Deep Mulching- The Fuss Free Gardening Style

Deep Mulching- The Fuss Free Gardening Style

There are many ways to have a vegetable garden as well as many gardening styles. If you have raised beds for example, you could use the square foot method, a potager style garden, a keyhole garden, just to name a few.

I love browsing Pinterest and looking at pristine, organised raised beds, but when it comes down to it my gardening style is the complete opposite. For my tiny section, I have three main objectives: a high yield, good use of space and no weeding. To accomplish these goals I use a deep mulching method.

Deep Mulching 

This method is based on Ruth Stout’s ‘No Work’ gardening technique. The idea is simple: Keep a constant, thick layer of mulch around your vegetables all year round. This simple but effective technique means there is no need for weeding, tilling, digging or even composting (Though I do still compost, sorry Ruth!) It retains moisture in summer, keeps plants warm in winter and improves your soil fertility over time.

When your plants are finished, don’t pull them out. Simply chop them down and cover with mulch. Weeds poking out? Cover with mulch. You start with an initial 20cm layer of mulch, which will quickly settle down to about 5cm after rain, and just keep on adding mulch as needed.

My own gardening area is pretty small so I like to use all the space. This method lets me use the whole ground as one big garden bed with no set borders. Perfect for my hectic gardening style.

What Mulch to use?

You can use any vegetable matter as mulch. Chop down plants that are finished and use as mulch. I initially used a mixture of barley straw, pea straw and hay as my thick starting layer. Now I pile on grass clippings and leaves too. This thick layer will stop weeds as they won’t be able to reach the light.

But hay has grass seed!

Yes, yes it does. The key point here is to keep the layer of mulch thick enough. If you only have a light covering then the grass seeds can touch the soil and establish in there. If your mulch cover is super thick, the grass seed will germinate but it won’t be growing in anything. Then you can simple cover with more mulch or stick in a pitchfork and flip the mulch over. Or, use straw. It has considerably less seed but it is more expensive.

Once you start this method, you have to keep going. It’s all about the continuous cycle of mulch upon mulch. For me, mulching all year round still beats constant weeding. Garden clean up each season is also considerably easier as instead of raking up dead and decaying plants, you just chuck another mulch layer on top.

And under that mulch…

Is a glorious world or microorganism and worm activity. Over the years your ground will get more and more rich and fertile as these layers continue to break down.

To get initially started, check out how to make a ‘No-Dig Garden bed‘, here. This is a great starting point as it also requires no digging or disturbing of the soil structure and microorganisms underneath.

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea I’m sure, but it’s effective and time savvy. The mulching cuts down weeding, saves A LOT of water in summer, keeps plants warm in winter and improves soil fertility, ten fold.

What do you think, what’s your gardening style?

Happy Gardening!

 

Spring in the Garden- October to do list

Spring in the Garden- October to do list

It’s nearly Labour weekend when most of New Zealand will go out and plant the majority of their seedlings. The chance of a late frost will have passed and the weather will be warming up. For cooler areas down South, waiting a little longer to plant can be a good idea.

Seeds to sow: broccoli, cauliflower, beetroot, carrot, lettuce, spinach.
Seeds to sow after Labour weekend: Beans, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplants, pumpkins, melons, tomatoes, corn

Plant from punnets after Labour weekend: Eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, cucumber, chilli, tomatoes

Potatoes

Potatoes planted in the last two months will be showing their big leafy tops and they’ll need soil or mulch mounded around them. This will keep their long stalks from breaking in the wind and will stop the sun from shining through and turning your potatoes green.

Prepare beds for heavy feeders

Corn and pumpkin are two prime examples of heavy feeders. They need extra compost and manure in their beds to get them to grow big and tasty. You can use this month to prep those beds extra well, before direct sowing the seeds at the end of the month.

Work in things like well-rotted manure or sheep pellets, chopped up, washed seaweed, compost and worm castings. Cover the bed with mulch and let the worms and microbes have a feast until it’s time for planting.

Bees

As the weather is warming up, did you notice your broad beans are finally carrying little beans? We have the bees to thank for that.

We are heading to the months where pollination is vital for our fresh produce. Let’s get those bees in our garden by planting flowers wherever we can! Borage, lavender, poppies, lupins, sunflowers… these are all flowers bees love.

Feed your berries

Homegrown berries are hard to beat.  You can feed your blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, gooseberries and strawberries with Strawberry Food to ensure a bumper crop. Keep the soil for the berries consistently moist but don’t over water.

Fill your gaps (and your plate)

Direct sow baby carrots, lettuce and radishes anywhere you have gaps. They’ll grow quickly and you can have fresh salads while you wait for your main summer crops to grow.

Slugs and snails

Keep on top of slugs and snails before they demolish your seedlings! You can use bait or a trap, like this beer trap. Fill it with beer and the slugs and snails will climb in and drown.

Fashion a frame

If you’re planting climbing beans, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers this year, a climbing frame may be what you need to save on space.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Pinterest is full of fantastic ideas on what you could use. It can made from stakes and string, an old spring bed base, a clothes horse… the possibilities are endless!

