This year we are trying a few new things in the garden. We have always struggled to keep the weeds under control, so after tilling the garden we put down sheets of 15 year ground cover to assist in reducing the need for excessive weeding. We left a foot of space between each sheet of ground cover so we could plant row crops in that space. Then in the ground cover we cut holes for crops like tomatoes, squash, onions and even some of the corn. This has worked great for us. Much less weeding. I would highly recommend ground cover to make gardening easier. It not only reduces the horrors of endless weeding, but also reduces moisture loss from the soil. The weed barrier holds the moisture underneath making it available to the plants on a more consistent basis.
Another thing we are trying this year is growing potatoes in a large grain bag. We got the bags when we bought wheat for the animals last year. I have seen a lot of posts about growing potatoes in a similar fashion. We planted the potatoes in about 6-8 inches of dirt in the bottom of the bag and covered them with a little more dirt. When the potatoes started to grow we covered them with wood shavings that we got from a local lumber mill. We continued adding wood shavings each time the plants got to about 8 inches tall, covering about half of the exposed growth (again with the wood shavings). This is supposed to produce more potatoes per plant. When covering the lower stems these stems will become fruit bearing, increasing the amount of potatoes per plant. Also; harvesting becomes much easier by simply pulling the plants easily out of the wood shavings or dumping the bag over and picking up the produce from the nice clean shavings. I will let you know if it worked and if it makes harvesting potatoes easier this fall.
As you can see from the picture, we are also using the wood shavings around the crops we planted in the rows. We are using this to help keep the weeds down and lock in the moisture. This seems to be working pretty well, except for grasses and field bindweed are working their way through. We are hoping this will be solved over the next couple of growing seasons as we add more and more layers of wood shavings. The upside for now is that it has reduced the weeding time by a large margin. And they smell great.
We also have a couple of cold tunnels that we built a couple of years ago. I have really enjoyed the extension of the season that we have gotten from these. We will be doing a post later on how to build a cold tunnel.
I enjoy spending time in the garden, getting in touch with the soil, growing our own produce and being self reliant (even the weeding part).