Mulch saves time

Heavily mulched rows cut down a great deal on the amount of weeding in the garden. (Photo courtesy of CountryLifeWithCountryWife.Blogspot.Com)

It’s the middle of June a few years ago, and I’m chatting with an acquaintance. The subject turns to gardening, as it often does when I am involved. (You may consider this fair warning: do not strike up a conversation with me unless you want to discuss gardening.)

I mention to her that I am still rushing to get my plants out.

“My garden has been out for ages,” she laughed, “and we put out a really big garden this year.”

“Oh? How big?” I asked.

“I put out a dozen tomato plants, plus a few other things,” she replied, with excited emphasis on “dozen.”

“That’s nice,” I replied. “I’ve been planting since the middle of May and will have well over 400 tomato plants in the ground, eventually, as well as over 100 pepper plants, 100 cucumbers, squash, husk cherries, onions, potatoes, beans, corn, and a few other things.”

She stopped laughing.

Perhaps you wanted to garden, but just didn’t get around to it. Maybe you have seedlings ready to plant, but haven’t found the time. Maybe you are very busy, or maybe you actually have a life.

The good news is that it’s not too late. If you have a few tomato seedlings, or can find some at local nurseries, you can still harvest some juicy, delicious tomatoes later in the summer. You know, the kind with actual flavor.

In fact, lots of things can still be planted, even from seed. Just check the “days to harvest” on the back of the seed packet. Our first frost usually hits in late September or early October, but some plants don’t mind a bit of cold. In fact, some, like turnips, are better after a bit of frost.

Successive planting is also a great idea. Cilantro is something I reseed every few weeks. You can order the seed by the pound if you use a lot of it. Radishes and beets are also reseeded regularly.

Radishes

Radishes are coming in by the bunch in the garden this week.

You still have plenty of time to get beans in the ground. Green beans take 50 to 60 days, depending on variety. Be careful, though. In about two months, you could have this to deal with:

Green beans

A feed bag filled with beans, ready to be processed. (Photo courtesy of CountryLifeWithCountryWife.blogspot.com)

A tip for planting from seed: mulch, mulch, and mulch some more. Mulch like your free time depends on it, because it does. Unless you like pulling weeds, which would make you some sort of deviant – and my new best friend.

Wood mulch and sawdust are not recommended for the vegetable garden, as they tend to pull nitrogen from the soil in order to break down.

I prefer grass mulch: it’s free, it’s good for the soil, and it’s my main motivation for mowing. I also like leaf mulch for many of the same reasons.

Grass mulch

A great reason to mow the yard, grass mulch provides nutrients for the soil and keeps the worms happy. (Photo courtesy of CountryLifeWithCountryWife.blogspot.com)

Before I knew better, I would plant seeds and wait for them to germinate before mulching. By the time my veggies had germinated, though, so had the weeds. If you’ve ever tried to pick weeds without uprooting seedlings, you know my horror.

You may still have some weeds sprout in the center of the row, because of course you don’t want to bury the seeds under a pile of mulch. That’s ok. Those veggie seedlings can handle themselves until they are big enough to mulch around. The best part is all that garden area that doesn’t have weeds, thanks to the heavy layer of mulch.

Mulcher's helper

A furry friend stops to help mulch the garden. (Photo courtesy of CountryLifeWithCountryWife.Blogspot.com)

It’s still early June. Go. Plant. Mulch.

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