by Tammy Taylor
My dad informed me that the Farmer’s Almanac notes the last average our area of NE Texas was March 16th, but I’ve always heard that around here you don’t dare plant until after Easter since those rogue freezes can easily slip in before then. I always battle myself this time of year – do I plant? Do I wait? Well this year Ole Man Winter has had a death grip on us with ice and snow, and lately the sky has been drizzly/foggy/cloudy for over three weeks straight keeping things in a cold muddy mess so I guess that decision has kinda been made for me so far! But while in our garage I saw something that got me fired up to at least prepare for planting.
I shared this picture with our Facebook Followers – OK, recap: I planted a jalapeno seed in 2013 & that fall RancherMan & I dug it up, plopped it in a pot and overwintered it in our garage. We replanted it in the garden last spring and it produced heavily for us again. We thought it might be fun to see if we could overwinter it again and plant it for a THIRD TIME in our garden this spring. But when we dug it up last fall the dirt fell from around the plant leaving just bare exposed roots & it immediately went into shock. We plopped it in the bucket & tucked soil around its roots & placed it in the garage, but soon it got dry & crunchy. I still watered it for a few weeks but I had to admit to myself that it was gone, so I haven’t even watered it since some time in December.
Aaaanyway, as I was in the garage recently I see THIS! Green sprouting leaves all over the plant. Oh yeah baby, we’re gonna get 3 seasons out of this one plant!! What a trooper!
So now I’m all antsy to get started with my garden. I’ve already planted up my handy-dandy indoor greenhouse with my heirloom veggie seeds & they’re all growing nicely. I’ve also used my easy garden planner to map out what veggies I’m planting where but I need to actually prepare my garden for planting. I read over at Prairie Homestead that they used the deep mulching method on the entire surface of their garden to reduce the grass & weed pressure and I was more than intrigued. I’ve got raised beds that we redesigned last year but in our area of NE Texas we have lots of Bermuda grass – great forage for the cows but maddeningly brutal opportunistic go-getters for ruining my veggie garden. It’s a struggle all season every year to keep it even partially in check, Although I constantly keep the walkways around the raised beds mowed the Bermuda will still send massive amounts of underground grass runners beneath the edges of my raised beds & march onward until I’m forced to throw my hands up in surrender. I’m hoping the deep mulch method in my walkways will eliminate all but the most stubborn Bermuda runners & allow me to FINALLY spend more time puttering and harvesting in the garden and less time in militant-style combat with this grass!
I’ve been in the planning stages for a while & I like to stand by my mantra: “Use What Ya Got!” I want to lay thick paper down beneath the hay to hamper sunlight from allowing any grass to grow. RancherMan has been saving feed sacks for me to use – he’s been so tolerant with the sheer bulk of them grappling to take over his feed shed so now’s the time to finally put them to good use. But I know from past experience that the strings that are used to sew the seams of these feed sacks do not degrade and will end up making a maintenance nightmare down the road if I just lay the bags on the soil & top with mulch. So I take each of those bags and soak them in water for a couple of minutes to soften the paper making it easier to tear and I pull the seams – string and all – off of these bags. Now I just straighten the bag where there are no wrinkles and lay the bags out flat over the walkways. I have plenty of bags so I make sure to overlap generously. (yes, Bermuda runners will creep along the edges to make it to sunlight. Grrrr…) My plan is to completely line the walkways and all edges of my raised beds as well as the inside perimeter of the garden fence with these bags to slow the bermuda’s march into the garden area and hopefully also keep them out of the raised beds. I’ll leave the larger areas without bags beneath the mulch so that I can pull the mulch back & plant rows of green beans in those areas.
Now that the bags are laid out I’m ready to cover them up with hay. A few weeks ago I had RancherMan drop a large bale of older rye/clover hay in my garden area. My hope is that since both rye & clover are cold-weather forages that even if there are sprout-worthy seeds in this hay it won’t interfere with the garden during prime-time.
So I take armfuls of this hay & thickly top those laid-out feed sacks to both hide them as well as keep them in place. Since I had enough hay I decided to go ahead & deep mulch the actual planting beds as well. When I plant I’ll push the mulch back & plant and then I’ll probably use grass clippings for that mulch topping and I add to it all summer.
Now all that’s left is to drop those precious seedlings into place. We’ll see if I can actually wait until the first week of April or not… LOL