The excitement of spring and planting the seeds and seedlings is over. We are in the long haul of August and the summer garden. I won’t kid you. It’s NOT easy to do a garden in the late summer.
It’s hot. The bugs seem to be winning. The weeds have not given up the war. But I am winning against the weeds in the garden!
Seeing the produce on the plants in the garden keeps my motivation going for just a little longer.
One word of encouragement on planting in the spring. Even if you get a late start you can still have produce to harvest. This seems to happen to us every year because we have a big event with our kids in late April that takes all my extra time. So if it seems I am a little behind, I am.
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Okay back to the topic! You clicked on this post to find out how to beat the weeds not hear my woes of starting late! Let me show you some photos of our garden.
We have 4 sections of garden with drive paths in between for our mower. This is so helpful when we need to haul something IN the garden. It means I don't compact the soil anywhere I am going to grow plants. Plants grow better in loose soil. So we try to not step or drive where they are planted.
So FINALLY I’m winning against the weeds this year. There are some weeds out there but not many. Want to guess why?
GRASS. On my garden. Seriously. Dead grass is your friend.
We cover our garden with grass that we mow and rake up. Hence the reason we need the drive paths for the mower because it does most of the work of raking and moving the grass. This is the third year that we have done this and it is so amazing! Here is why.
Benefits of covering your garden with grass or straw
- RICH RICH RICH soil. As the dead grass breaks down it enriches the soil. It adds the layer of compost slowly as it decomposes.
- LOOSE soil. Since our clay soil never totally dries out (because it’s covered), it doesn’t turn into a brick under the summer sun. Also by adding the grass it keeps the soil more crumbly due to the increase in organic matter from the grass. This makes pulling the weeds that do sprout simple. Even dandelions are not hard to pull.
- FEWER weeds. I’m not claiming that we don’t have weeds. We do. But the amount is so much less than the years where I failed at getting the garden covered in grass. I believe the weeds that we do have come from the hay that we laid the first few years. It was free and if I kept it 10 inches thick then it worked well but I couldn’t keep up with it. Now we let our grass in the yard grow taller. Then we mow and rake it and layer it on the garden wherever it has gotten a bit thin or a weed or two has popped up. By using grass instead of hay, it has reduced the number of seeds that are available to sprout. Straw would work well too but for us the grass is free.
I didn’t come up with this method. Ruth Stout wrote a book called Gardening without Work (really that is the name!) about her method and I stumbled on it when we moved into this house. She’s a hoot to read even if you don’t put grass on your garden and other crazy things. Her method appealed to me because as we get older and my "helpers" leave to do their own lives I want to be able to still work in my garden. Stout's method makes this very doable! (aff)
How and when to start
The best time to start this method is NOW. Rake your grass and start layering it. You can use leaves that you rake in the fall as well but I’d advise chopping them up well before you do that. They take longer to break down than the grass so you help the process along by chopping them up with your mower. Cover your garden area this fall and you will have a good start for spring!
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