Welcome Earth Day 2013

Today is Earth Day and a time we think about our beautiful earth and what we can do to help and maintain it.  Of course as gardeners and readers, the simple act of sowing seeds or planting is a benefit. Because I’m preparing a talk for our local museum about the gardening and seed production heritage of Western Oregon,  I’ve been giving some thought about “knowing our place”.  Know your place is usually a negative disciplinary phrase.  But let’s reassess this and do what we can to better know the place where we live and how it relates to the food production, beauty, preservation and history of our earth.  By knowing the tremendous value of seed crops here in the Willamette Valley I’m very afraid of canola seed being planted on or near fields where it can cross-pollinate or the dropped seeds will contaminate the soil for future crops. The better we know our place the more able we are to understand and speak out the occasional big issue that does appear. I will continue to express this concern along with hundreds of farmers and gardeners and hope it will make a difference. Know your place!   ~ Rose Marie
For suggestions on food gardening and Earth Day click on the image below and read this Huffington Post piece to which I happily contributed.
R-KITCHEN-GARDEN-HOW-TO

Hop Shoots Picking & Preparing

Hop shoots are a gardeners’ treat in early spring. Here are photos of them growing by the entry arbor to our herb garden at Nichols Garden Nursery. I snapped off a small bundle of emerging shoots, selecting for short tender stems and tips. Much admired in Belgium and France, where they are known as Jets de Houblon. Mature hop vines are actually more productive of hop cones when some shoots are removed.
To prepare plunge your tender shoots into salted boiling water, cook for 2 minutes and then drain. The timing can vary a bit cook only until barely tender. While shoots drain, poach eggs in fresh water (to avoid discoloration) or gently fry. Reheat shoots in butter and sprinkle over freshly cooked eggs. Don’t miss dipping a few hop tips into egg yolks.
Where these shoots are abundant they are variously sauced with béchamel, used as an omelet filling, served as a vegetable and pickled. Pickling does sound like a lot of effort for an ephemera of springtime. I’d most surely be appreciative of another’s accomplishment.

Oranges & Sweet Violets

Spring violets, Viola odorata, are edible flowers with a color and fragrance that compliments fresh naval oranges when both are at their peak. Peel or cut away the orange rind, leaving as little pith as possible. Cut into 1/3” inch slices. Allow one orange per person and place on individual serving dishes. Drizzle with 1/2 tsp. mild honey. Garnish with spring violets or candied violets. This light dessert is the perfect conclusion to a winter meal. A few drops of orange liquor can be sprinkled over the oranges.

Some gardeners dislike wild violets in their yards but we enjoy the fragrance and appeal of wild violets. Their scent seems to come and go because our scent receptors become exhausted and must have a few minutes to revive before we can again enjoy this definitive fragrance.

Forcing Winter Branches Into Bloom

Every New Year I cut branches of shrubs and trees to force into early bloom. Think Spring! Now we have vases and jars of  Flowering Quince, Forsythia, Dogwood, Daphne, Hazelnut, and Willow.  A branch of Snow Berry adds a little substance to it all. When I brought in the branches the stems were gently scrubbed and recut before placing in water. The first few days it’s best to change the water daily. After three or four days if the buds are swelling I ease up. If buds are not swelling and branches are not using water your house may be too dry and a misting will help the buds open. Also cut off 1/2″ of stem to give them a fresh start. These are meant as simple directions for casual enjoyment of what’s in the garden at the beginning of a brand New Year. Place one variety per container since they bloom and leaf out on different schedules.  I’ll put up more photos when we have color. Place these flowering stems in a bright area but out of direct sun.

Nichols Virtual Catalog

CLICK HERE 

TO VIEW OUR YOUTUBE VIDEO ON NAVIGATING THE VIRTUAL CATALOG

Find Nichols Garden Nursery

I want all our  blog visitors to know we are now on facebook and you tube.

http://www.facebook.com/NicholsGardenNursery

This is where we comment on gardening and keep you informed about what is happening here at our nursery/seed company:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf3GQcw_EOQ

Here is the first episode of our new series of short instructional videos on how to grow, care for and use herbs from your garden. This session is “How to Make a Lavender Wreath”.

http://www.NicholsGardenNursery.com

Please visit our site, request a catalog if you don’t already have one and of course check out our online catalog. We are a 62 year old family seed owned seed company located in Albany, OR.

