Garden Preps : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Garden Preps

Is your garden prepped? I don’t mean do you have one, but have you laid in essential supplies to keep it fertile, expand it, and make it useful as an ongoing source of needed raw materials?

Right at the outset, the problem comes up of chemical fertilizer vs. “organic”. If you are in a survival situation and commercial fertilizer is all you have, it is may be a necessary choice to use it. However, for the long term, more than a year or two, chemicals will burn out the soil organisms, which will keep soil fertility going for years. My solution is to get big bags of blood meal or fish meal, bone meal, and, in my highly acidic soil area, some lime to have on hand, and incorporate it into my beds and containers as I mulch, so they will tie in with plant materials to make a rich humus. Building soil is prep #1.

Stockpiling materials for mulch and soil building is important. I collect old newspapers (not the glossy inserts), lawn clippings, leaves, thatch, horse manure, and especially seaweed, sometimes composting them, sometimes simply storing them for mulch.

In addition to digging tools, I highly recommend a hand truck, or dolly. You can move containers to better spots, and haul all sorts of heavy things. A lot of my garden has to go on the driveway in summer, due to big trees shading some areas, but then must be moved in winter for snow removal. It has occurred to me that some of the really big pots would make a good barrier across the entrance to my driveway, also. A good wheelbarrow will save on carrying. Speaking of which, how about boxes or produce baskets for carrying everything from wood to mulch to tomatoes?

Many people throw out pots or six-pack containers for seedlings. These should be saved to start new plants, and to pot up herbs to bring inside in winter, plants give to friends, or for barter. Cemetery dumps are good places to find pots. I have also found many useful big containers like halibut tubs, big plastic toy buckets, and hanging pots at my local dump. Just go look! Tin cans can be saved, with top and bottom removed, to be cut into circular cuffs for around seedlings. Slugs get a shock from the metal if they try to cross the cuff.

Speaking of slugs, an essential prep is a big package of yeast, like the kind at Costco for making slug bait. (Why use perfectly good beer for that?) Just mix a couple of teaspoons in a pitcher of water, and fill several dishes around your garden. Slugs will crawl over to drink, fall in, and die happy.

A good pair of pruning shears (I like Felcos), and a variety of loppers, pruning saws, and perhaps a pole-pruner can really help out. Extra saw blades are helpful.

To keep your tools in good condition, a designated bucket filled with sand and a quart of old engine oil will nicely clean and lubricate metal shovels, hoes, ice choppers, etc.

Other materials to be stocked should include plastic, floating row covers, string, fencing, a pH monitor that you can just stick in the soil, etc. Materials for making cold frames, including old windows, boards, and boxes can often be found at the dump or curbside during the spring cleanup trash days.

Seeds of course should be purchased early, and many will last several years. However, perennial plants, in the ground, alive and growing, are an even surer source of food. Fruit and nut trees, perennial vegetables (like rhubarb, asparagus, chives, horseradish), bush fruits, and many others are interesting forms of insurance and variety. Plants are a real form of wealth, a type of foundation capital for living, no matter how bad or good the situation.

-- seraphima (, February 14, 2002


Inspirational seraphima! I'd like a big garden but just lately I've taken on too many side projects to keep a cactus alive! Blacksmithing bees, farmers market, my "job" raising sheep +++ gardening gets sidetracked fast. Maybe I could manage some some low mait stuff. what would you suggest? Corn, squash, tomatos??

-- Ross (, February 14, 2002.

Excellent info Seraphima. I have at least two months yet before I have to seriously get ready. The only thing I could plant yet is peppers. Maybe I'll dig out my seed box tomorrow....

-- Bernie from Northern Ontario (, February 14, 2002.

For busy people, the keyword is Mulch. Let the soil warm up, plant what you want, then mulch it when it is up. The more mulch, pretty much the better.

An alternative is to plant perennial herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, etc. and MULCH the plants, they will need almost no water or care, and can extend your cooking variety amazingly. Bees love herbs. Monarda, comfrey,lemon balm, borage- plant them near the bees, mulch them, feed the bees and get flowers, tea,greens, mulch biomass (comfrey)and very little work.

Consider planting some version of the Three Sisters- corn, beans & squash for vegetables. Try different varieties in each hill, or different mixes. get the picture.

-- seraphima (, February 14, 2002.

I believe that as a good tenant of the land you build your soil up rather than breaking it down. We are big on cover crops which add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. In the fall we plant winter rye and till it in the spring. The garden spot is just sitting there anyway over the winter, why not give it a blanket and make it work for you in the spring! In the spring, we try to rotate garden spots by planting one garden spot with the spring crops and the other with buckwheat. Just before the buckwheat blooms we till it in. Your good to go then for summer planting. Next year we reverse and the spot that was spring planted gets the buckwheat cover, etc. Between the covercrops and compost you will be amazed at the soil you get! Buckwheat also chokes out weeds and arrates the ground.

We also recycle plant pots along with cutting up milk jugs, juice containers, etc. Just be sure and steralize the used pots before you plant to prevent plant diseases.

We would love to go completely organic, but I have to admit I will pull out the big guns when it comes to either having to hand pick critters or spray them! But in general between rotenone 1%, BT, dipel and pepper sprays, we do pretty well.

Here a dusting tip: When using a dust, if you don't have dust sprayer you can use a triple layer of cheesecloth cut into a large square. Pour in your dust and gather up the ends to form a "bag". Just shake the bag and instant duster!

-- Karen (, February 15, 2002.

Thanks Karen for the dusting tip. How did you get that chicken there?

-- Sherry (, February 15, 2002.

Oh I hope she found an easier way than I did!! Never thought of adding it to the name window
If what I did works that is!! LOL

-- Ross (, February 15, 2002.

When I was working in town I would make trips into the new housing developement areas and look for scrap sheetrock and take home to throw in my garden. I would do this in the fall so it would have plenty of time to break down in the garden. Then I would search the side streets and look for bagged up leaves. This I would stock pile until I was almost ready to plant a garden. When spring planting came I would till the leaves up in my garden. It would only take a few days for the leaves to totally decompose, giving instant nutrients for the soil. Also I would till in some chicken litter from out of the chicken coop.

-- r.h. in okla. (, February 16, 2002.

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