Giving the garden a rest

wannaflower(5)May 7, 2012

We are thinking about not planting the veg. garden this year. Should we just let it set without doing anything, or is there something we should do to help replace what has been lost in the soil from gardening in the past?

Right now it's just weedy. I think I at least want them gone.

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Joe1980(5)

At the very least, cover the space with something like plastic, to kill the weeds and keep them out until next season. I wouldn't worry about nutrients, because nothing will be growing there. If it's the work you don't want, why not grow something else there that the wildlife will enjoy, like sunflowers or something. It'd look nice, and the birds will love you.

Joe

    Bookmark   May 7, 2012 at 8:00PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

I would suggest using wood chips if you can get them for free. Wood chips that have had tree leaves chipped right into them (we get them free here, from tree services, just call and they will drop off). Spread it on 4" thick or so, leave it. Next year your veggie garden soil should be just gorgeous, and pretty weed free! Even better, if you can lay down a layer of cardboard or thick layers of newspaper (say 6 sheets or so) over the garden to exclude light from the leaves, then lay down wood chips. This type of mulch may also help you with weeds when you plant. I even use this technique to slowly build soil for new beds, wood chips layed down one year, layer of chips and manure the next...and so on until I have deep, rich soil.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 12:15AM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

Girl group, sounds a lot like your're using the Back to Eden method :)

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 12:19AM
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Trishcuit

I would like to suggest using a cover crop. Rather than letting the ground lie fallow, growing certain crops will help rejuvenate the soil, prevent soil erosion and crowd out weeds. When they reach a certain stage of development (BEFORE THEY GO TO SEED!) you till them under and breathe new life into your soil. There are many kinds of cover crops to consider depending on where you live. Here is one link and there is much more information than this out there too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cover crops

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 12:53AM
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keski(6)

Agree with trishcuit. Grow a cover crop and turn under to improve soil.
Keski

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 8:23AM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

I'd go for a mixed cover crop. A summer cereal, brassica, legume(s)and buckwheat is a good summer combo. And I let it flower and seed: the insects and birds love it and a heavy mulch after cutting it down deals to dropped seed.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 8:31AM
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elisa_z5

A summer cover crop that attracts beneficials, that includes legumes (which add nitrogen to the soil) and that you simply mow in the fall and it becomes mulch? Sounds perfect.

Feijoas -- do you choose only things that winter kill so that you just plant in the mulch the next spring without turning under the soil?

I should let some areas of my garden rest this year -- should try this method. Was thinking of alfalfa in the mix.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 9:14AM
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wannaflower(5)

I'm liking the cover crop ideas. Next question...Where is a good place to purchase the seeds? We have a Tractor supply in town & we have larger towns near by if I need more options.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 10:37AM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

I'm in an urban area so no ready sources. I've bought some on line from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. They have a good selection.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 11:39AM
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glib(5.5)

The cover crop will need maintenance (watering, and most important cutting just before going to seed), and will not eliminate the weeds which will grow together with the crop. The wood chips, with some cardboard under them, will eliminate the weeds for two or three years and add much more organic matter.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 4:21PM
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Joe1980(5)

The problem with free woodchips is that they come from people's tree clippings. Heck, I had 2 diseased trees that I cut down, and where do you suppose I put the brush? Yep, on the curbside for the city to mulch up and put in the "free pile". I guess it depends on how long you plan to let your garden sit there, because I would imagine that any disease would die off if you left it for a few years. Also, wood chips aren't going to be 100% weed free, so there will be some maintenance.

Joe

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 7:04PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

I use a lot of chipped trees that I get from the council contrators. I can't eliminate potential disease, but most of the chip comes from trees that overgrew their alloted space.
In NZ we also don't have those horrendous tree disease/pest problems the USA is having.
Eliza, we don't get much in the way of 'winter kill' here, it's pretty temperate. When I say "heavy mulch", I mean piling lots of stuff on top of the cut cover-crop. Some things like buckwheat always come back, but I like having random things pop up in the garden.
The only thing I've ever kind of wished I didn't plant was winter rye, but mainly because I kept thinking it was grass, and I can't stand grass!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 7:29PM
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glib(5.5)

I have to wonder what the potential diseases are. Fireblight? Bacterial canker? Something attacking conifers?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 8:03PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

I think there's a few pretty devastating ash and oak diseases, and the emerald ash borer is apparently spreading mainly through mulch.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 9:05PM
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glib(5.5)

I will discount the diseases, since the mulch would not be in contact with trees anyway. The ash borer certainly is spread in a variety of ways, and I agree that mulch is a main vector, but if you already have it it makes no difference. Or if there are no ash trees, or if you can be certain the mulch does not come from affected areas, or if you can be certain that the mulch contains no ash. Here, for example, mulch is ash-free, because all the trees died 10-12 years ago and were cut long ago.

The OP wanted to get rid of the weeds and the cover crop will not do it, because many annual weeds have started already and the cover crop has not. I have never seen a cover crop eradicate perennial weeds either.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 9:22PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Well, if you are still interested in a cover crop, I have used a mixed from Johnny seeds that included oats, field peas and vetch. I was pleased with everything about it except the price increase this year. Now I may try my own mix of oats and peas.

Naturally, before sowing the cover crop you would want to weed the area.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 10:59PM
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brighteyesLC7

I second the cover crop idea. It will add nutes and keep away weeds. Can't get any better than that!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 2:51PM
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jolj(7b/8a)

I till in compost at the end of the season & plant for the next season. But because you are in zone 5, you may do better with a cover crop.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 7:24PM
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