Happy gardening,

Rose Marie

Black Friday

Visit the Nichols website www.NicholsGardenNursery.com you will discover all seed varieties containing the word black are discounted 50% until midnight Friday, November 26th.
Catalogs for 2011 are in the mail. Not on our list, please go to our catalog request form and ask us to send one to you. Check here and at the website for coming selections that made a seed crop too late to list.
Hope you have all had a great Thanksgiving. We had three generations gathered around our table, good food, good conversation, a trace of snow on the ground, we are moving to winter.
A few minutes ago there was a tapping at our back door, odd, it was a large raccoon. That, and the deer tracks up and down our snow covered street reminds us we are not alone in our city.

Straw Bale Gardening

Straw bale gardening is easy, fun and  you to improve the soil while you decide what you what to do with a patch of ground. I’ll be planting a few bales at our annual Nichols Garden Nursery “Plant Day” this coming Saturday, May 16th. Varied crops will be growing for months since I plant greens, tomatoes, peas, beans, and peppers. When I plant peas and beans I always use legume inoculant so I don’t need to supplement with fertilizer. “Legume inoculant” allows these plants to utilize atmospheric nitrogen with nitrogen rich root nodules. Sounds complicated but works beautifully and results count.

Welcome our new straw bale blogging partner, fellow garden writer, Patsy Bell Hobson from Cape Giradeau, MO. She’ll also be growing a straw bale garden and I’ve included a link to her blog “Oh Grow Up”. You can follow two experienced gardeners living in very different environments using straw bales. See the  link to her site on the blogroll to the right of this page.

strawbales

Last week I was in Anchorage, AK and spoke to University of Alaska Master Gardeners on Container and Small Space Food Gardening and  on straw bale gardening. I hope these Master Gardeners  ask questions and report their results. Anchorage was warmer and sunnier than here in Western Oregon. I think the incomparable beauty of Anchorage and the surrounding area shall be forever imprinted in my mind.

After talking with gardeners and growers from this area I realize the need for short season varieties that get off to a fast start. We’ll be looking for these characterics in our summer trials. It’s not only Alaska needing fast maturing varieties but gardeners from Montana to Maine who persevere and grow great gardens. It’s May and we are all eager to once again experience the joy of gardening.

Garden Talks

Keane and I are leaving for Central Oregon today where I will give talks on Successful Food Gardening in Central Oregon and a demonstration talk on Edible Container Gardening. Of course I’ll be signing copies of McGee & Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container. A few more talks are coming up, May 9th I’ll speak in Anchorage at a Master Gardening conference on “Growing Food in Containers & Small Spaces” and “Straw Bale Gardening”. June 27th I’ll be at The New York Botanical Garden for their kickoff event on a program series on edible gardening. I will present a demonstration and talk on growing “Food Plants, Herbs & Edible Flowers in Containers”. This speaking season then winds up with a talk at the annual Oregon State Master Gardener mini college on “Successful Food Gardening in Container & Small Spaces”, Thursday, August 7th.

Our annual Nichols Garden Nursery Plant Day is Saturday May 16th 2009. We always have an annual sale, light refreshment and demonstrations. This year I’ll be demonstrating straw bale planting and we are working on a new garden in the style of a home garden planted all in containers with a couple Adirondack chairs for visitors to sit, relax and enjoy the surroundings. As this comes along I’ll post photos.

It’s been a busy year and I’m so impressed with this renaissance in food gardening. There has been much interest in vegetables and cooking but now people seem to be taking it to their own homes whether it is the backyard or front yard they are planting gardens. A healthy well grown plant is always a thing of beauty whether it be a gorgeous muticolored ruffled lettuce or the latest petticoated heauchera. Gardening keeps us in contact with nature and that part of ourselves that grows a little more as we nurture our gardens, our loved ones, and ourselves.

Portland Yard, Garden Patio Show

I’m in Portland at the annual YGP show at the Oregon Convention Center this weekend. If you’re looking for a jumpstart on spring and summer this is the place to be. What first caught my eye was  a fence of espaliered apple trees surrounding a flourishing potager garden. In the corner is a cozy chicken coop, one chicken laid an egg yesterday and happily announced her achievement to the world. However, my heart went pit pat when I saw all our Nichols Garden Nursery seed packets used as row markers for the peas, mizuna, mustards, lettuce and more. To our happy surprise the vegetable garden was planted entirely with Nichols seeds. We are not able to down load this photo until we’re back home but I do want everyone to have a chance to see how a productive urban garden can be packed with comfort and charm. This garden from Barbara Simon Landscape Design and Alfred Dinsdale Landscape Contractors received the prestigious “Best of Show Award” features an outdoor cooking and eating area and is an inspiring mixture of enchantment and practicality. Top garden speakers, a multitude of garden products, including Nichols Garden Nursery seeds, plants, bulbs and more  signal we are quickly moving  to the longer days for spring and summer. Come to the show to look, listen and shop and learn. I may even have found some beautiful concrete pavers to easily build a new patio.

