Earlier this week I ordered oat and winter rye seeds for fall cover crops. It’s been a really good garden year, and I’ll be sorry to see it end. But I’m already making notes for next year. For instance, adding more raised beds was definitely a good move.
They make everything easier for me–including watering and weeding, the two most time consuming summer garden chores. The community garden has water, but in order to conserve our supply, which depends on rainfall, doesn’t allow hoses. And watering by hand takes a l-o-n-g time. We also had good success growing potatoes in raised beds this year. The plants were huge and healthy and it was really easy to keep the beds free of weeds.
Another big discovery this year was that when it comes to weed control on paths between the beds, I much prefer newspaper to weed block and straw to mulch. Last year I tried a few different methods, and I was pretty sure weed block plus straw or mulch would be most effective. But I discovered this year that some weeds grew on top of whatever I used, especially when topped with mulch. Rather than pull weeds from the weed block (which kinda defeats the whole purpose of weed block) it’s much easier to just put down more newspaper and straw. No weed pulling required, maybe just a little trimming if the weeds are high. It’s also more environmentally friendly–weed block eventually gets holes in it and has to be tossed out. Newspaper and straw decompose.
Two other things I will definitely do again next year: plant a buckwheat cover crop and grow lettuce under shade fabric. I’m weirdly proud of my buckwheat cover crop, which I planted in June in the recently harvested garlic beds.
This was my first attempt at a summer cover crop, and it was really successful. The buckwheat sprouted in about 10 days, and has done a fabulous job of blocking out weeds. Not only will it eventually serve as green manure, but in the meantime, it’s attracting lots and lots of pollinators.
And then there’s my summer lettuce–heat tolerant, heirloom varieties grown under shade netting. It’s way too hot here in the summer to grow lettuce in the open. This shade netting (from Gardener’s Supply) worked great and enabled us to have lettuce during the hottest months of the summer. I’m trying to decide whether I even need to plant fall lettuce, because the summer crop is still going strong.
And last but maybe my most favorite–I spotted this guy yesterday hanging out on the milkweed I planted at the beginning of the summer. He spent a long time there and didn’t seem to mind me taking photos.