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Gardening, lazy or smart? – Picayune Item

By Felder Rushing

Iis smart gardening really smart or just lazy? Regardless, it works for me as I get older, without the urge to lay flagstones, lift tree stumps, or prune unnecessarily.

Or dig. I finally understood the myth of Sisyphus, the ancient king condemned to rolling a rock up a mountain, only to see it fall back down and have to walk after it to start climbing again. Something about endless, incessant toil.

So with gardening being my hobby and talking about it as my job, I started to temper what I do to work in gardening. Which means planning ahead to eliminate unnecessary chores, eliminate some of the clutter, remove or replace troublesome plants, and hire others to do the heavy lifting.

The biggest chore I have, other than the twice-a-year marathon of weeding and spreading fresh mulch, is digging up my scattered handful of small flower patches and my 4×30 foot raised vegetable garden in the spring for summer plants, then digging them up again in the fall for things that grow during winter and spring.

It took me a while to find a simple recipe that takes the drudgery out of digging the dirt. When I made a new raised bed a few years ago, I dug the clay inside over a deep shovel, then used a borrowed tiller to break up the clods. There is a temporary window of opportunity to dig new land, when it is neither too wet and lumpy nor hard and dry like concrete. Medium sized chunks of clay left to sweat for a day or two break into crumbs with a rake or the back of a shovel.

Oh, and I fractured and loosened the bottom of the bed that the tiller scraped too smooth and hard for the roots to penetrate. Then I spread some organic matter over the soil, a few inches of bark mulch for bulk and an inch or two of compost or manure for richness, and mixed it well with the fresh native soil. . Finally, I spread a layer of tree leaves and bark mulch over everything, and I was done.

For the rest of my gardening life, I now follow a simple two-step routine: each time I dig the beds, I simply use a trowel or my rotary pitchfork to lightly dig up the old mulch, then spread a new one. mulch, then add plants. It gets easier each time, and my heavy Yazoo clay has become as rich and crumbly as a caramel cake.

Sometimes I grow my own stuff to add to the soil. Last fall I sowed crimson clover seeds on a bare area of ​​my raised bed, and it is already a foot thick, with roots pushing deep and loosening the soil while converting and storing the nitrogen fertilizer from fine air and drying out damp soil. In a few weeks I’m going to cut it up, let it dry out for a few days, then just slice it halfway into the ground.

And that’s where the earthworms start doing their thing. They eat the dug up clover and at night come up to nibble the leaves of my tree and carry it deep into holes filled with vermicompost, perfect for air, water and roots to penetrate deep. I make “my daughters” even happier by lightly dusting the beds once a year with cottonseed meal, which contains both natural nitrogen and protein that helps turn lean, pale and transparent into earth-digging monsters.

Smart or lazy? It doesn’t matter, that means there’s no more digging. Get it right once, mulch with leaves, maybe grow some winter clover and feed the worms. They will take it from there.