Mown grass for mulch and more...

Spiro, OK(Zone 7a)

I recently bought a new house and my garden still has last year's corn stalks, cabbage and broccoli heads and a rotten gourd in it. My ex is going to bring me a tiller from work so I can get it rolling. My yard was REALLY bad and I mowed it today. He told me that I should just till the grass clippings into the ground. I can see doing that at the end of the season, but this close to planting time seems like a bad idea to me. What do you guys think?

Also, the back half of my garden seems to be overrun with what I'm guessing are strawberry plants (the leaves look right and the vines are reddish). I hate to tear them up, but I really don't want that many strawberries either. Can they be easily taken up and maybe given away?

I understand that the last frost here is at the end of May, beginning of June. Am I too late to get started planting seeds for tomatoes, peppers, beans, carrots, radishes and zucchini? Will Broccoli Rabe grow well here? I want to try it but I've never grown it before.

Sorry for all the helter-skelter questions...I'm just so excited to finally have my own garden again after 13 years!

Somerville, MA(Zone 5a)

i prefer to return the grass clippings to the lawn, since that is where the available nutrients from the grass came from and thats where i like to return them to. a good double cut will get rid of the clumping of the cuttings. this is just my preference, but it is also not to late to turn them into the garden, will def be decomposed by planting time.

No it is not to late to start seeds, perfect timing in fact IMO.

Ashland, OR(Zone 8a)


Some random advice. If the length of this makes you think, "Oh, for heaven's sake, can't I just _plant_ something?!" then just ignore it; you'll have fun anyway. :)

Before you till, check that the ground isn't too wet - tilling or digging wet ground, especially wet clay, can leave you with a bad, hard-to-work texture. Tilling when too dry, while not as bad in my experience, is also not ideal. The standard advice is to fairly gently squeeze a handful of soil into a ball. If you can't get it to form a ball, it's too dry. If the ball doesn't fall apart or at least chip when you poke it a bit, it's too wet.

Strawberry plants should be easy to dig out and give away, yep. They can look pretty pitiful out of the ground, with little tufts of roots, but if you tuck the roots into the soil and keep them watered through dry spells, they generally bounce back pretty quickly. It may be a little early and cold for transplanting strawberries in your zone - I don't know for sure; I'm several zones warmer, in an area where I could plant them all winter.

Even in the space that you want to remain strawberries, you might want to dig up some of the area and respace the plants. As I understand strawberries, you plant them fairly wide spaced one year and pinch off the flowers that year to let the plants gain strength. Then you start getting actual production for the next couple of years until they get crowded (because they make more plants), and then you start over. So in order to have berries all the time, you keep some of your strawberry space in the "production" phase, and some in the "start over" phase, shifting the start-over area from year to year so that you always have strawberries. If someone in your zone disagrees with me, ignore me; they win. :) Personally, I re-space my whole strawberry bed every few years, and I don't bother to pinch off the flowers the first year. I'm lazy. :)

Tilling the clippings into the garden right now seems fine, unless it's a huge amount of clippings and a fairly small garden. If you use any herbicides on your lawn, though, I wouldn't put the clippings anywhere but on the lawn. (Again, this is laziness on my part - grass treated with some herbicides would no doubt be fine a few weeks after the treatment, but I don't want to do the research or take the risk.)

You're not too late to start planting seeds - in fact, I think that you're too early for some of them. I'd say:

- Tomatoes: I think you can start these indoors now, though if someone in your zone disagrees, believe them and not me. :) I generally buy tomato seedlings from the nursery at planting time, because (once again) I'm lazy - nursing tomato seedlings along is some work, and I don't enjoy it, so I don't do it. But you do get more choice of varieties by growing your own seedlings.
- Peppers: Same as tomatoes.
- Beans: I'd start these in the ground after your last frost date - they get going really fast and can't sit in a pot long.
- Carrots: These don't transplant well; they should be planted in the ground. I don't know when they should go in in your zone. I never succeeded with carrots until I followed the Square Foot Gardening method of planting them. I faintly remember that the method involved sprinkling them with vermiculite, to give them a really lightweight coating that won't crust over. (I don't eat many carrots, so I stopped growing them, so I forgot.)
- Radishes: Simliar to carrots, except they grow _really_ fast, so there's no need to get a head start.
- Zucchini: Similar to tomatoes, except they grow faster so I also just grow these from seeds.
- Broccoli Rabe: I have no clue. :)


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