order seeds soon.

If you’d rather do as I do and purchase seedlings, remember that it gets hot here quick, and tomato plants quit producing when the ambient temperature at night is 90 degrees or hotter. If your seedlings are not in the ground by mid-March, you’ve probably waited too long.

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service has put together a list of tomato varieties that do well in Montgomery County. The list actually includes all vegetable varieties that are proven producers in the area.  Recommended Vegetable Varieties for Montgomery County. The list includes vegetables all the way from green beans to watermelon, and also indicates “days to harvest. Another valuable tool is the Vegetable Garden Planting Chart, available on the Montgomery County Master Gardeners website.

In my last article, I have provided a list of good seed companies. Order the catalogues now, or access the websites from that post.

Try “No Till” in your vegetable garden


Humans have tilled the earth since they stopped being hunter-gatherers and became farmers. The tradition has been to turn over the earth before planting to get rid of weeds and to make it easier to use fertilizers to plant crops. Mechanical tillers have made things easier, but tilling is still one of a gardener’s most difficult tasks.

However, soil scientists are now realizing that tilling interferes with the complex relationship of the soil and the micro-organisms that keep the soil healthy and productive. Tilling also compacts the soil, brings long-dormant weed seeds to the surface sale and adds to erosion. In fact, poor agricultural practices like tilling helped develop the Great Dust Bowl of the 1920s and 1930s.

Gardeners who practice the “no-till” method never disturb the bed once it is established. Instead, they add amendments like compost, manure, peat, lime and fertilizer to the top of the bed.  Water and the micro-organisms in the soil pull the nutrients down into the subsoil.  Instead of weeding, they use mulch to prevent weeds from germinating. The results of “no-till” gardening: good, spongy soil, rich in micro-organisms and beneficial fungi. This allows the roots of young seedlings to penetrate through the soil.

“No-Till” Gardening Benefits

Aeration and drainage

Earthworms, micorrhizal fungi and other soil organisms are keys to good soil structure. Worm tunnels provide drainage. Their excretions help fertilize the soil and bind the soil to provide for aeration. Gardeners who practice the no-till process say that their vegetable plots are freer of diseases and pests.

Water Savings

Good layers of mulch allow water to pass through into the soil, while shading the soil, keeping it at a more constant temperature. This is especially important along the Upper Gulf Coast, where late spring sun beats down mercilessly on garden beds. The mulch also prevents evaporation, and helps create a moist growing environment.

Less weeding

Most garden beds contain weed seeds which stay dormant until they become exposed to sunlight. Dormant weed seeds will remain dormant indefinitely in no-till gardens. Gardeners can easily remove the few weeds carried in by the wind or birds.

Saves time and energy

Some gardeners till with a shovel, turning over the soil one scoop at a

Leaving the roots of plants in the soil adds to the organic content.
Leaving the roots of plants in the soil adds to the organic content.

time. Others use gas-powered tillers. No-till gardeners save time and energy.

Keeping the carbon in the soil

Good soil has a great deal of carbon. Humus, compost and other decaying organic matter provides carbon and other carbon-dependent nutrients to plants. Tilling the soil speeds up the breakdown of organic matter. When this happens, it releases the nutrients too quickly, increasing the need for more fertilizers. Good plant growth requires a slow, steady release of nutrients. No-till gardening promotes this process.

Earthworm population

Soil without earthworms tends to be poor soil. A good earthworm population in garden soil is a good indication that the soil is healthy. Earthworms create tunnels which help water and air to filter deeply into the soil. Tilling destroys these structures. In addition, earthworm excretions (called worm castings) are extremely rich in desired micro-organisms and nutrients.

Reduces Erosion

The no-till method reduces erosion. It increases the carbon in the soil, which helps prevent fertilizers and topsoil from being washed away.

Types of mulches

Since mulch is such an important component of no-till gardening, it’s important to know what types of mulches work best. First, remember that mulch and compost are not the same thing. Mulch is organic matter that has not yet become compost.

Good sources of mulch:

  • Straw: Excellent mulching material, as opposed to hay, which may have weed seeds.
  • Pine straw: Don’t curse the pine needles in your yard. Save them for mulch. Many municipalities and homeowners are using pine straw. It degrades slowly and therefore has a longer life than many other mulches.
  • Leaves: A great source of carbon and other nutrients. After all, the largest amount of all nutrients in a plant are in its leaves. There are two easily-fixed problems with leaves. They sometimes tend to mat, and they tend to blow away. Spreading leaves in thin layers and sprinkling a little soil on each layer will help prevent both these problems.
  • Newspaper: Since paper is made of wood, these are good sources of carbon. However, newspapers tend to blow away. As with leaves, sprinkle soil between each layer.
  • Seaweed: Seaweed has a large amount of trace minerals that plants need. Slugs don’t like it, so it acts as a slug repellant as well.

Gardeners who want less strenuous work, good vegetable production, and continuous soil health might want to give no-till gardening a try.