The mid Willamette Valley is blessed with excellent soil and a great growing season so if you enjoy garden fresh produce in the summer, April is the time to prepare the beds and get planting!
Preparing the soil
Over the last few years I’ve stopped using expensive fertilizers and commercial soil amendments in favor of just using what nature provides. In the fall the beds are covered with grass clippings and leaves from the apple tree and it’s all tilled under in the spring.
Lately however I’ve begun having second thoughts about the tilling. Since I started using leaves and grass clippings on the beds I’ve noticed a lot more worms in the soil, and since these creatures are highly beneficial soil builders I really don’t want to harm them any more than necessary. So this year I’m conducting an experiment; I power tilled half the beds and the other half I turned manually with a shovel and spading fork.
On the surface the beds look pretty much the same but clearly the shovel and spading fork approach preserved the larger worms and I think I’ll be using this method exclusively going forward.
Things to plant
I’ve had very good luck with the following perennials; blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb and except for weeding the strawberry patch each spring, and trying to keep the wandering raspberries contained, these perennials consistently provide a good yield with minimal effort.
As for annuals, favorites include a variety of tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, squash, and Walla Walla sweet onions.
Since my least favorite garden chore is weeding I’m a huge fan of weed control fabric. I’ve outlined the beds permanently with fabric and each year when it’s time to plant I’ll cover the beds and cut holes in the fabric wherever I want to plant and this has nearly eliminated the need for constant weeding.
Then, as a final touch, I’ll mulch over the top of the beds with straw. While unfortunately the straw will introduce some straw seed which will sprout and need to be pulled, it’s cheap and the benefits of heat reflection and moisture retention outweigh this drawback. Additionally the straw discourages slugs and that’s a big help around the lettuce and spinach. Seems they just don’t like slithering across the straw and that’s just fine by me!
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