After coffee and breakfast with Dave the house guest, we sent him off to meet his traveling companion filled with all sorts of ideas for how to spend their day. Last night we all had dinner with Heartichoke and husband at The 5 Spot – a great little “spot” on the top of Queen Anne Hill. They rotate their menu periodically, and were currently serving New Orleans cuisine. It’s a little on the pricey side for a weekly date night stop ($15+ a dish), but my Cornbread Andouille Bourre Chicken was to die for (even if I couldn’t pronounce it), as was my Amaretto on the rocks.
Today is a rare warm and sunny day in December, and I couldn’t bear to be inside anymore, so I jacketed the kids and forced them outside with me. Together we started prepping my vegetable garden to be healthier and happier, and more willing to help my tomatoes grow! grow! grow! My friend Jenny (no, not this Jenny, but this one) sent me an article she read on how to make a new garden bed (I don’t have the source, but maybe she’ll add it in the comments?), and the instructions are following.
This was a fun and easy activity to do with the kids without feeling like I needed to be such a control freak. After all, we just shoveled dirt around and raked leaves!
1. Start with a layer of cardboard or black-and-white newspaper. Lay directly on top of grass or weeds and thoroughly wet it. A good thick layer (1- to 15 sheets of newspaper) will smother weeds and sod, and all that decaying green matter will form the foundation of your spring bed.
2. Add a layer a couple of inches deep of moist garden soil to weigh down the paper layer and speed up the decomposition of the sod below.
3. Next, spread any fallen leaves, grass clippings, or well-chopped kitchen waste you have handy onto the bed. Be creative-a local brewery may have spent hops to spare, or a juice shop may have carrot pulp. Many coffee shops will gladly give you all the grounds you could want.
4. Add a thin layer of soil or finished compost-just enough to sow the cover-crop seed into. When I empty flowerpots in the fall, I also add the leftover potting soil.
5. Plant a cold-tolerant cover crop directly on top. In frost-prone areas, plant in late summer or early fall. Some crops can tolerate temperatures well below freezing if you give them 6-8 weeks to become established.
Note: Cover crops offer many benefits. They hold soil in place over winter and prevent erosion. Their roots reach deep to break up compacted soils. Leguminous varieties add nitrogen to the soil as they grow. And when the crop is turned under in the spring (before going to seed), it provides a quick, plentiful dose of organic matter. Let the soil rest 2 weeks before planting.
And that’s all there is to it.
I’m glad I only attempted one section of the garden because the kids were losing interest by the last step, and abandoned me completely at clean-up time. Next week is supposed to be rain free, so I’ll get another chance to finish.
By the way, I created a new strip of garden along the south side of the house using these instructions, and the cover crop is already three inches tall!