Living a mile down the road, Lori is my closest neighbor. She has made other attempts at gardening in the past, with varying levels of success. But this year her garden looks to be about the best one ever–lots of lush green plants flourishing in almost weed-free soil.
Breaking new ground
Her first challenge: our North Dakota prairie grass. She is starting a garden from scratch, in a field that used to have sheep grazing on it. The soil is the gorgeous black loam that we in the Red River Valley all know and love. The good news: our rich, fertile soil means that almost anything will grow well. The bad news: That includes grass and weeds. Our grass and weeds seem to be nuclear powered and can quickly take over our gardens.
So Lori rototilled a small patch and then laid down weed barrier cloth. This cloth will decay over time, but by the time it does, Lori will have gotten good control over the grass and weeds.
Seeds vs. Plants
Lori’s garden is almost all plants (as opposed to seeds) with the exception of a few onions (which were bulbs.) These are easier to plant with the weed barrier–just cut an “X” in the weed barrier and dig a hole for the plant. Her tomatoes, peppers and tomatillos are growing like gangbusters. In fact, they quickly outgrew their cages, so she’s devised a whole series of supports and braces from material she had around the property–fencing and fence posts reinforce and support the cages.
Lori loves salsa and it shows. She has planted lots of tomatoes, peppers (3-4 varieties) and tomatillos so her garden will give her plenty to satisfy her salsa cravings.
Her biggest challenge
Lori says her biggest challenge has been the cabbage moths. Welcome to the club! There’s nothing nastier than finding dozens of little worms in the midst of your broccoli. So I told her about my favorite bug control: Diatomaceous earth and Bt. I think that should take care of her moth problem.
Here’s what I learned from Lori’s garden:
- Weed control. When starting a new garden fresh from sod, you will definitely need good weed/grass control. The black landscaping fabric Lori chose is probably the easiest, but you could also use layers of newspaper topped by another compostable mulch like hay or grass clippings.
- Start with plants. Using plants–from the garden center or a fellow-gardener-slash-friend–instead of seeds, assures success. No worries about competing weeds overtaking the plants before they are big enough to be weeded.
- Plant support. When you have the beautiful, fertile soil that we do, your plants will need lots of support. Be creative. Lori used all sorts of scrap fencing, trellises and PVC pipes to contain her plants.
Thanks for the garden tour, Lori! I can’t wait to see what your garden looks like next year.