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Rejuvenating an Old Garden
by Diana Roberts
Category: Fruits
When you move into a new home and the landscaping has been let go for a long period of time, you will definitely have a big job ahead of you. Garden plots that are overgrown can be a huge amount of work and may be worth letting them go and starting a new garden.
The first thing to do, if you want to rejuvenate an old vegetable garden, is to look at where it is situated in relation to your home, out buildings and landscape. Is it getting enough sunlight? If you have harsh winds, is it in an area that is partially protected? What is the soil like in the garden, and how deep is it? Test the soil to see if there are the required nutrients in it. Is your garden near your kitchen door or another area which is handy when it comes time to harvest? These are all things to think about before you go to all the work to rejuvenate an old garden. If you are ready to start working on your garden, be sure that it is dry before you begin.
If all of these things are fine, then it's time to get out your garden gloves and start to work. If you have a rototiller, you will also want to bring this out. One of the easiest ways to start to rejuvenate an overgrown garden is with a rototiller. If you till up your garden, it will bring up the grass and weed roots which may otherwise be very hard to pull. Be sure that you only go over your garden one time with the rototiller with the goal in mind that you are just loosening the soil around the roots. If you don't have access to a rototiller you can hand dig your garden, but make sure to stretch your muscles before you begin, or you will be very sore the next day!
The next thing you should do is bring a large bag or bucket and start pulling up any weeds, grass or roots. You could till these into the garden, but many roots will resprout and you will be left with a mess. The cleanest way to rework a garden is to hand pick each and every weed. I always find that doing this is very fulfilling, as you are the master of the destiny of your garden! It may take time, but it will also get your body in shape for the coming season. Once you have worked over the entire garden and can see no other weeds, then rototill your garden once again. Be careful to not overwork the garden soil or you will wreck the tilth. In this case less is more. Once again pick any weeds you may see and send them to the compost.
Now, what if you have berry patches in or around your garden that are overgrown, how do you deal with this problem? That all depends on the extent of the problem. Weeds do not really hurt raspberries or blackberries, but if you are like me, it's nice to have a very clean, weed-free berry garden. If your soil is loose, you may be able to pull any weeds around your plants. If this is not a possibility and you really want to get rid of each and every weed, then spring is the best time to deal with this problem. You will have to dig the bushes or canes up which is easier if you prune them down to manageable height. If you are moving very prickly plants you should wear long sleeves, leather gloves and wrap the bush in a tarp or gunny sack. Try and get as many roots as you can when digging, for a healthier transplant. The easiest thing to do with a freshly dug plant is to dig a hole in another part of the garden and place it there while you are cleaning up the area where it was growing.
Another thing to do at this point is to decide if the berries were growing in the right part of the garden. Be sure your berries aren't blocking the sun from the rest of the garden. As gardeners we would never put raspberry canes on the south side of a garden, but new gardeners may not have thought of this when the berries were originally planted.
When transplanting use this time to right any wrongs! As you did with the rest of the overgrown garden, use a rototiller on this area and then pick up any weeds. When placing your berrys back into the ground, add a handful of bonemeal to the bottom of the hole to give the plant a boost. Be sure to space your plants appropriately, taking into consideration room needed for growth and space for new canes growing from the roots. Once you have replanted your berries, be sure to water them well. Another good thing to do is to mulch your plants with compost or old leaves to keep any weeds from growing back.
Before you go to all the work of transplanting your berry bushes, be sure that they are what you want. I love the tall, thornless raspberries which produce huge fruit, but some bushes are short with smaller berries, though they may produce huge crops of very sweet fruit. You may not like the flavor of the berries and want something sweeter. If you have not had the chance to taste the berries yet, it may be a good idea to give them a year before you decide whether to keep them or not. With the raspberries I have had over the years, I have always put up a wooden T on each end of the row to hold wires at 2 or 3 levels that keep the berries controlled. This makes it easier to pick the berries and prune out any canes which are growing too far into the rest of the garden.

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