Every year I try and post some pictures of my garden so that I can look back and see what progress I made and how it came out. Last year I missed finishing since my daughter got married and I all but quit caring for the garden and barely even canned anything.
This year…hopefully will be different. I even purchased a new canner (an All American I blogged about here) to facilitate canning speed.
Every year we mulch our garden when we first plant. After that…we weed. Last year I had some leftover hay that needed to go and I heavily (very very heavily) mulched my tomatoes. And only my tomatoes. Surprisingly, we barely pulled any weeds in that particular part of the garden. There were a few grass clumps that got large by the end of the season but nothing major (remember I said we all but quit since we got caught up in a wedding).
Because of that experience with the tomatoes, this year we are mulching everything very very heavily. So far I have purchased 3 round bales. I have half of the third one left since purchasing it over a week ago. They were $30 each. The first round bale made the initial cover of the rows back in late March early April when we began planting. The second bale thickened everything up as we continued planting and things sprouted. We used it to fill in around plants and tighten up the rows once the seedling got a bit taller. My third bale is actually to fill in a few thin spots we left open for things like *sweet potato slips that take longer to get started and the occasional thin spot we see developing elsewhere as time goes on. Our belief is that we will probably need one more bale. *(sweet potatoes slips are usually a pain in the rump. They are slow until it gets really hot and so you hoe hoe hoe until they can be their own mulch….this has saved us tons of time alone just with the sweets)
So you ask yourself is $120 really worth it.
And my answer is absolutely yes. I have all but pulled NO weeds this year. A few….but not many. My hours in the garden have been spent watering (we are dry dry dry) and edging some beds I want permanently edged and of course mowing paths.
Putting down the initial hay did take a while but in no way does it compare (not even close) to the first couple of weedings you do after spring rains.
This may be the best summer ever. Ever! (for gardening anyway)
If I could go into fall without having to completely tear my beds apart (or till) because weeds just got the best of me I would consider that to be more than worth my financial investment. However the hours in the sun not spent with a hoe……well that’s worth it too.
I’ll try and keep this project updated so that it will be documented as success, failure, or somewhere in between.
Here are the pictures of some of my beds that are in my designated fenced area.
I have cucumbers, various hot peppers, fennel, daikon radish, thai basil, 6 varieties of tomatoes, zinnias, 4 types of cowpeas, 2 types of edemame (we had a cold snap and I had a slightly lowered sprout rate on these guys unfortunately) in the pictures you see. I also have okra, corn, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, thornless blackberries, raspberries and a bed of other herbs in this area. I know it doesn’t look like much…but I can easily fill at least 500 canning jars from this fenced area alone if I keep up with it.
The hay is very thick and I took the time to tuck it in between the plants once they became tall enough. There are a few weeds that we need to pull from in between them still but hopefully that will reduce once the plants actually get large.
Also, we are still fighting to a certain extent pernicious weeds like johnson grass and bermuda grass, just not quite as badly. I do think that darn bermuda is probably just sneaking in under the hay, but it would be there no matter what so…..
Lastly, I have used hay as a winter cover crop for many winters and all I see from it is improved soil, not extra weeding as many think or warn of. Not above the norm anyway though do be careful about plants like thistles or such that might be in the hay. The farmer we get our hay from is a pretty good hay maker and we rarely find pernicious weed seed heads we feel we not only need to pick out but must pick out and burn or through in the trash can.
So I have to ask, what do you have to lose by trying?