New to Veg. Gardening, Preparing for Next Year
We have been in our house on a small city lot for 4 years and assume that chemicals were used here in the past, but we have done nothing but organic gardening since, planting just trees and perennials in the front so far, using native when possible.
We plan to do a small veggie garden next year. We have birds and lots of urban squirrels, mostly, that may or may not eat my crop. I have seen them gnaw a little of each patio tomato, a halloween pumpkin, etc., so keeping them out will be a challenge. The birds will get all the berries, so I'm not even going to try that, much as I'd love a blueberry bush.
My husband pretty much knows what to do with planting, he has done organic veggie gardens before, but our main issue is preparation - I am unsure of the quality of the topsoil underneath the sod we will have to remove, though it is probably clay. We were able to maintain the front yard with minimal weeds using lots of clover, but the back yard is a lost cause, it's 2/3 weeds and crabgrass, etc., and I'm expecting it will be difficult to remove.
We were thinking of layering newspaper on it this Fall and leaving it over the winter - the entire back yard which is around 20 x 40-60 or so, and I've read to mulch heavily on top of that, but I'm not sure what type of mulch to get and whether it will be affordable. Could we use landscape fabric and secure it with pins or something on top of the newspaper, or is the point to use natural material that is incorporated into the soil? Do we dig up the hopefully dead sod and weeds next spring, or rototill everything in? I know newspapers are printed with petroleum-based inks, and I'm not sure I want to grow my food in that, since I'm assuming they'd be totally broken down by the Spring. Additionally, am I killing beneficial insects, worms and soil organisms this way?
We will probably do raised beds for the veggies, at least, and no doubt we'll have to have a lot of good topsoil and compost delivered. The plan is to do about 1/3 veggie garden at the very back, perennials and grasses along the lovely chain link border, and the rest new sod for the eventual small dog.
Any advice on what we should do to prepare would be much appreciated, or suggestions on reading references. Thank you!