Our New Vegetable Garden and Mulching Techniques

It was just last week that I showed this garden photo below. Over the last several days we have been raking and raking and raking all the debris out of the soil. There were lots of small roots still buried and they had to go. Lets just say, I think we had more garden waste at curbside than most people this week.

back forty garden

So what was the next step? I would have loved to order new soil to amend this heavy clay soil but my budget wouldn’t allow it. I will layer the garden with leaves, grass clipping and compost in the fall to add structure to the soil. Was it okay to plant? The soil definitely held water well as I had planted one section before our stumps came out which is shown above. So far most of the vegetables are doing fine. The Kale loves it here and so far the cabbage moth has not found my plants.


I had lots of tomato plants leftover from my spring sales. They are all heirlooms and some of them I am growing for seed for a seed bank. With our holidays looming I knew the plants had a better chance of staying alive in the ground, not in four-inch pots. I planted thirty-two tomato plants and three flats of Basil. The Basil is looking like little soldiers now as I just harvested all the tops for pesto. This will allow the plant to develop side shoots and more leaves. Looks like I will have more basil than I will know what to do with.


Hubby helped out with stakes for the garden. Heirloom plants are usually indeterminate meaning they continue to grow and produce fruit all season. They can easily top four feet high so we used five foot high stakes in the garden. None of those wimpy tomato cages for me. They just don’t hold up a heavy tomato plant laden with fruit. So hubby hammered in a stake at the end of each row and one in the middle. We wondered what to use to tie the tomatoes in for support. Most string gets slack when wet. We needed something strong. We decided to use baling twine. Its strong enough for a bale of hay so it would be strong enough for the garden. We pulled them as tight as we could from one stake to another and tied knots where necessary. The tomato plants were carefully tied to the baling twine with old pantyhose. I had cut the hose in strips and tied it around the main stem and twine for some support.



The next step was to get the plants watered in. I only water tomato plants in the morning as you want them to go dry into the night. I didn’t need to worry about any fungal diseases happening in the garden. There are enough problems with late blight arriving in August most years.


My next idea was to mulch the plants. You see, we are headed to the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland soon and I didn’t want to lose these newly planted tomatoes. I grabbed some newspaper and started laying them between the plants. Do not do what I did. I should have wet the newspaper first but I didn’t and a big gust of wind came by and tossed them this way and that. Lesson learned pretty quickly.


The next step was laying the straw over the newspaper. Straw is almost weed free, lets hope so. It’s a good mulch to use in the garden. Each bale can be easily divided into what is called flakes. See how square the straw looks. I just placed a flake between each plant first. Then I went over to each flake and carefully pulled it apart. I also made sure to keep it about two inches away from the plant stems. You don’t want to encourage any stem rot.


This is how it looked yesterday morning and we finished the last of the garden later in the day. When I came back later to finish up I checked under the garden that had straw all day. The soil was still moist. The other side that wasnt covered had dried out. I hope this keeps my tomato plants cozy and moist while we are away.


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