Stephanie - My success story from last year (and the year prior) was using straw to suppress weeds. I have discovered that if I cover my planting areas with straw in the fall they remain relatively weed free until spring when I can pull away just enough straw to either insert my plants or cast my seeds. By surrounding any planting areas or plants with straw my weeding has been virtually eliminated or requires very minor time.
Additionally the breakdown of the straw on these areas further improves the fertility and composition of the planting beds soils. Worms will come into the areas under the straw which only further enhances the oxygen enrichment and tunneling action in your soil, thus helping to prevent soil compaction.
If you didn’t cover your planting areas during the fall, no worries! Just get that straw onto these areas as soon as possible. I think everyone will be very surprised at how much effort is saved by not having to pull weeds constantly. You will still have some weeds from the leftover seed in the straw and of course the seeds the blow in the wind. But this is very minor compared to leaving the soil bare.
Joey - Each year brings some fantastic new wonder to the garden. Some special new variety that exceeds all. My garden is particularly. Opulent situated as it is in the fertile delta of the Loutre river where it meets the Missouri with extremely rich soil and no rocks. Many things grow with ease to enormous size. I am a big advocate of Ruth Stouts no work garden technique of letting my debris lie and mulching heavily everywhere at all times I let most varieties re seed themselves and move perennials around often. Each year I am rewarded with new surprises. This year it was sunflowers. I started feeding birds two years ago. Last year I had planted a few sunflowers This year the birds planted a few. These new ones were multi branching and extremely tall one measured over 20 ft tall and beautiful. Some seemed descendants of the lemon yellow with pale petals and some were variegated with reddish orange centers. On this cold March first birds are still feasting on the remaining seed heads.
Patti - Last year my personal favorite success was Spinach, I know, kinda boring but I love spinach and had good success with it last year (2016)! AT our house my Mom cooked spinach with vinegar I really didn't like it. But after tasting some raw, I was hooked. I got some Spinach Gigante d'Inverno from Bakers Seeds & just planted it from seed in a planter box I got a couple of years ago, along with some lettuce. It seemed to like the cheap potting soil & very light donkey manure mix (thanks to my friend Gloria) served me well. I over seeded it because I like to cut it when it's small. Boy did I have a crop! The leaves were a very dark green and fairly flat, which I like for my salads & almost sweet tasting. I kept cutting it all the way into JUNE! Then without even trying, I had a decent fall crop, along with some Tom Thumb lettuce which must have reseeded itself. The spinach was very tender & most of it we just ate raw in salads and on sandwiches but some of it was used for quiche, one of few ways I like spinach cooked. If you were at Food Circle last year, you probably tasted it.