Each year I look forward to having a vegetable garden. This year is no different, but since our neighbors seemed so overly curious about our method of gardening, we thought we’d share our adventures in mound gardening with you as well!
Years ago when my parents would come home from work to have lunch in the summertime, I can remember having freshly picked cucumbers peeled and sliced, ready to make cucumber sandwiches the moment they walked through the door. It’s been eons since I’ve dined on a fresh cucumber sandwich, but I can honestly say I am eagerly anticipating that first delectable bite!
It seems over the past 10 years, having lived in 3 entirely different parts of the country (The Northeast in Maine, the Midwest in Wisconsin, The South East of South Carolina) that every region has its own way of farming/gardening. I can’t say whether any one way is correct or not, but I look at this way, if you plant it, it will grow!
Please note, this article was originally published April 10, 2010.
How to Start a Mound Garden
Choose a Location
First, mark off the area in which you would like to place your garden. In our area, we have a number of pesky unwanted “drop-offs”. If you’ve never lived in a rural area, you might be unfamiliar with this term… but what it means is that people decide their pets are a bigger pain in the tush then they intended them to be, so they cruise around looking for a nice spot to Dump them in the “country”.
Someplace that looks fairly well kept, but has a bunch of animals of their own, someplace that Fido or fluffy will seemingly “fit right in” and then, dear folks, they open the door and toss their unwanted critter out. So, with the high number of drop-offs that come around, this year I decided to forego the Liquid fence recipe that I usually use and construct a fence instead.
Prepare the Soil
Second, till up the area. (I love how easy this sounds, just 4 little words, but in all honesty, this is the most time-consuming part of the entire job!) If you don’t have a tiller, you can:
- Rake it all by hand, using a shovel to overturn the soil.
- Borrow a Neighbor’s/Friend’s Tiller
- Rent one from your local hardware store for a few hours (about $20-25)
Create the Mounds
Third, Rake your rows into mounds. This depends on where you live, but I’ve always done this for several reasons:
- It assures that the soil is loose and allows the roots to take hold faster
- It assures that the water will hit the roots and stay moist longer; Alternatively, if you live in a super wet area, you can incorporate rocks for drainage.
- It makes it easier to walk between the rows.
- This method works wonderfully if your soil is very rocky, difficult to till and you have access to some topsoil or loam, but don’t want to spend the money to build a “box” container.
- Because the mounds are raised, they hold heat longer and work wonderfully in areas with a shorter growing season.
Go Weed Free
Now, this fourth step is entirely optional, however, I choose to do it because I have a very busy family and 2 businesses to run. You can make your garden virtually weed-free by adding a breathable black plastic over the mounds (or landscaping/weed cloth). When you get ready to plant, simply cut a small ‘X’ in the cloth, scoop out the dirt and add your plant.
Weed cloth is held in place using pins or landscape staples. This prevents the fabric from lifting up or becoming misaligned. Then, add wheat straw or old newspapers down the walking paths. This helps keep weeds down and also helps with water retention.
Over the years I’ve seen people use all kinds of things such as old rug strips, tarps, pine needles, wood chips, etc. Just use what you have! One year we even used repurposed bed skirts.
- Tomatoes (3 different varieties- some for canning, some for slicing, and cherry tomatoes for munching.)
- Cukes- 2 different kinds, some for salads/slicing, as well as pickling cucumbers
- Jalapeño Peppers – for pickling and for making homemade poppers
- Cayenne Peppers – for making sauces, salsa’s and homemade pepper spray
- Summer squash
- Butternut Squash
- Hubbard Squash
- Peas (2 kinds)
- Watermelon ( 3 different Varieties)
- Marigolds- planted throughout mainly to discourage pests such as rabbits.
I literally threw this garden together, completely by myself in a day and a half. If I can do it without any help, you can too! Now, with our work schedules (& the tendency to pack up on a minute’s notice and leave for an extended road trip!), I decided to put the garden on a timer.
The one I am using is by Orbit and is set to water twice a day for 45 minutes. The timer is available on amazon and runs on 2 ‘AA’ batteries. Which works out to be about 6 lbs of tomatoes at this season’s current price!
It works like a charm and now I can leave for several days without having to worry about whether the garden is drying out, or being overrun with weeds. As the season progresses, I’ll add additional photos! Happy Gardening!
**Mound Garden Update** June 9, 2010
Here is a shot of one of the Zucchini Plants on June 5th, approximately 70 days after the garden was planted.
Here’s a view of the Summer Squash
Tomatoes at 65 Days
Jalapeno’s at 72 days – As you can see looking down the row of Jalapenos, there are very, very few weeds. The Garden is virtually Maintenance Free.
Heck, you can even grow watermelon using this simple method of gardening!
Here’s a view of the entire garden: