is no right or wrong way to garden – only your way.
the mantra that guides some southeastern Virginia
are newbies; they are experimenters; they are Master
Gardeners. You decide which suits your style or create
your own style gardening and do it your way.
no suitable gardening spaces at home, some residents
opted to raise veggies in the new 47-plot community
garden at the Sports Complex in Yorktown, Va.
Mark and Jennifer Gates and son Connor, 10, an "as
is" tilled plot has been improved with additions of
composted soil blend, earthworms and eggshells to raise
peppers, herbs, eggplant and zucchini, as well as
tomatoes and cucumbers. The Gates family spends 30-60
minutes daily in the garden, doing whatever is needed
— watering, pruning, weeding.
this gardening season, the family has learned lessons
from other community gardeners — such as working
crushed eggshells into the soil, adding sugar to the
water when the tomatoes just start to turn pink and
pruning the "suckers" from tomato plants.
also learned the importance of nutrient-dense soil, adds
learned that it’s best to have loose, aerated soil,
which is tough to achieve with the hard clay soil that
is naturally in the plot," she says.
learned that weed control is a beast of a task! We
started by laying a natural, organic paper barrier and
covering that with grass mulch, but that did not work
out. The paper didn’t stay in place despite multiple
efforts to keep it down. We are now weeding by hand
daily to get it under control. Next growing season, we’d
like to have raised beds with loose, composted soil. We’re
researching the benefits of placing newspaper, then
straw over the newspaper, as a natural weed
this year, retired firefighter Jim Ridenhour of Newport
News, Va., received a group invite for Straw Bale
Gardening on Facebook.
he googled the book "Straw Bale Gardening" by
Joel Karsten and read a shortened version of it.
best part of straw bale gardening is that you can use it
anywhere — even on your driveway or concrete
patio," he says.
bales — not hay bales, Ridenhour emphasizes — are
really easy. First, it’s already a raised garden, and
if one bale is not tall enough, double stack them and
you have even more planting space.
two bales on the base side by side and then one on top
centered — that’s my plan for next year," he
bales are in an "E" configuration with bales
in a north-to-south direction for better sunlight in his
yard. Before arranging the bales, he suggests you first
put down weed-block fabric and mulch, and leave plenty
of walking space between the rows.
the bales is the time-consuming part, he says.
day for 12 days you either put fertilizer on the bales
or soak the bales with your garden hose. After the first
12 days you leave the bales alone and just water them
daily. This ‘conditioning’ starts the bales’
internal composting. Wire supports are also placed to
help climbing cucumbers and any other climbing varieties
don’t have to plant just veggies — you can also
plant flowers and flowering bulbs, or whatever you
enjoy," he says.
Williamsburg, Va., Master Gardener Dennis Wool and his
peers teach Backyard Bins and Barrels workshops that
show how to turn 10-, 14- and 18-gallon containers —
commonly known as storage tubs — into self-watering
planters. The smallest sizes are good for herbs and
small vegetable plants, while the 18-gallon ones
accommodate squash and tomatoes with a much larger root
system that need staking, he says.
containers are very affordable, can be purchased at any
of the big box stores, are easily assembled and work
well on patios, decks, and even driveways," he
that like to garden but who have limited space, physical
limitations or want to show children that veggies come
from plants find these very easy to use and
for a large planter, according to Wool, include:
18-gallon plastic storage box, hollowed bamboo tube or
plastic pipe, one plastic plant tray (the kind you bring
plants home in) and piece of weed block or porous cloth.
¾-inch hole in side of the plastic box about two inches
from the bottom to create a "weep" hole for
the water reservoir.
inverted plastic plant tray in storage box.
plastic tray with weed block so the soil does fill the
water reservoir, allows water to wick into the soil.
bamboo tube or plastic pipe into the corner hole in the
plastic tray. This allows a hose to be used to fill the
a good potting mix and compost materials to fill the
water plants from the top, then fill the reservoir
through the fill tube.
of our crew was successful with pumpkins and watermelons
— allowing the vines to grow out on his lawn,"
says Wool, who also teaches how to make rain barrels as
part of the workshop series.
early spring, I plant a flat of nine heads of lettuce in
an 18-gallon bin and have success up until the weather
gets really hot. Fall should be able to handle cabbage,
broccoli and cauliflower started from small