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Eco-friendly gardening: Yes, it's weeds!
by Carl Wayne Hardeman

"Blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed." -- Holy Bible John 20:29


Yes, the garden has weeds. Several of us volunteers are growing a garden for the local Food Pantry for the needy. We have weeds. We have stones, too.

We are using sustainable agricultural practices. Some say eco-friendly practices. It's not exactly the same as organic gardening. We are reminded of the scripture above as we go about this grand experiment. We will have to believe before we see.

Our goal is to raise healthy plants and produce in a biodiverse setting, leaving the soil at least as healthy as when we started. In our hot, humid South, we must contend with bugs and bacteria. We try using minimum dustings and being conservative with water.

The garden was formerly a horse pasture. We had the soil tested and added the recommended amount of lime to raise the pH thereby sweetening the soil for veggie gardening. We sited the garden to maximize daytime sun between the large trees on the east and west borders. Then we solarized each of four 100' X 20' sections with black plastic to kill most of the weeds.

Before tilling, we added gypsum to help break up the clay. We spread several trailer loads of rotted horse manure and many bags of shredded leaves. This gave us a crumbly organic soil described as having good tilth.

To control weeds and conserve water we use straw as mulch in the 'tater, corn, and cabbage patches. The 'mater patches are mulched with newspaper covered with straw and leaves. We don't mind a few weeds, and have a nice crop of them in control. A rich biodiverse mixture is good for the soil, worms, and microbes, and keeps the soil from compacting. We keep weeds out of the rows where the plants grow, and begrudge a few in the middles where we walk.

Plus we gardeners always have a ready excuse. If someone points out an insect riddled plant leaf, we simply say it's the lacy leaf variety.

Stones are good, too. They gradually disintegrate releasing minerals into the soil. And worms need grist to digest the organic material they eat and excrete as humus.

We are using light application of commercial 13-13-13 granular fertilizer and a 24-8-16 foliar solution. We augment that with alfalfa tea I brew on my patio from horse feed alfalfa pellets. We have a SoilSoup kit but have not found it necessary to cook up a batch of rich beneficial microbial soup to apply.

Marigolds are planted amongst the 'maters as companion plants to prevent horn worms.

Some of the rows run across the slope of the garden to help prevent water runoff. We probably should have done them all that way. We will next year.

We have two large compost piles. We will have compost to till in this fall and as needed next spring.

Since we are located next to a busy railroad track, we believe we benefit from the whistle and roar and vibrations. Per the book Secrets of the Soil, wind and vibrations in the air are good for plants.

So far, our experimenting and weeds and stones have been a success. We have made two deliveries of broccoli, cabbages, and onions to the Food Pantry, and will make a large delivery this week. It will include Brussel sprouts and cauliflower, Lord willing. The Food Pantry folks tell me their clients seldom get fresh produce.

Believing means beginning to see!

Ain't God good?


Carl Wayne tells us about himself:
"I write gardening articles for the Collierville, Tennessee, Independent, the Southaven, Mississippi, Press, and Desoto Magazine, all from a Southern perspective. I point out the correct pronunciation of ants (aints) and peonies (peOnies) and advise always to plant hydrangeas on the north side of the house. I've been in software development forty years, the last twenty with a large overnight express delivery company. I have taught computer science as adjunct faculty at local universities over twenty-five years. We have a small farm in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where we raise a large garden with my in-laws. My in-laws were there when the REA strung the first electric wires in that area. They were killing hogs. That night for supper they had liver and lights."

Write Carl Wayne at this e-mail address: Rows of Buttercups

Read more of Carl Wayne's stories at USADS:
Southern Snakes
Me and Mimi in the Garden
Mississippi ~ the Soul of Dixie
Slide down my cellar door!

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