Welcome to another randomly posted installment of Organic Gardening From Beginners. It's been well over a month since my last post on this topic and if you were a follower, I apologize for the delay.
It's been an eventful month.
But not particularly so in my garden.
On the up side, we've gotten a lot of rain this year. Lake levels are up and our trees are happy. On the down side, it hasn't been particularly warm and tomato gardens all around the city are sleeping. Shhhhhhhhhh. Don't wake them.
Today I'm going to talk a little about Composting and a little about Children and their relationship to gardening.
Which reminds me...two things have attacked my garden so far this year: Deer and Children.
Several days ago a friend of mine asked after my garden adventure.
"And by the way...how does your garden grow?" she asked over the cell phone. I wandered out to the garden bragging all the way about how while my yield was small, at LEAST I had managed to keep the deer out this year. And this is why I try not to brag too much, because as soon as I uttered the words the Universe punished my vanity, plunging me into an alternate reality with deer tracks in my garden and nibbled down tomato plants, beets, and carrots from the night before. I immediately resprayed with liquid fence and wired shut the little ad-hoc gateway I designed into my fence. The attack could have been worse...this was just a warning shot.
And, frankly, the destruction was not much more than the children visit upon my garden. While I weed, the one year old comes in and tramples the beet seedlings and mimics my "tearing up plants" action by tearing up any plants that happen to be nearby. The five year old and his friends get so much joy from picking any harvest I might have, I let them do it. They give the produce a mighty heave and often yank off half the plant along with it. I had a very productive hot pepper plant, given to me as a gift, and it met an early "setback" as most of the plant got "harvested" by a little hand determined to pluck a pepper. They always hold up the produce proudly as the rest of the plant dangles helplessly from the stem and I wince and offer a weak smile "Nice...job. You picked a big......plant."
I try to help them with hand over hand picking but they get so excited about harvesting they dive right in for the kill the second I open the garden gate.
I had my small calypso bean harvest drying outside on Friday and later found them gone. All of them. My son said proudly "I planted them. They were magic beans. Want to see?"
Also the hoeing is particularly attractive to my kids. They watch me hoe and the older one begs to help. I show him exactly where he has to hoe, and he...he tries so hard to stay in the lines, but my seedlings suffer hard casualties.
I find, in the presence of children, subterranean plants do well. Tubers are nice and hidden from view and manage to mature to some degree before an eager primate spots a bit of red and some ancient foraging instinct drives them insane with the desire to pick it.
Though for some reason my beets just aren't very lively this year. My garden delivered one beet so far. However it produced a respectable number of turnips and radishes
Which brings me to yet another tangential thread, which seems to be the meandering way of this particular diary anyway...
...Children as a general rule, aren't terribly excited about or adventurous with vegetables. My oldest will eat beets until he pees red. But radishes and turnips...not so much.
When planting a garden intended to supplement the family's food supply, I suppose it's a wise idea to grow things the family will actually eat. We do hide turnips in things like mashed potatoes though. And that's helped with the turnip consumption.
But...lesson learned. More beets and potatoes. Maybe a little lighter on the turnips.
Potatoes...now there's a plant I was luke warm about, but now love them. Even with my crappy soil and modest growing conditions and my vast patches of ignorance, and the onslaught of children and deer the potatoes seem to be running the gauntlet and growing reliably. And one potato plant grows a ton of potatoes. Very cool.
Now....on to the topic of composting...
As I constantly mention, my soil sucks. We're close enough to the lake that our soil is sand if you dig down more than a few inches:
Note the sandy bits near the cabbages and my son's strawberry patch, which are are both doing okay.
My long term goal is to make this garden the only fertile place in the yard, which I'll accomplish through manure, bone meal, and compost.
I've read a lot about compost and there are all sorts of ways to do it. You can buy some composting bin things that make turning the compost easier. You can build a gigantic wooden, three sectioned composting...
Some schematics can be found here:
I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which type I would make and where I would put it in the yard for easy access in the winter. I started amassing wood scraps found around the house and from friends' houses to build the bin with.
But in the end, I opted to use the "bury it in the ground" method of composting.
There's a part of my garden where the sprinkler doesn't reach, so the plants just dry out. I've reserved that part of the garden for composting.
I save up my vegetable and plant waste (and egg shells or clam/oyster shells) in a coffee can until I've maxed out the capacity of my coffee can. Then I take it out to the garden, dig a hole about a foot deep, dump the slop in, and bury it. Make sure to bury it at least 8 inches down to keep animals from digging down to get it. Then, I let worms and bacteria and nature work its magic.
I'll dig it up some time next year and tell you how it works.
In theory, it will be largely composted by next year. I'll be able to dig it up and spread it around my garden.
The advantage to this is, it's easy and it doesn't require turning. Easy. That's what I'm looking for. I'm in no hurry to compost. I'm in this for the long haul. Plus, I'll come right out and admit that composting is a bit intimidating to me as another task I need to perform and another living thing I need to look after. Burying the vegetable waste makes it much more accessible for me.
The disadvantage is, I'm not sure what I'll do in the winter with the ground is frozen, and I'll miss out on some of the cool things you can do with fresh, easily accessible compost such as Winter Sowing.
So that's it for today. As always you'll learn a lot more from the commentary below. I'm particularly interested in hearing peoples' comments about composting.
In the next few weeks I'm going to learn a bit about cover crops to try to prepare my garden for next year and get my nitrogen fixed right up with nitrogen fixing crops. Next time I might talk about those cover crops, such as buckwheat...now I just need to find out where I can buy buckwheat.