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Build A Garden With Layers Of Newspaper, Lawn Clippings And Compost

Welcome to raised-bed-building season! With a few materials you most likely have on hand and no tilling, you can create a no-dig garden bed or convert an existing bed to no-dig.  And you can build it so weeds, mice and voles will stay out!

Charlie’s book, The Complete Guide To No Dig Gardening lays out the process of building a garden directly on top of a lawn or grassy area with no need to break or till the sod or soil.

To begin, choose the area on your lawn where you want your no-dig bed, then mow the grass. Next, lay down four layers of newspaper, watering between each layer. From there, build up the layers in your no-dig bed by adding organic materials like hay, grass, straw, lawn clippings and kitchen scraps.

The final layer is made up of about four to six inches of compost. This is the layer you’ll sow seeds directly into.

Keep in mind that if you have mice and voles in your yard, you'll need to prevent them from getting into your no-dig bed. Moles and voles tunnel in and under garden beds and will eat your root crops. To stop them, try adding a hardware cloth as the very first layer, directly on your lawn, then build up from there.

To maintain your no-dig bed from year to year, add mulch to the top layer and in the fall and spring add more compost and plant directly into it.

Q: I have a blueberry question that I haven't been able to find an answer to anywhere. Should I apply fertilizer and soil acidifier to my blueberries at the same time? — Jean, in Newport

You can add both pelletized or powdered sulfur and a granular 5-5-5 ratio of fertilizer at the same time around your blueberry bushes, then work it into the soil.

Q: I never have flowers on my hydrangeas. I have macrophylla and I take out the dead brown stems every late fall or early spring and hope and pray for some flowers that year. But they never come. Should I fertilize? — Jonathan, in Valley Falls, NY

This issue may not be a matter of fertilization. The macrophylla - that’s the hydrangea variety with blue flowers - makes new flowers on the old wood. So the key to producing flowers on your hydrangea begins with protecting those branches and stems in the fall.

Closer to November or December, add some bark mulch or leaves about a foot or so deep around those old wood branches. This will protect any buds on those stems over the winter. Then next spring, those stems and branches will produce the beautiful buds you’ve been waiting for.

And Pownal resident Phil Holland wrote an ode to heirloom tomatoes, which appears in the 2021 Old Farmer's Almanac Garden Guide. Holland's poem, "An Invocation To 11 Tomatoes" exalts the Big Beef, the Black Crim, the Sun Gold! You can find it in the almanac on page 120 or view an image of the poem above. 

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vprnet.

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