Converting lawns to productive gardens
Saw this New York Times article:
If your soil is good, fine. Rototill everything, add organic matter, and start. If your soil is not good, dump eight inches of loose fluffy soil on top, rake out, and plant. Its gotta be in sun and it's gotta have water source. It needs a fence, and a commitment to have someone follow through all the way or it will be a waste of time and money.
In the end though, it's totally worth it. I haven't gone to stop and shop in a week or more. Yeah, the dinners are somewhat repetitive but the squash is sweet and tasty and plentiful, and it won't be long before I'm chomping on cauliflower, tomatoes, okra, etc.
Veggies should never get dryer than this
A nice couple came in today to ask why their garden was dying. They had bought eight yards of our garden soil then planted their plants/seeds. Must be close to two months now and they said that all the plants were dying and that it must be the soil they got from us.
I showed them pictures of my garden plants that are lush and productive and said we had the same soil so that is not the reason.
I asked what fertilizer they used and they said none (but I already knew that was not the reason for plant demise).
Then I asked how they watered and they said with an oscillating sprinkler (the kind we ran through as kids on hot summer days). It occurred to me at that point as obvious as can be! They THOUGHT they were watering but all they were doing was wetting the surface of the soil. The plants got NOTHING out of it except for a tease misting.
They then asked me how I water my garden (40' X 60') and I said I go home after working outside all day long, take a shower and change clothes, rehydrate (!), then drag my tired soul all the way up to the garden with my 100' hose and water the thirsty plants one by one. It takes a lot of time but in doing this I see spots, holes, rabbit browsing, things I gotta do!
I guess I have realized that (I have mentioned this before) having a veggie garden isn't just about being a redneck flannel-wearing smelly old person growing corn. It's a full blown relationship just like the ones we have with other people.
If you think for one second that you can spread the soil, shove the plants into the ground and look for the easy way to grow tomatoes, you have a rude awakening coming towards you because the sharks are circling.
Just like any relationship, a garden needs attention. Daily reinforcement. What you put into it you get back out of it. This is what I try to tell people, and this is one thing that intrigues me about growing food. It ain't so easy, and that makes me respect our elders and agricultural workers more and more each time I go do something in my garden.
The above chart shows basic basic plant needs. Listen people (anyone there?), if a plant does not get water, nothing on this planet can save it from certain death. Use your heads and water by hand so all your work is not in vain, or come up with some drip method so time is of no concern.
Japanese beetle writhing in pain as it dies from malathion application the night before. Anyone who has dealt with these little bastards knows what I mean. They destroy almost everything they land on but they do it in a disgusting way. They skeletonize leaves, turn fruits slimy, poop on everything, and have orgies in large masses on the tops of plants. It's easy to hate them.
Eating only plants now for my one meal per day. Large helpings of Swiss chard, beans, squash, cherry tomatoes. More coming. Lettuce looks harvestable. Makeshift tomato cages work GREAT.
I have various insects that somehow found my garden even though I've never had one before. Some of them make just unsightly holes some have the potential to undo all my work. So, I'm spraying malathion on anything that seems affected. Rule #1 is never spray above 80f because heat+sun+ chemical= ozone gas that damages plants. Malathion- it's been on the market for decades and I've never heard anything bad about it when used as I'm about to (lobster die off 15 years ago is another story when the state was controlling West Nile virus). Now I will have to wash my food before eating but it's better than having everything destroyed.
Squash dinners abound now. What an easy plant to grow. Cucumbers eaten like apples. Haven't sprayed any chemicals yet (but need to- whiteflies on broccoli). Swiss chard grows fast and is Instantly ready to eat. No big fat tomatoes yet. Wish I started earlier.
Observations (gardening is interesting)
Gotta spray cabbage leaves soon, those little holes bug me (sevin). I put the first batch of tomatoes too close, they look squished and its gonna be hard to stake them and harvest plus they are shading the swiss chard which by the way have leafminer trails that are ruining the leaves. You really can't turn your back on a veggie garden, even for a few days if you want to eat out of it. The original weed-free situation is changing to a weeds-to-be status. Every day I see little weeds-to-be popping up. Rake when dry is my plan, they dry up fast in the sun after raking (get 'em small or it will be a week long job), and the ones close to the plants will have to be hand-pulled. Potatoes need much more soil piled up against the stems (man they grow fast), and it might be time for a re-feeding of everything with Harrell's.
A guy came in yesterday saying that the garden soil that he bought from us produced almost no foliage and that all the plants were dead/dying. I asked him what kind of fertilizer he was using and he said none, and if he mulched his young plants to keep the sun off the soil so the plants wouldn't dry out, and he said none. It occurred to me that it would not be lack of food that would cause plant death, that it had to be water-related. Seems like a very basic awareness to me to think about water/plants, but maybe that's because I do that for a living. Maybe for the average homeowner "you get a few plants, stick 'em in the dirt and go back weeks later to find the garden of Eden overflowing with bountiful harvests."
I have found that if I turn my back on the garden even for a few days I have an entire list of things to do, so maybe gardening and certain kinds of people = mismatch. I've even begun to wonder if I have bitten off more than I can chew.
Speaking of chewing, last night's chomping included cucumbers for pre-dinner snacks (no gross grocery store waxy surface or bruises), handfuls of string beans nibbled on whilst burning child's Spanish notebook from last year in the firepit.
Most drought resistant vegetable = okra.
More fresh food
Worked in the yard last night and it got hot and muggy. Shower/attic fan on/breeze by open window/chomp on tomatoes like they are apples and fresh uncooked Swiss chard like I was a ruminant. No trip to grocery store again. Covered potato stems, little holes in broccoli leaves gotta be sprayed, restaked tomatoes, weed control, nothing else really to do except wait for more stuff to eat.