Go  to this blog by Kym Pokorny, from the Oregonian for a wonderful garden photo with the potager somewhat hidden.  http://blog.oregonlive.com/kympokorny/     Since I’m not at home with some of my tools you may need to cut and paste this url.

I see it’s time to begin sowing tomatoes, peppers, celeriac, leeks, eggplant and in a couple of weeks get basil started so all will be ready for May transplanting. If you’re sowing leek, onion or shallot seeds go back and see Easy Gardening tips from March 4th 2008 for an easy start on these valuable vegetables.

Wearing Her Laurels

A crown of laurel leaves for high achievement is a tradition dating back to the ancient Greeks. Our niece, Emily, recently graduated from high school. Because she was her class valedictorian and all-around wonderful person we made her a wreath of fresh bay. The freshly picked leafy stems are woven into a circle and tied with green floral tape. The soft young leaves were snipped off leaving only the sturdier year old growth. A wreath like this easily dries and can be saved as a memento or hung in the kitchen for cooking.

A few years ago we were in Padua during university graduation festivities. All the Baccalaureates were wearing wreaths on their heads or around their necks.

Laurus nobilis “the true bay”

Bay Laurel tree

Laurus nobilis plants are the source of culinary bay, a handsome tree that grows throughout the Mediterranean. This herb has a flavor and aroma that is mildly spicy and warm, and seems to pull other savory flavors together in soups, stews and sauces. Usually, the tough leaf is left whole and should be removed before serving. Sometimes you will see recipes calling for 1 Turkish Bay leaf or 1/2 a California Bay leaf. Turkish bay is Laurus nobilis, sometimes called Grecian bay, Mediterranean bay, or true bay, is the plant of cookery and myth

California Bay “Umbellularia californica” is a different plant entirely, and while the leaves have a similar texture the flavor properties are quite different. The flavor and fragrance of California bay is quite pungent and harsh and I never cook with it. Both plants are growing at my home and I occasionally pick a leaf of each, crush and smell in wonderment as to why some food writers continue to instruct “use one Turkish Bay leaf or 1/2 California Bay leaf”. Julia Child, a native of California, was disdainful of California Bay for cooking and in my talks I often say if it wasn’t good enough for Julia it’s not good enough for us.

True Bay, is native to the Mediterranean basin. Italian restaurants often use containerized Bay plants to create outdoor walls and extend seating. Bay, when grown in the ground is hardy to Zone 7. Plants grow in full sun to half shade. Give them a light fertilizing and regular watering the first season and once they are established they can pretty much fend for themselves. Evergreen trees may eventually reach 15′ in height. I recommend regular pruning. The tree in this photo is at our nursery. It grew too large for the assigned space and every three years we cut it to the ground and it happily sprouts from the stump to produce a nice oval bush in a few months.

Our nursery and others offer bay plants for sale. Grow as a single tree, a shrub or planted as a hedge. Because it is such a useful herb and tolerates some shade it is one to add to the garden.

Nichols Plant Day 2008

Our annual Nichols Plant Day is Saturday, May 17th 2008 this year. It has been a busy week preparing for our annual event, readying the gardens and planting our annual garden. We are just north of Albany, OR and an easy exit off I5. I’ve planted new straw bales, we’ve built a new bed using the Nichols method how to grow carrots without a spade or hoe, our herb display garden is beginning to flower. We’re also fixing a few herbal recipes for you including our lavender ice cream and saffron lemonade.

When this is finished I’ll have time to post and plant my own garden. After a long cool spring, we’re expected to reach 95 today. This is not the energizing pre celebration weather we requested. Oh well! If you are traveling in Oregon you should know we have a display herb garden, an AAS display garden and garden demos. We’re closed Sundays, open Monday through Saturday and visitors are always welcome.

