four things that improved our veggie garden this year

Posted on June 21st, 2019 by mountain girl  |  1 Comment »

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Hola, and Happy First Day of Summer!

This will be our second summer on the farm here in NC! Everything is green and some days already have us feeling like we live in the Amazon rainforest. Our spring daffodils and peonies have come and gone, and the summer lilies, zinnias, black-eyed Susans, lavender, purple coneflowers, and lots of others are blooming like crazy.

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We hatched our second clutch of eggs in May, and the six chicks we kept are already off on little adventures every day. We’ve lost three hens to nighttime predators, but such is life, and our kitchen is still overflowing with eggs. Our goats are very cute and very bad and we still love them very much, haha. Especially that one in the red shirt.

The veggie garden is doing great. The broccoli is chest-high, the tomatoes over my head, and potatoes are overflowing their raised bed. The peas, strawberries, lettuce, kale, wax beans, spinach, and lots of herbs have been steadily there for us to partake of for several weeks. The sweet potatoes that I planted as plugs are still small, but it won’t be long before they overtake their bed, too.

The garden is a huge improvement over last year. This year we are only doing the fenced garden, rather than planting in our ten long rows in the field. Planting in the rows was hard for a couple of reasons–the weeds were vicious and almost impossible to keep down, and the wild animals usually got to them before we did. Oh, and we have goats. Goats are very bad, have I mentioned? And very cute.

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We also put a net over the fenced garden to keep out the birds. At first, we lost a couple of poor birdies that got tangled. It was so very sad. Now it seems ok–maybe the birds have become wiser after seeing the casualties. If you look closely, you can see the net stretched over the top.

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Besides dealing with animals above ground, we also have underground garden predators to fight. Last year voles invaded our sweet potatoes and destroyed them, and got a lot of the white potatoes, too. Voles are rodents, moles are insectivores. Voles eat all kinds of root vegetables, while moles (besides eating insects) eat spiders, earthworms, snails, and other small creatures. Voles eat veggies, moles eat meat. We have both of them–yay! Big, raised mole tunnels and small vole tunnels track through the garden and across the lawn. Because of the root vegetable massacre last year, outwitting the voles has been my goal.

So David built three 4′ x 8′ raised beds and stapled hardware cloth to the bottom. We filled them with some different types of soil, which was also a learning experience. Too much fresh compost kills tomatoes and carrots and everything else–we found out the hard way.  Thankfully, I left a few tomato plants without compost, and those lived. I went from around 150 tomato plants to 22, but that’s plenty for all of us.

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On a happier note, the majority of the raised-bed soil was hauled by David (and the tractor) from an area where we burn weeds and fallen branches. It was filled with little coaly bits of burnt wood and ash, and it worked wonderfully. The plants in raised beds grew at least twice as high as those on the ground. I think it was mostly due to the soil, but also maybe because the raised beds had better drainage, and distributed moisture more evenly. I just know the raised beds were well worth the effort for us, and next year we’ll probably add a few more.

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The third thing that substantially improved the garden, after wildlife-proofing it and adding raised beds, was the addition of mulch.

Here in the land of gigantic Goliath weeds, mulching is a game-changer. Last year even the fenced garden succumbed to weeds–and not just common weeds, but other things that somehow found their way into the garden. I kid you not, my main crop was some kind of ornamental gourd that I never planted, and a couple of different varieties of melons (I also never planted), which didn’t really get to an edible stage but managed to choke everything else and climb all over the garden structures. I admit, I might have been too interested in seeing what kind of fruit the mystery vines would produce so I let them get bigger than I should have. But still, the weeds were overwhelming, and at this time last year, we could barely get through them to our own produce. And I was weeding A LOT.

This year, I took all the compost I had left over (several wheelbarrows-full) and spread it over the garden to help cover the weeds and amend the soil. Over that I forked a few inches of mulch between all the beds, over every weed, across the entire garden. Mulch is amazing. Weeds definitely still pop up, but they’re very manageable. The brown might look a little boring, but a pretty green carpet of grass turns into a jungle way too quickly.

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The fourth and last thing that changed our garden this year was to set up a sprayer in the center of the garden. We keep it connected to our garden well with a long hose. To water, all I have to do is walk out to the well, turn it on, and voila! The garden gets watered. Such a simple addition, but so very helpful.

I know there will be lots of other things we’ll be figuring out along the way–including bug control, which is my main problem right now–but that just keeps everything interesting. I’m really happy with the improvements we’ve made this year as we learn to live in this climate. Even though our garden is much smaller this year, I think we’ll be reaping more from it.

Let me know if you have any awesome garden tips:)

One Response to “four things that improved our veggie garden this year”

  1. Your Lion says on :

    Happy First Day of Summer!! Great post!

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