Pre-spring cleaning

The succession of temperate days here is a blessing I haven’t taken for granted. The weekend was both warm and sunny, cool and cloudy. This was a ripe time for some pre-spring cleaning to prepare my garden for planting. But first, a nice surprise welcomed me after being estranged from the garden all winter:

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The garlic that I planted last November made it through the winter and has sprouted! Holler! After admiring the garlic shoots, I proceeded with the necessary business:

1. Uproot the remaining dead weeds from the winter

I’ve incorporated no-till gardening practices into my routine to alleviate the cleaning duties. At the end of last year’s growing season (5 months ago), I collected cardboard from work and used it as an organic weed mat on my garden plot. For something that was free, it did an excellent job. Most of last year’s weeds and plants had decomposed underneath the cardboard sheets, so all I had to do was pull out roots here and there. This method also gave the added bonus of providing compost for the soil.

2. Amend the soil with compost, chicken manure, blood meal, and bone meal

This is the organic fertilizer formula that a friend taught me to use years ago in San Diego. It has continued to serve my gardens well since then.

3. Mulch with grass clippings

In my humble opinion, grass clippings are the preferred vegetable garden mulch. It stays put despite strong winds (unlike leaves), it provides nitrogen to the soil, and in my current situation, it’s available in large mounds for free next to the community garden. Before I discovered this boon, I made the mistake last year of applying bark mulch. I was afterwards informed to avoid using bark mulch in the vegetable garden because it would leach acid into the soil. Thankfully, I was able to rake the bark mulch off before I planted anything. This page on vegetable garden maintenance provides a good breakdown of the different types of garden mulch.

4. Build trellis for peas

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The stakes were reinforced with 3 ft U-posts, which will hopefully withstand the occasional 20-30 mph winds here. Welded wire was secured to the stakes/posts with velcro tape.

5. Put pest controls into place

I don’t believe in pesticides. I also don’t care for traps, which would force me to deal with pest carcasses. Mice, rabbits, and gophers do roam freely within the community garden, unfortunately. The prevention methods I’m trying this season are gopher baskets for root crops and boxes for leafy vegetables.

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I purchased 10 of these 5 gallon gopher baskets from Peaceful Valley ($4 each). These require some shaping and it’s tedious work to have to dig them into the ground, but I’ll do almost anything to protect my precious plants.

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I constructed a few boxes (2′ x 4′ x 1′) from 1/4″ mesh hardware cloth to guard against mice and rabbits. The boxes are held in place at each corner with 2 ft rebar stakes.

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And now the garden is ready, bring it on!

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