The Bountiful Container

I’m happy to announce the fourth printing of McGee & Stuckey’s, The Bountiful Container is now available. This 432 page book is a complete guide growing container gardens of vegetables, herbs, fruits and edible flowers. We’ve included recipes for using your home grown goods. Maggie and I researched soils, containers, fertilizing and every aspect of what gardeners encounter when growing in containers. I love experimenting with new techniques and varieties using pots and small space gardening. If your garden is horizontally challenged, think vertically! If you only have space for herbs, a few salad greens and a tomato in a large pot think how much flavor and variety you’ll add to your household.

This weekend, May 10th, I’ll be speaking and signing books at the Oregon City Farmers Market. Saturday, May 17, is the annual Nichols Garden Nursery Plant Day. If you’re in the area, drop by and enjoy light herbal refreshment, gardening demonstrations, tours of the herb garden and a great sale on plants and other gardening items.

Earth Day 2008

April 22nd marks Earth Day, a world celebration of our beautiful planet. With so many shared world concerns let us pause and enjoy what we have. Stop for a moment, get outdoors and look around at the amazing wonder of spring. Plant seeds, set plants and soon you have a garden.
With all the discussion and good reasons for eating locally, growing some of our own food in a garden is a first step. Indeed growing food a few steps from your door leaves no carbon footprint.
My parents, Nick and Edith Nichols, established Nichols Garden Nursery with a philosophy that guides us today. N.P. Nichols wrote “our purpose during these years has been to bring people closer to nature through gardening. Nothing can equal the sense of accomplishment that comes from growing hundreds of pounds of vegetables from a few ounces of seeds”. Celebrate Earth Day.

National Zucchini Bread Day

Surely there is no recent holiday with a more obscure origin. The date is listed as both April 23rd and April 25th. It seems to have no presidential decree or any notable history. It reminds me to use the shredded zucchini frozen last fall. It’s almost time to plant more zucchini! Our current favorite variety is Salman F1 hybrid, a pale jade color, productive with a delicious mild flavor.
If any readers know more about this holiday please add a comment. Meanwhile we shall enjoy our zucchini bread, one loaf for a company dinner today and one to take to work on the 23rd.

Zucchini Bread (2 loaves)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast nuts for three to five minutes in pre-heated oven. They keep cooking after you remove them so slightly under toasted is best.

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini *
3 cups pre-sifted unbleached flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Grease and flour two 8” x4” loaf pans or spray pans with no-stick cooking spray. Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper against the two long sides of each pan and let it drape slightly over the edges. Trim with scissors if necessary. Smooth paper against sides and lightly respray. By using this method any quick bread can be easily removed with absolutely no sticking.

Lightly beat the eggs with a whisk. Stir together oil, vanilla and sugar, followed by zucchini.

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nuts in a large bowl. I sift 1 cup of flour with other dry ingredients except nuts, and then stir it all together.

Stir egg mixture into flour. Divide the batter into prepared pans.

Bake loaves for 55 minutes then check with a toothpick or bamboo skewer, if it comes out dry, bread is done. If batter clings to skewer bake another 5 minutes or until done. Place pans on cooling rack for ten minutes. Turn over to remove from pan and carefully remove paper. Let loaves cool on rack. Do not wrap or store until completely cooled.

*My packages of zucchini were carefully marked as 3 cups when I froze them. When measuring after thawing it was now two cups without discarding any liquid. So it’s three cups fresh and two cups frozen and thawed.

Gardenpalooza

Tomorrow, Saturday April 5th, Keane and I will be at Gardenpalooza with seeds, and Yacon plants. Come to us with your gardening questions. Mention you’ve seen this note on The Gardener’s Pantry and select a free seed packet of your choice. Gardenpalooza is a yearly local event held at Fir Point Farms in Aurora, OR on Airport Road. We’ll be in the lovely big greenhouse with other nurseries and The Chinese Classical Garden. I always pick up new  plants at this show because there is such a great selection. For those of you who out of the area look for local garden events where you can directly ask the grower how to grow the plant and find interesting plants that never show up in the big box stores.

Boise Flower & Garden Show

Keane and I will be at the Boise Flower & Garden Show Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday at 11:00 a.m. I speak on Edible Gardening in Containers & Small Spaces. Saturday, it’s Seed Starting, What a Gardener Needs to Know, at 3:00p.m. If you live in the Boise area come to the show, please stop by our sales booth #101. If you mention The Gardener’s Pantry, we’ll invite you to select a complimentary packet of seeds.