Photo credit: Pinterest

Happy gardening!

Container Gardening- Grow Produce Anywhere

Container Gardening- Grow Produce Anywhere

Having your own little vegetable patch can seem unimaginable if you have no grass to place it on. Container gardening means you can have your own homegrown paradise anywhere you like.

Well, as long as it gets sun. That’s still a must. Luckily you can always move the containers around to the sunniest spots!

Container Gardening

Tui garden products have a great range of soils and fertilisers perfect for container gardening. Today I used a mix of Tui Pot Power, Tui Vegetable mix and their new, handy pack of mini sheep pellets.

Container Gardening

Unless you have a mass amount of containers, you’ll need to consider where you plant your vegetables. You want to plant them in a way to maximise the space.

For this particular deck, there was a trellis at the back. I’ve planted purple climbing beans at the edge of a few of the pots to utilise the trellis, as the beans will climb up it.  Broccoli was planted alongside the beans. Broccoli uses a lot of nitrogen to grow, whilst the beans fix the nitrogen in the soil. When the beans are finished, the old plants can be chopped up and worked back into the soil to return the nitrogen.

Container Gardening

Capsicum and tomatoes were planted alongside basil seedlings. Basil can naturally help deter bugs and it is said to improve the flavour of the tomatoes.

Lettuce, coriander, silverbeet, red onion and strawberries were all planted in the remaining containers. Lettuce seeds were sown alongside the lettuce seedlings to ensure there’s a continuous supply.

Last but not least, I planted some french marigolds to attract those bees for when the tomatoes and capsicums blossom.

Container Gardening

The soil can be topped up once crops have been harvested. Add some more vegetable mix or compost, a handful of sheep pellets and replant something in it straight away.

Do practice crop rotation though, don’t plant the same family of vegetables in the same pot two seasons in a row. Otherwise, there’s an extra risk of plant disease or depleted soil.

Happy gardening!

5 Home Made Liquid Fertilisers Your Plants Will Love 

5 Home Made Liquid Fertilisers Your Plants Will Love 

As spring gets going, your vegetables will amp up their growth. A dose of liquid fertiliser can do wonders to ensure healthy growth. Unlike granular fertilisers, liquid fertilisers get the nutrients to your plants quickly, so you can feed them when they need it most.

When using a solid fertiliser in the garden it can be easy to add too much, which in turn can be detrimental to your plants. Too much nitrogen added to beetroot, for example, will lead to big green tops and not much root.  A liquid fertiliser, on the other hand, makes it easy to give plants the boost they need, in a controlled dose.

You don’t have to spend money to get a nutrient-packed drink for your vegetables, I bet you have what you need at home for at least one of these recipes below.

5 Liquid Fertilisers your plants will love

Manure tea, compost tea, seaweed tea… if you add the word tea at the end it almost sounds appealing….

Manure Tea

An excellent source of nitrogen. You’ll need 1 part well-aged manure and 5 parts, a large bucket (with a lid) and a sack/pillowcase.

Chicken, horse, sheep, it doesn’t really matter what manure you use for this tea as long as it is well-aged. Shovel the manure into the sack or pillow case and place in the bucket. Top with water and cover (it’s like a giant tea bag!) Let it sit for 1-2 weeks. When you’re ready to use it, dilute it to the ratio of 1:16.

You can empty the manure filled sack into your compost afterwards.

Garlic fattens up during September and October. A liquid fertiliser high in nitrogen, such as manure tea will ensure nice fat bulbs.
Compost Tea

Same ratio as above, 1 parts organic matter to 5 parts water. This time you’ll be using some homemade compost instead of manure.

Homemade compost is known as black gold in the gardening world and compost tea is the golden liquid!

In a bucket, shovel 1 part homemade compost and top with 5 parts water. Stir and let it sit for 4 days. When ready to use, strain it through some sort of cloth (e.g an old t-shirt).  Use it immediately and dilute to the ratio of 1:10.

Hungry potatoes love a drink of compost tea.
Seaweed Liquid Fertiliser

Living in New Zealand means this one is an easy one to make- there’s nearly always a beach close by! Seaweed is packed full of goodies for your plants including potassium, nitrogen, phosphate and magnesium. It also helps combat transplant shock when moving plants and seedlings.

We are sticking with the 1/5 part ratio again. Scour your local beach for the seaweed, you won’t need a huge amount. Rinse the seaweed well first to remove excess salt, then place in bucket, cover with water and let it sit. The seaweed needs to decompose for this fertiliser so you can let it sit for about 8 weeks in a dark place, away from your house. This one can get a bit stinky! Dilute to a ratio of 1:2.

Banana Peel Liquid Fertiliser(s)

Banana peel is such a treat for plants, especially roses. They’re packed with potassium, phosphorus and calcium. You can make a banana peel fertiliser in a few different ways.

  1. Banana peel tea: Soak 2-3 banana peels in 600ml water for a few days, the minerals will leach into the water and you can use the water as it is for your plants, no need to dilute. Give the soaked peels to your worms or put in the compost
  2. Banana peel smoothie: Blitz your peels up with a cup of water to make a banana peel slurry! Pour this on the base of your roses, they’ll love you for it.
  3. Banana smoothie: Spoiled, old bananas can be blitzed up too into liquid and poured around your plants. Try it in your vegetable garden!
Weedy Tea

This has to be the easiest one to source and make!

You can use all sorts of weeds from around your garden for this, especially those with tap roots such as dock. comfrey, dandelions or wild fennel. The long tap roots means the plant can absorb more nutrients which are passed into the leaves. These leaves can be put in the weed tea and all the nutrients will leach out into the water, ready to be poured back into the garden!

Stick with the 1/5 ratio (1 part weeds, 5 parts water) and fill a bucket with all your sourced weeds. Cover with water and put a lid on it. Let it steep for about two weeks. Dilute it to a ratio of 1:10 and use it anywhere in the garden! Once the weeds have decomposed in the bucket, chuck them in your compost and start again.

Photo credit: Kris Coppieters from Flickr

Happy gardening!

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring is finally here! Spring blossoms are everywhere and all my daffodils have flowered. I am just waiting on my tulips.

Though it’s a very exciting thought to start planting everything in the garden RIGHT NOW! Try hold off a little longer with planting any summer crops as New Zealand spring can be very unpredictable and a rogue frost could ruin all your hard work. Now is a good time to really ensure your soil is in top notch condition and that your garden is all cleaned up for when it is planting time.

Sow from seed this month:Beetroot, broccoli, radishes, coriander, celery, carrots, silver beet, spring onions

Sow from seedlings this month: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, potatoes, silverbeet, spinach

Prepare your soil

If your soil in general is friable and dark looking, you can just a little compost and sheep pellets to it to replenish some of the nutrients lost in winter. If your soil is looking a bit lack luster, adding some vegetable Mix as well compost and sheep pellets will give it the boost it needs to grow a bumper crop.

Spring Clean around the garden

Pick up any dead leaves or plant debris and chuck them in the compost. Take this time to do some weeding too as the soft spring soil should make it a bit easier to pull them out. Don’t put any of the invasive weeds in the compost though. The compost won’t get hot enough in this weather to kill them and they’ll grow back with a vengeance.

Quick Sow Spring Seeds 

September/October can be a little bit of a lull period in the garden, food wise. There’s not an awful lot to harvest from winter as you’ll be emptying your garden beds  for summer crops. I like use this time to direct sow quick growers like radishes, baby turnips, spring onions and  beetroot (where I use the leaves in salads as I wait for the actual root to grow). They can be harvested in as little as 30 days so you can at least have something fresh to harvest while you wait.

Feed existing plants

Feed your garlic and your rhubarb now, both are heavy feeders! For rhubarb, apply some compost and sheep pellets, or well rotted manure around the crown of the plant to feed it and retain moisture. Feed your garlic with a fertiliser high in nitrogen and add a side dressing of blood and bone. Take care no fertilisers or manure touch the garlic plant itself.

Feed strawberries now and all other berries with Strawberry food. Feed your citrus trees now with Citrus food.

Feed your deciduous fruit trees now with Fruit tree Fertiliser. Check the soil around the trees and see if it needs attention. The rough winter weather can play havoc with the earth. Add compost if you need to around the base of the tree (make sure it doesn’t touch the trunk). Mulch your fruit trees.

Let your plants bloom

Some of your winter crops may be flowering now. If you want to give the bees a treat or you want to save seeds for next year, let them flower away. Let the flowers of whatever plant you’re seed saving from,dry out on the plant and then remove them and place in a brown paper bag. After drying them out further for another week or so, inside, give the bag a good shake to remove the seeds from the seed head. Label the bag and store in an airtight bag until you want to plant.

Some plants like parsley or coriander are excellent self seeders so you can just the let the plant do its thing and new plants will pop up next season.

Attract bees

Have your broad beans been flowering but there are no beans in sight? Each little flower needs to be pollinated and because of the wet weather the bees aren’t as active. We can try and attract them to our garden by planting beneficial flowers that bees love. Read more here –> Beneficial flowers in the garden.

Start Seedlings Inside

Zucchini, capsicums, chillis, cucumbers… these can all be started inside now so you can get ahead when it’s time to plant them out. Traditionally labour weekend is a safe bet to plant them out as the risk of frost is gone. For help starting seedlings inside, read more here—> Starting seedlings indoor.

Potatoes

Plant potatoes now so you have fresh spuds for Christmas! Generally you can harvest potatoes after they have flowered and died back but not all potatoes flower so this is not a sure fire method. Keep dates of when you planted your potatoes and what variety and then go from there.

I have listed a few common types and their harvesting times.

  • Rocket- 60-70 days, this a quick growing variety
  • Cliff Kidney- 60-90 days (depending on baby potatoes or if you want bigger ones)
  • Agria- 150 days for fully matured potatoes
  • Jersey Benne- 60-70 days, another quick growing variety
  • Highlander- 80-90 days
  • Red rascal- 90 days
  • Swift- 70 days
  • Liseta- 90 days
  • Purple Passion- 70-80 days

Happy Gardening!

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