Edible Landscaping

From May 2008 E-newsletter

veggie garden

May Q and A

Question: What is the best way to convert part of my large lawn into an edible garden?

Answer: Congratulations on wanting a garden instead of a lawn. Although lawns have their place in a yard, edible gardens provide both beauty and food. While the quickest way to convert the lawn into an edible garden is to dig up the sod and replace it with fertile topsoil and compost, a better long-term solution is to use sheet mulching.

Sheet mulching takes longer than stripping off sod, but doesn't require that back breaking work of digging and hauling. It also composts the dead grass in place. While it's best done the fall before planting, you can still do it now and plant later in summer. Simply place a layer of black-and-white newspaper four sheets thick over the lawn area. Wet the pages as you lay them so they don't blow away. Cover the newspaper with a 4- to 6-inch-thick layer of hay or straw. Cover that with a 2-inch layer of compost. Then let it sit as is for a few months. The mulch will kill the lawn, the earthworms will start munching on the newspaper, and the whole area will be on its way to becoming a fertile garden without you having to pick up a shovel. To plant, simply dig holes in the mulch and plant transplants. For seeds, build raised beds with compost on top of the mulch and sow. By the time the plants get growing, the mulch will be on its way to decomposing.


Question: I'm in Tennessee and I've grown cucumbers before with good success. Last year, however, my cukes started out great then yellowed, wilted, and died. What happened and how can I avoid it this year?

Answer: It sounds like your cucumbers had a bacterial blight disease. This disease attacks mostly cucumbers and melons, causing the leaves to yellow and the plant to die prematurely. A telltale sign of bacterial wilt disease is the white, sticky juice you find inside the infected cucumber stem when you cut it open. It's commonly spread by the feeding of cucumber beetles.

To control this disease, plant blight-resistant varieties and control the cucumber beetle. Simple cucumber beetle controls include not planting cucumbers in the same area each year, cleaning up crop debris well before planting, and placing a floating row cover over the crop before flowers form. After flowers open, remove the row cover so bees can pollinate the flowers. Spray plants with pyrethrum to keep cucumber beetle adults from spreading the disease.

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