Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grow Your Own!

We did it! We planted a winter garden. The seeds have been in the ground for two weeks tomorrow and there are a lot of seedlings pushing up through the soil.

Back in September Mr. Green and I had a conversation with our farmer friend Elijah from Tara Firma Farms about how we could make our garden more productive. He offered to take a look at our space. One beautiful Sunday in early October Elijah came to the city and saw our garden. He loved it! He said it was enough space to feed 20 people!

Yikes! Who knew?

He suggested that we orient the whole thing differently to waste less space and said we needed soil amendments. Our poor plants were being choked by the sand. He said, "Find a friend who has cow manure and get a lot of it." Now, I have friends who have, or can get, cow manure. Lots of them. They all live in Idaho. Shipping really isn't an option.

Craigslist is the next best thing to someone you know who has what you need. I signed on later that evening and found a listing for "aged organic horse manure" for fifty cents a bag. . . fifty cents a bag? That fits right into my budget. I sent an email to Victoria's Fashion Stables ordering up six bags and "Voila!" they would be left outside the gate, on the appropriate day, just for me.

The soil was a different story. Tons of "dirt" or "fill dirt" available. . . immediate concerns about contamination. . . I don't want to sully our clean growing space. We were very careful in the spring to keep it "organic". So. . . I invested in six bags of organic planting mixture from Sloat Garden Center. At eight-something a bag, it was a bit much, but worth it, I hope.

We now were driving around with six fragrant bags of horse manure in the back of the truck and six bags of soil stacked in our garage. I was looking forward to the next weekend!

Earlier in the season, about a week after we had pretty much given up on our summer garden - having pulled the tomatoes, and harvested every bit of produce except the carrots and artichokes, it rained. I was ignoring the garden at that point. Nothing new going on. We were waiting for advice.

And suddenly, there was oxalis! We hadn't really seen any since we sifted all the sand and took out all the bulbs in the spring. It wasn't as bad as it was last fall, but it definitely was making itself known. We weeded. The damn stuff is impossible to pull up completely. It breaks off so easily and then comes right back. If it flowers and goes to seed, it's everywhere. We weeded some more.

The morning of beginning the winter gardening, we weeded. . . then the fun began.

We drug and carried the six bags of manure and six bags of mulch through the 1st floor hallway into the back. Then we stripped the earth of everything except the two artichoke plants. We turned it all over once with a shovel. I don't know where the eight bags of mulch from last spring went, but the soil was very sandy.

We poured out two bags of poo and two bags of mulch, mixed it up with the fork and shoveled it out onto the garden. We did this three more times.

It may not seem like a lot of work reading it, but it was. The garden is mostly in the shade in the winter because it's on the north side of our three story building. This was a good thing that sunny day. After the "amendments" were evenly spread, we turned the soil over again. Twice.

Then we raked a path down the middle, leaving a large bed on each side, and lined the path with some of the bags that the manure came in.

Mr. Green mixed up some of his magic "adobe" to pack on the sides of the beds - this combo of sand, mulch, compost and water mixed to create mud, we discovered, keeps the dirt contained and doesn't allow run-off, creating our poor-man's version of raised beds.

By this time it was late in the day and cooling off quickly. I was exhausted but happy to have the garden ready to plant.

On Sunday we planted.
peas peas
artichokes carrots
turnips lettuce
radishes spinach
beets garlic
broccoli cauliflower

And garlic planted along the edges of the garden about every two feet to keep the bugs out. But not by the peas. Peas and garlic are not friends. The way I planted (as listed above) is companion planting. all these plants like their neighbors and, because they do, we are supposed to get a higher yield.

I have never companion planted before. I'm excited to see if it works. I found a handy dandy chart on a site called Gardens Ablaze. Just a matter of plotting it out once I knew which plants are friendly with which.

Again, another exhausting day, but fun work. We planted, watered the seed, cleaned up the mess, hung the tools and called it a day well spent.

I tagged each area that I planted with the date and what is growing. Mr. Green made worm tea and sprayed the whole thing the next day.

At this point, two weeks later, we have a bounty of seedlings. The turnips and radishes are up and crankin'. Almost everything is popping through except the carrots, beets and garlic. . . I'm sure they will be up by the end of the week. Awesome!

I doubt that we'll be feeding twenty people, but there will definitely be food to share. Assuming that we don't end up sharing it with the snails and bugs. . . we have plans for them if they show up. . .

We do this because we can. I like growing my own food. Between the farmers' market and our garden, we keep it local most of the time, supplementing with a trip to the co-op or regular grocery a couple of times a month.

I like to think that more and more of us are on the path to sustainable living. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.

I'm sure you are, too.

Do you grown your own? Would love to hear about your winter (or summer) garden!

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, we have no garden! Wrong exposure, short summer, frozen winter... But our last home had a huge plot, professionally designed. We could have openned a store front for those few months in July-September where things actually grew. I ever make it back to the SF area, I'm inviting you over to help design our garden.