Ten of Kenny Point’s pointers on growing a higher yielding and better looking vegetable garden with less work:
1.) Raise those beds. Loosen your native soil two shovel-lengths deep (if possible) and work 3 or 4 inches of compost or other organic matter into it. Use stakes and string to mark off beds that are about 4 to 5 feet wide and 3 to 6 inches high.
2.) Mulch the paths. Point stacks 6 to 8 inches of straw in his paths each spring. It quickly packs down to half that and does a great job at stopping weeds. Top it off later in the summer, if necessary. Wood mulch is a good alternative.
3.) Plant closely. Take advantage of the loose, compost-improved soil to plant in a matrix pattern so that plants will just touch at maturity.
4.) Avoid tilling. Since you won’t be walking on your raised beds, there’s no need to till each year. Use a garden fork to lightly mix in an inch or two of new compost each spring or fall.
6.) Pick superior varieties. Home gardeners can focus on taste, nutrition, disease-resistance or whatever is most important to you. You don’t have to worry about good looks and “shippability” as commercial growers do.
7.) Practice “succession planting.” As soon as one crop is harvested, replace it with another, such as replanting a patch of beets in late August with a fall crop of broccoli.
8.) Make your own compost. There’s nothing better to add to your soil, plus it’s a great way to recycle organic yard and kitchen waste that otherwise would go to a landfill.
9.) Consider “cover-cropping.” This involves planting fast-growing crops such as buckwheat or annual ryegrass when a bed is done for the season. Cover crops discourage weeds and add organic matter to the soil when they’re dug into the soil in spring.
10.) Don’t quit too soon. Lettuce, kale, cabbage, turnips, carrots, beets, spinach and radishes are among the cool-season crops that can be grown in fall. “Fall is the best season for gardening,” says Point. “It’s cooler, there’s more moisture, fewer bugs, fewer weeds and some crops do best when they mature in cool weather.” — George Weigel
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(George Weigel is a Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist who covers gardening for The Patriot-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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