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The summer before starting the garden, Marcia killed the sod and sowed a cover crop of buckwheat. She keeps a jar of buckwheat handy and sprinkles seed wherever she has a bare spot in the garden from harvesting an early-season crop, such as lettuce.
The buckwheat germinates quickly in the warm soil and helps smother weeds.
As the buckwheat (behind the lettuce) matures, its roots help improve the structure of the soil, benefiting the crops that follow. Marcia uses shears to trim off the flowers so that the buckwheat doesn’t reseed. When she wants to replant the area occupied by the buckwheat, she simply turns it under with a shovel.
Marcia mulches some crops (here, red potatoes mulched with straw) to help conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds. The mulch also improves the soil when it breaks down.
Marcia adds weeds, kitchen wastes and plant residues to her simple compost pile. This way, she returns nutrients and organic matter to her garden soil. She turns the pile occasionally, and waters it during dry spells.
Taking good care of the soil improves its tilth, making it easier to work and easier to control weeds. Here, Marcia uses one of her favorite tools, a stirrup hoe, to take out weeds.