A gardening expert I follow said that never should you let some portion of your garden go to weeds after a crop is complete. Even if you don’t grow a true producing vegetable, you can plant any number of cover crops to build the soil and keep weeds at bay.
This year, I’ll have a better plan and I’ll keep something growing in each area of the garden for as close to 12 months as possible. Let’s run through a possible scenario for a year-round garden. Early season vegetables such as onions and potatoes will be followed by traditional spring plants such as peppers, tomatoes, and squash.
As the spring plants play out in the warm summer months, my goal is to plant heat tolerant purple hull peas and okra. Lastly, as fall sets in, it will be time to plant greens and cool season crops to carry me thru to the winter.
Now an observant gardener may have noticed that the scenario above seems a little too simplistic. And right they would be.
But at the very least, it gives you an idea of where to start. Sit down and study the vegetable varieties that you desire to have in your garden. There are shorter and longer “seed to harvest” varieties of each vegetable out there.
Likewise, some plants can be let go to extend the season. I know many a gardener that will plant specific tomato varieties as soon as possible in the spring and harvest from those plants throughout our growing season into the fall.
A fun challenge for those folks is to see how long they can go on home grown tomatoes. Harvesting all the green/unripe tomatoes just before the first killing frost of winter may allow you to eat your homegrown tomatoes a couple weeks into winter. Building my soil is another big goal I have for my garden.
My goal is to use as much leaves as I can between sections and down the middles of my rows. This should serve two roles. First, rows covered in coarse leaves will keep mud at bay when the ground is wet. Second, the leaves in those middles should break down slowly over the growing year to be later tilled in.
If leaves are in short supply, I won’t hesitate to add some clean and very old hay. Clean hay means free from weed seeds. It would be foolish to bring weed seeds to your garden site that you’ve worked so hard to keep free from weeds. No amount of hoeing and pulling is worth a free bale of weed ridden hay.
Old Bermuda grass hay is by far the most desirable of old hay to use. The varieties of Bermuda grass that is used in the hay industry grows from sprigs as it does not have a viable seed. And with grass that doesn’t have a viable seed, you won’t be introducing grassy weeds into your garden.
In the rows and hills where I plant, I want to add as much composted manure as feasible for me. Bagged, composted manures are available at the better garden stores and make the task of adding it to the garden so much easier. If you know someone who regularly cleans out their manure from horse stalls, cattle pens, chicken coops or from under the rabbit cages, you may be able to get a lot of “product” for a lot of shoveling and very little expense.
Be sure to let any manures age before you add it to your soil. I’m not worried so much about it being too hot, as some would say, but of disease. As much as I’m for natural and organic manures as fertilizer, there is a very real and present disease factor that when composted is significantly diminished.
Shaniqua Davis is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Upshur County. Her email address is Shaniqua.firstname.lastname@example.org
The members of Texas A&M AgriLife will provide equal opportunities in programs and activities, education, and employment to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity and will strive to achieve full and equal employment opportunity throughout Texas A&M AgriLife.