28 April 2011

4 Garden Helpers

Dear Lissy,
I had a proud mommy moment yesterday while we were planting all of our spring crops. It was very warm, and you requested lemonade. Instead of just making yourself a cup,  you made an entire pitcher and brought out cups for all of us. Way to go, girlie!
I have two simple garden hints today that make a big difference in the amount of work and money I spend in my garden.

Take a worm census.
Worms are good indicators not just of soil health but also pH.  If you have a good worm population, the soil will be suitable for growing vegetables as well.
On a warm spring day when the soil has reached 60 degrees but isn't over 65, dig up a one foot by one foot by seven inch deep square of your garden and place it on a tarp or board.  Count the number of worms (size doesn't matter).  You should have at least 10 and it's not uncommon to have 50 or more.  The soil needs to be very moist to get an accurate count.  If it hasn't rained in the last 24 hours, use a sprinkler over the area before taking your census.  Worms head down into their burrows with very little provocation.  Walk lightly and dig quickly!

Use solar power to remove weeds.
If you have a garden bed that was especially weedy or you're expanding your plot, cover it with heavy mil black plastic for at least two weeks before planting.  You will need several days of direct, hot sun to kill all of the weed seeds in the soil.  The plastic is available at most hardware stores and home centers at a fraction of the cost of landscaping fabric.  You can plant through "x" shaped holes cut into black plastic, but it makes watering tricky.  I prefer to use the plastic just long enough to bake the weeds and then remove it.

Use a board to sprout carrots.
Carrots need constantly moist soil to sprout. After you plant the seeds and (gently) water the plot, cover the rows with 1 x 2's or other scrap lumber.  Check under the boards occasionally and remove them as soon as you see sprouts.

Straw makes an ideal lightweight mulch.

Veggies prefer their feet cool and moist.  Place a 4-6" layer of straw around the base of plants to provide optimum growing conditions and suppress weeds.  Be careful not to purchase hay which has thousands of seeds.  Learned that lesson the hard way....

Lovin' you!

These pictures are all from the gardens of those who love to share their growing tips and tricks.  


  1. this is very helpful! We are thinking of doing carrots for the first time (Jack's request), so thanks for the tip about the board.
    What kind of hay do you use?
    Looking forward learning lots of great gardening tips from you. Keep 'em coming!

  2. oh, one more question, what do you do if you DON'T have a good worm population? How can you make it improve?

    We have always had good growth with our plants, so I think ours is okay but I am curious to check it out now.

  3. Straw bales are usually the least expensive from a horse farm...they'll usually provide them at cost. I got mine free last year. I don't recommend hay bales because of all the weed seeds.
    Low worm population: Check your pH first. They like soil that is between 6 and 7, same as most veggies. That's usually measured and soil additives used in the fall. After that, keep adding organic material (greensand, compost & composted manure) to the soil.
    The last thing I'd mention is that worm census can be tricky because their burrows go well below 7". Early morning is probably the best time to try.

  4. I keep reading recommendations to use straw as mulch; I have to try that.

    Our compost pile is chock full of worms! I was so happy when I saw that!

    I didn't know the tip about carrots. I'll have to add that to my list for next year since I'm already started for this year.

  5. Good tips! Your tip about the carrots may explain why I have such difficulty yielding them. I'm a gardener, too. If you get a chance, stop by and check out my gardening stuff!