Keeping your garden ready for planting is key to gardening success, as timely planting ensures your plants start growing on time in each season.
One of the most useful ways to manage your garden is in plots of multiple parallel garden beds. Below are three great strategies to keep your plots one step ahead of the game, so you stay ready to plant when you need to.
Permabeds (or Raised Garden Beds)
When you use Permabeds (raised garden beds made of earth), your garden is always easier to work in the spring. Why? It dries out sooner.
Also, beds are organized in the plot so that you can see which beds can be available sooner, either because they dry out sooner or because they have no weed pressure relative to other beds.
Cover crops are a great way of “holding” beds over in between your market crops, such as carrots or tomatoes. A cover crop holds the space available for the time when you need it by preventing the land from returning to weeds.
Any garden plot left for more than a few weeks will naturally return to weeds. But cover crops shade out these weeds.
Cover crops also act as a green manure. They fix nitrogen, phosphorous, organic matter and other essential nutrients, too. And they can provide a protective cover for the soil life beneath the Permabeds.
Unlike weeds, it is easy to turn cover crops into fresh garden beds, ready to plant into vegetables or fruit trees. This is because cover crops are a “known” ground cover. They have uniform growth and can be managed by timing a mowing to prevent seed set, followed by a tilling to integrate organic matter.
Tarps are powerful tools, appreciated by marker gardeners and serious home gardeners alike, to help maintain a state of readiness. Not only a poly tarp warm the soil earlier when laid over the Permabeds over the winter, but they also kill perennial weeds such as grasses and thistle.
Additionally, if there are heavy rains in spring, they prevent erosion and keep beds dry. With tarps, a gardener can easily work Permabeds, even the day after heavy rains.
When moving a garden into production, poly tarps can help quicken the decomposition of cover crops like winter rye, red clover and buckwheat. Then you can plant into a “clean” seed bed sooner without the bulky debris of cover crop residue (which makes it hard to seed fine seeds like carrots or arugula). And you maintain the benefits of improved soil organic matter.
These three methods, when used together, help the grower keep beds in a state of readiness for planting. First, we commit to raised beds that drain better and warm earlier. Then we cover crop them whenever possible to keep them out of weed and improve the soil. And finally, we can use poly tarps to further prepare and hold the beds in a state of readinedd for quick action in the field.