Monday, April 27, 2009

Patience is a Virtue

Image: One of my beds where I "almost" have eliminated all the grass.

“Dear Lord, I pray for patience and I want it NOW!” That humorous prayer sums up my trouble with the virtue of patience during garden preparation.

The most neglected portion of my garden prep is making sure grass has been eliminated. As a result, I fight grass in my garden beds continually. I can tell others how to do it correctly but can never stand to take the time to work that plan in my own yard.

For those that aren’t afflicted with lack of garden patience, here are helpful hints:

* Use a grass and weed killer on the exact area.
* Check out the label: Do not use one that sterilizes the soil or plants won’t grow.
* A contact herbicide works when touching plant foliage but will not work on bare soil. Wait for all plant life to die.
* You may have to do more than once.

A. Shovel down about 3-6 inches and remove sod/grass. Lay those layers of sod on a tarp or wheelbarrow away to use elsewhere as fill or to compost. Remember the sod WILL have grass and weed seeds germinate later. OR:

B. Till the dead sod into the soil.

* Amend the soil to make it hospitable to the kind of plants you want.

* Wait a month and if there is anything sprouting, use the weed killer routine again.

* This is the time to have patience. When it’s not windy, lay a thick layer of newspaper over the entire area. No light should be able to go through this cover. Use something heavy to hold in place. Gently water to form a layer of protection. Water will soak through the paper but seeds will not germinate without light. Leave in place for one year. Some weed seeds will still germinate after being in the dark for many years but it kills many.

* After the year of laying fallow, it is time to start planting your bed. If you wish, now is the time to add fertilizer products. Read labels carefully; know what your soil/plants need. Too much or the wrong fertilizer is a recipe for plant death and a waste of money.

* I like to use no till and simply dig individual holes. Seed germination inhibitor products (such as Preen) work well if you only use plant sets or bulbs.

* Do not add fresh animal fertilizer because it will burn the plant roots. Use only aged manure and mix it into the soil a month before you plant.

* Plant correctly. Use plants in each bed that have the same needs. MULCH!

This is a simple abbreviated instruction. I could expand each step into many long articles and the value of patience. “But make no mistake;” said Robert M. Pyle, “the weeds will win: nature bats last.”

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