Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011

One of our goals as organic gardeners is to make soil loose and open enough over time so we can retire our tillers for good; frequent tillage at the same depth can cause the development of hardpan, a compacted layer of soil below the surface that impedes root growth and water absorption.  The easiest and least expensive way to improve soil is by adding organic matter.  I read after the fact that cover crops should be worked into the soil when they're less than 6 inches tall, and that if the crop is taller, working it in will take more effort.  It was too late to follow the 6-inch rule; ours was 24!  Except for stopping to pull great bundles of clover out, the tiller really did a fine job mixing it in. 
Before tilling I noticed dozens of lady bird beetles (commonly known as ladybugs) perched atop the crop's tall leaves and stems.  These beetles are one of the gardener's best friends because both the adult and its larvae feed on aphids, scale insects, and other small soft-bodied pests.  I hope they stick around!  Red clover attracts and nurtures beneficial insects.  This section of the garden contained its own diverse ecosystem - there was evidence a rabbit had taken up residence too.  Maybe now it will find another home... fat chance, with a gourmet salad bar on hand!  I've already lost some peas to critters, but there's enough.  Organic gardening doesn't necessarily result in insect-free plants and picture-perfect produce; sometimes the only way to keep everyone happy is to plant some for you and some for them.
Mom liked to edge her vegetables with flowers, and certain plants such as marigolds bring the added benefit of naturally repelling pests.  We're going more for beauty with these exhibition gladiolus bulbs in one section; we traditionally line the corn patch with sunflowers, which attract several beneficial pollinators.
South Carolina is God's country this week as Spring is in full bloom; take some time to enjoy it.

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (