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Jessica’s Garden: Making time to Turn Soil

Beginning of a Maryland Summer

This Memorial Day, we spent time enjoying family and life while remembering those whose sacrifices have made our world possible.  My paternal grandparents have owned a home on the Chesapeake Bay for about thirty years.  We spend many weekends throughout the year there; not feeling one bit guilty for spending a few days relaxing. We kicked off the Summer season with a couple of dozen steamed Maryland Blue Crabs.  Set up on the porch, we spent a few hours picking crabs while my grandmother told story after story of her life’s adventures with my grandfather.

Sunshine, saltwater and sandcastles

When we returned from our weekend away, it was quickly back to reality.  With a little sunshine this weekend the grass needs attention.  It always seems to need attention.   Once home, I sprayed the remaining new garden patches a second time in an attempt to tame our Bermuda grass infestation.  Last year, the Bermuda grass was exhausting to battle as it quickly and stealthily attempted to choke my garden.

Cutting Garden tilled with compost, ready for planting

As part of my Mother’s Day gift this year, my husband offered to rototill my new garden spaces.  I am pretty handy and capable, but I can only imagine the sight I’d give the neighbors using a tiller.  I have accepted an offer to grow and prepare flowers for an old friend’s Fall wedding.  The first round of seedlings I started in my greenhouse in the early Spring are more than ready to be planted in the cutting garden. Many of the seedlings I have chosen, I also intend to directly sow into the soil.

We have now incorporated a few yards of fresh compost into the newly turned soil because it hasn’t been turned quite possibly ever.  The seedlings in my greenhouse were grown in organic potting soil and worm castings.  I am hoping the steps I have taken in the preparation for this endeavor will enable these plants and flowers to be strong and long lasting.

Botanical interests marigolds ready for transplanting

I am less concerned with the area designated for my squash and pumpkins as in my experience they are generally prolific.  These seedlings were given the same head start with the same healthy potting mix.  But in terms of spending the money on compost here, this season I am going to let it slide.  I have always used Miracle Gro as a fertilizer but am genuinely trying to lean more towards organic gardening.  Along with the financial benefits, a large reason why I grow a lot of our family’s food is to control what we are consuming.  I keep hearing about using ‘manure-teas’ as an organic fertilizer.  While admittedly it sounds foul, I’m willing to give almost anything a try at least once.

Last season, my main vegetable patch was sprinkled only with the compost from our kitchen waste composter.  It seemed to work well, but this year I will be concentrating more on soil improvement there by incorporating rich compost since we have a little more time.  While last year’s garden was very plentiful, soil improvement never hurts.

Although I have been concentrating on the flower patch for my friend’s wedding this week, as it is priority at this point, I am hoping over the next few days to start popping some tomato and pepper seedlings into the garden.  All the grilling this weekend reinforced my craving for fresh garden produce.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jessica,
    I am wondering what you use to keep rabbits from eating your plants. Would love some advice.

  2. Hi Gayle. Sorry for the delayed response. Rabbits are such a nuisance for me as well. When I established this garden at our new home, we put quite a bit of effort into installing a 10′ deer fence around the garden; 2 feet of bunny wire on the bottom and 8′ of larger gauge wire to keep the deer out. So at this point, fencing has been key. But at our old home, I had a small 2′ bunny fence that we pinned around the raised bed and then every 10′ or so I would hang a piece of pantyhose with a chunk of Irish spring original scent bar soap inside. Honestly, this worked really well. Also, it sounds a bit strange and mildly gross, but human hair will do the trick too. You can empty your hairbrush into a piece of snipped pantyhose and do the same process as with the soap. I also save the clippings from when I cut my son and husband’s hair. Works like a charm. Hope this information is helpful! Thanks for reading.

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