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Mon May 23, 2016, 02:58 PM

Fallow year for front yard veggie garden - help!

TL;DR -

Need the easiest, quickest possible solution for my front yard veggie garden.
Is it too late (edge of zone 5 and 6) to plant a legume or some cover crop for a fallow year? Would it be too late at the beginning of June?
As an alternative, is black plastic or cardboard a good way to let a garden go fallow?


DETAILS -

So here's the scenario. I have a front yard veggie garden consisting of 5 raised beds totaling around 200 square feet. Surrounded by chicken wire.

I originally set it up over the course of a few years almost 10 years ago. I basically dug out the grass by hand and then had the city deliver several yards of finished compost which I used to fill the raised beds and worked it into what little topsoil-ish stuff was there. It was incredibly rich and thick. Since then I haven't added a ton of nutrients but I do move things around every year and I work a good amount of tree leaves in most years.

At this point the raised beds are crumbling, in fact most of the inner walls have caved and I've removed them. So the chicken wire surrounds the outer perimeters of the 2 areas. At this point it is more like I have 2 raised beds than 5 since it is all sort of merging.

Life is happening in a big way right now, the last 2 years my garden has felt like a chore and has been unsuccessful to boot because I am not giving it attention, the soil is probably depleted, etc. So this year I am giving myself a pass. Phew.

Right now, it is overgrown with dandelions, grass, some overwintered flowering kale, tiny maple trees, and a ton of other weeds and things.

At the very least, I need to clear out the weeds and cover everything up in some way.

I am thinking I should plant some sort of cover crop, but I don't know much about these things and it is pretty late in the season...

It may be another week or two before I can get the weeds pulled (even half-assed) and toss some seed down. Is it too late? I am on the border of zone 5 and 6.

I've also heard about just covering the whole thing in black plastic, or cardboard, or something - does this help? Hurt? Kill weeds but otherwise a benign idea? I just don't know....

I also don't think I'll be able to deal with getting wood chips or compost delivered or anything. (I do have access to a ton of clean cardboard).

Basically I need to make this as easy as possible, and hopefully not totally unattractive. Any suggestions?

Also, not sure if it makes a difference, but I have been wanting to pull down the chicken wire, tear out all the raised bed wood, and start over in the ground without raised beds. *If* that happens, it will be in the fall. So basically any success in getting rid of weeds and improving the soil will be of great benefit whether or not I manage to accomplish that this year.

Thanks in advance for any advice.






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Reply Fallow year for front yard veggie garden - help! (Original post)
Cal Carpenter May 2016 OP
TygrBright May 2016 #1
Cal Carpenter May 2016 #4
MADem May 2016 #2
alfie May 2016 #3
Cal Carpenter May 2016 #5
libodem May 2016 #6
mopinko Jun 2016 #7
mopinko Jun 2016 #8

Response to Cal Carpenter (Original post)

Mon May 23, 2016, 03:02 PM

1. It's never too late to plant a cover crop if you select the right seed mix.

Investigate what cover crop seed mixes are advised for warm season in your zone. Definitely go for a *mix* rather than a monoculture.

Check out some of the resources here:

http://www.sare.org/Events/National-Conference-on-Cover-Crops-and-Soil-Health/Cover-Crop-Innovators-Video-Series

helpfully,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #1)

Tue May 24, 2016, 01:56 PM

4. Thank you!

I'll check out those videos, and maybe someone at the local good garden supply place will have some knowledge.

I'm leaning toward a cover crop but I'm still considering doing cardboard and compost. Our city has a good compost program and delivers, but I'm not sure I can wrangle all that and get it spread around so I may save that until fall and do a cover crop in the meantime.

Thanks again.

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Response to Cal Carpenter (Original post)

Mon May 23, 2016, 03:02 PM

2. I am kicking your thread in hopes of learning the answers,myself!

Hope you find some solutions!

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Response to Cal Carpenter (Original post)

Mon May 23, 2016, 04:27 PM

3. I would go with de-weeding and covering with cardboard

Then I would get as much compost as you can to cover the cardboard.
Ideally you would soak the cardboard when you put it down and before the compost goes on. If that happens it should be fairly well decomposed by fall. Either way, the bed would be plant ready for some fall crops. In the fall weed seeds will blow into the space, no matter what you do, but pulling them out of compost will be easier next spring. After that weeding, you can lay out your rows or rake the compost back into raised bed. Just my thoughts.

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Response to alfie (Reply #3)

Tue May 24, 2016, 01:57 PM

5. Thanks for the suggestion

I like the idea of this but I don't know if I can deal with getting the compost delivered (our city does have a good, affordable compost program) and spread out on the garden. Still not sure what I'll do but I appreciate the ideas!

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Response to Cal Carpenter (Original post)

Tue May 31, 2016, 12:28 PM

6. Check this out

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Response to libodem (Reply #6)

Tue Jun 7, 2016, 03:10 PM

7. that was great. his cover crops are wonderful.

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Response to Cal Carpenter (Original post)

Tue Jun 7, 2016, 03:13 PM

8. wood chips.

my little farm has been using wood chips for pathways and mulch, as well as for our hugelpiles.
i made up a container mix this year w a pile of aged chips, last year's container soil, a little fertilizer and some mineral grit.
things are booming.

a good cover of wood chips, i would say 6" if you can, mixed in next year, will really revitalize your soil. they rot about half way in a year, and the rest gives you good mechanics. they will rot down in a couple years.

wherever i have laid down a heavy bed of chips has turned into luscious soil.

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