We DID IT! We planted all our beans and our sweet corn in the garden.
It's been such a cold wet spring. Even though the calendar said it was time to plant— we waited.
The soil needed to warm up. These seeds will literally rot in the ground if the soil is too cold for them to germinate.
How to-- Step 1
The first step for us in our deep mulch garden system is to 'open the rows.' This literally means pulling last year’s garden refuse and any mulch that blew into the rows over the winter to the side and on top of the mulch between the rows.
We try to expose about a one foot width of black soil to the sun. This allows the surface to dry off and the soil to gather the heat of the sun.
We use a 5-tine hay fork like a rake for the process. We start at the end of the row and run the tines parallel to the row— dragging them along the length, offing the mulch to the side as we go. We stomp down the mulch that we pull off under our feet in between the rows so it stays there— where it belongs.
We usually leave the exposed row to warm and dry for a day or two— depending on the outside temperature and how much sun we get. Then it’s time to prepare the seed bed.
The only tillage our garden sees is a hoe, trowel, potato fork or plant auger. To prepare for direct seeded crops we use a hoe, of course. Hoeing a row is best done with a couple people. After a long winter, this can be a LOT of work and a strenuous workout!
We tend to get a lot of snow pack here in the Dakotas. And even with the deep mulch hay, the ground can feel the effects of the weight of that snow. The deeper the snow pack was, the more work it is to hoe that row.
Remember, this is not a competition. 'Slow and steady' works better than 'fast and furious.' We try not to hoe so vigorously that we’re tossing soil up onto the mulch. Keep the soil where it belongs!
After hoeing we pick up that hay fork and again, use it like a rake. We drag, swipe, and carefully swing the tines through the top layer of the soil, breaking up clods and smoothing out the seed bed. Again, be careful to keep the soil in the row.
Next we lay the seeds on top of the row— with the proper spacing. Someone follows close behind on their knees, literally punching each of the seeds into the loosened soil with their finger. Your finger is the perfect planter for gauging the right depth for the crop you're planting.
The final step is to tamp the seeds in. We use a garden rake tipped upside down with the tines resting on the ground and pointed away from you. We just walk down the row and use that rake to tamp the soil as we go, sealing the holes where we poked in the seeds.
Besides sealing the holes, this step ensures good seed-to-soil contact. Don’t tamp too hard, especially if the soil is wet. You don’t want to cause any compaction. That'll make it harder for the germinating seedlings to emerge. The purpose is just to firm the soil around the seeds.
That’s it! We don’t water after planting. The seeds will absorb water from the surrounding soil to swell and germinate.
IF your garden is dry to the depth you need to plant, soak the ground a couple of days ahead of time. Then right before planting, hoe the ground and prepare the seed bed as described here.
We also planted the squash and cucumbers using the same method. These seeds also need the soil to be warm for good germination.
And for those of you who follow our Vlog on YouTube
Yup! There's a companion video of our planting process-- Click here! Remember to 'Like and Subscribe' to our YouTube channel! That way you'll know when I post a new video!
Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan
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