This time of year it’s a steady round of garden talks and garden shows. Next Saturday, April 5th we meet up with many old friends for Garden Palooza in Aurora, Oregon at Fircrest Farms.

I’ll be back with a few recipes and gardening tips once things settle down a bit. Right now our arugula and kale are looking good. Walla Walla Onion plants have been transplanted. Cascadia Snap Peas are growing in straw bales and fava beans are blooming. Can spring and summer be far behind? Probably, we are leaving early for Boise to avoid driving in falling snow on the passes.

Last weekend, we were in the Bay Area to give a talk on Container and Small Space Gardening to the Montelindo Garden Club. We visited the Berkeley Arboretum, museums, friends and family. What was most astounding happened when we stepped out onto the street where our daughter lives. Keane noticed a tree he didn’t recognize and was trying to figure out what it might be. It had large clusters of round seed pods and glossy green leaves. As we looked at it, I noticed the backside of a large bird in the upper branches. We couldn’t see it’s head so were moving this way and that. Suddenly a voice from the window above, said “Do you want to know the story of this tree”? Of course we did! The fellow told us the tree was planted a few years before he arrived 25 years ago. It is a red flowering Eucalyptus. planted by a former president of the California Native Plant Society, much to his embarrassment today. Non native Eucalyptus have been over planted throughout California, and especially in the southern part of the state, they fuel wildfires. This one seemed like a nice street tree. Finally, the bird turned its head, and we were face to face with a falcon. A few hours later we passed by again and there was a pile of pigeon feathers at the base of the tree.

Easy Gardening Tips

Baking soda and water is often all we is need to treat mildew in the garden. Trouble is it’s so easy to forget or misplace the recipe. So if that should happen to you this recipe it will be archived on this site.

Mix together:

1 tablespoon baking soda (from the kitchen cupboard) 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap 1 tablespoon horticultural oil 1 gallon of water

Mix together and apply from a clean sprayer. The baking soda counteracts the fungi by changing the pH of the leaves, the soap helps it spread, and the oil coats the fungal spores and keeps then from growing. In a pinch, I’ve used a clear kitchen oil like canola or grapeseed as they too will smother but the lightweight hort oil is best. If you have plants you’ve not treated with this spray before start out on a small section. Plants should be well watered befoe applying and don’t apply in heavy sun. For many plants this might mean watering well in the morning and then in late afternoon/early evening come back and spray well hydrated plants when they are not in direct sun. I like to discard unused mixture after one or two days and then mix up a fresh batch. When these measures don’t seem adequate for fungal or mildew problems I apply Serenade, a commercially available and OMRI approved organic product.

Easy Gardening Tips

Composition roof shingles laid between raised beds keeps paths dry and weed free. We began using these last summer and through the winter have come to love them. The shingles are rough and seems to discourage slugs, the surface is never slippery or muddy. When they are no longer needed, shingles are easy to lift and remove. We’ve used Sequoia needles, filbert shells, landscaping fabric and this is the best solution for weed control and comfort.

Northwest Flower & Garden Show

We’re heading north to Seattle for the annual Northwest Flower & Garden Show. This year the show runs now through February 24th. http://www.gardenshow.com/ It’s showtime across the country, and it’s the best place to hear speakers, buy new plants and especially in Seattle we always find inspiration from the fabulous show gardens. I’ll be speaking and doing a 1:30 demonstration on edible gardening in containers at the NW Horticulture Society garden located in the entry. I can hardly wait to see this four part garden “Eat Your Vegetables! Garden to Table “.

I’ve designed and worked on gardens at this show. It’s pretty amazing backstage when trucks drive onto the fourth floor of the Washington Convention Center as construction begins. It’s a breakneck pace starting on Saturday and finishing at noon on Tuesday when judging begins. This year I’m a wide-eyed tourist and the show always makes me happy.

Garden from greenhouse

Our venture into straw bale gardening began with a garden promoting Plant A Row For the Hungry, a program of the Garden Writers Association. PAR encourages gardeners to contribute their surplus produce to local food banks, soup kitchens and shelters. These organizations are always short of fresh produce so look into sharing your surplus.

In My Garden

Suddenly the days are longer, the skies are brighter, and it’s a joy to be in the garden. This week I sowed Cascadia Snap Pea seeds in a straw bale. Legume inoculant will provide all the nitrogen they need. Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest once had to plant peas in January to get a crop because aphids transmit Pea Enation Mosaic virus. Enation diseased plants begin drying out and stop producing as soon as we have a trace of hot weather in early summer. Gardeners would rush to plant in January, no matter how cold and wet the conditions. My mother always referred to early pea planting as “mudding in”.

Plant breeders at Oregon State University began selecting for resistance to this disease over forty years ago. Today, we can plant OSU Sugar Pod II, Oregon Giant Sugar Pod, Cascadia Snap Pea, and Oregon Trail shelling pea, all released from the OSU department of horticulture and bred by Dr. James Baggett. OSU sugar Pod II is now the most widely grown edible pod variety in the world. It has good flavor, is tender crisp, and easy to grow and harvest.

I have grown peas and beans on wheat straw bales for several years with good results. When you sprinkle the seeds with legume inoculant the bacteria enables plants to form nitrogen rich root nodules from atmospheric nitrogen and you will not need to fertilize. You can read more about straw bale gardening on our Nichols Garden Nursery website:www.nicholsgardennursery.com

Portland Yard, Garden, Patio Show 2008

February 15th, 16th & 17th, you’ll find Nichols Garden Nursery at booth  #1386 at the beautiful Portland Yard, Garden, & Patio Show. Sunday, at 11:00 a.m. I’ll present a seminar on “Culinary Herbs: How to Grow and Use In the Pacific Northwest”. YGP, gets us enthused about the beginning of spring. With lovely display gardens,  free seminars, vendors offering fantastic selections of plants, seeds, bulbs, this is the place and time Oregon and Southern Washington gardeners gather to shop, learn, relax and plan their garden year.

The Oregon Convention Center has good parking, benches to relax, and such a nice ambience that the entire show makes me feel like I’m already in a garden.

Come by our booth and mention you’ve seen our blog or website and pick up a free packet of spinach or sunflower seed. We’ll have seeds, gardening products, catalogs and we’re ready to answer your gardening questions. If you have a little extra garden space and are concerned about local hunger issues, we’d like to explain Plant A Row For the Hungry, a program of the Garden Writers Association. We can offer you a choice of seed packets to get you started. Collectively, participants raise thousands of pounds of produce for local food banks and soup kitchens where fresh vegetables for those in need are always appreciated.

Catalog Time

Nichols Garden Nursery 2008 catalogNichols Garden Nursery, in Albany, Oregon now has a new 88 page, 2008 catalog. Our new narrower format is easy to handle and read. If you visit our website http://www.nicholsgardennursey.com you can download this catalog as a PDF. Be sure to check the “new and unusual” pages 23 & 24 for what’s new in seeds. We maintain an eclectic selection of good tasting, easy to grow home garden varieties. Some seeds are organically certified, some heirloom, and some hybrid. We offer the best. None of our seeds are treated or genetically modified. You can request a catalog from the website or use our PDF to plan your garden.

Weed Management

A customer from Meridian, Idaho writes to us about controlling weeds and I thought I’d share her questions and my suggestions. This layered method for weed control is effective and improves your soil. Pat Lanza wrote an excellent book a few years ago titled Lasagna Gardening.

“I am have a terrible time in my garden with weeds. It is a fairly large garden and we irrigate (definitely a source of the weeds) We have to create rows for the irrigation. It is hard to mulch because of the irrigation. Do you have any ideas for me? I try to stay away from chemicals in the garden and I add lots of aged horse manure.” L.C.

Answer-We have similar problems here with weeds and trying to suppress them. My first strategy is to use drip or leaky pipe irrigation; it conserves water and you’ll only supply water to the plants you want to grow. The second part is use several layers of newspaper as mulch. If you don’t want to see the newspaper cover it with your horse manure and put a layer of manure on the soil as well. The newspaper excludes light and the manure will break down and enrich the soil. Next season you will have a relatively weed free area to plant. Don’t till, as you’ll expose weed seeds, just dig planting holes. Start this process over the winter as you have breaks in the weather and you’ll get a jump on spring weed growth. When using horse manure be sure to keep your tetanus shots up to date.
Rose Marie

“Thank you for the quick response. I have been reading about the newspaper mulch and was thinking about it. I am assuming that there is no issue with the ink from the paper. I never hear mention of it. Thanks!” L.C.

Answer-Most newspapers have moved to soy based inks. I’m cautious about using the colored comic pages but don’t think there is much risk with black and white. It is really quite a good method but I do recommend making sandwiches on your soil. Manure, then newspaper, followed by leaves or more manure. You need something on top so the papers don’t blow. Rose Marie