I’ve had a lot of fun in my garden this year. Although I planted these 2 raised beds last year too, they turned into an under-utilized, overgrown mess. Of course, I was out of town most of the summer, but I realized that planting a garden is one thing… harvesting it and utilizing the food is quite another.
So this year, to make sure this turned into a positive experience, I had Verdura Gardens come out and install a drip system (major improvement!) and help me figure out my garden. We started with a 3 season planting plan based upon my family’s eating likes… (we’re getting towards the end of the 2nd season now).
Then we talked about soil…. I’m a huge advocate for healthy, organic soil…. but here’s the thing… turns out that even though I completed the Organic Gardening course through Oregon Tilth (recommended), I was still an ignorant idiot (that’s redundant, isn’t it?).
My first mistake was asking my new garden guy to get me some organic top soil, which I planned to mix in with my own soil and some amendments. Hmmmm. Turns out, the soil he brought was very heavy, full of clay (typical Portland) and the amendments weren’t going to lighten things up enough to keep the roots from rotting and the plants from dying as they tried to grow. And even worse… it had shredded plastic in it!
This is a heads up…. NONE of us really has any idea where the soil we buy is coming from, and special care should be taken to find out how the company you’re getting it from handles their soil. I don’t know, I’m pretty sure shredded plastic doesn’t qualify as organic….
Some companies do a great job with this, but others use the soil that comes from Portland’s garden recycling program. This is just people’s garden debris. Seriously, after seeing the shredded plastic, I had to ask myself…. “who even knows if it’s been sprayed full of Round-Up or worse? What the heck is in here anyway?”. Sorry… but it’s true.
So…. in effort number one, I got an F.
THEN I said to my garden guy…. this soil is *#! Please get me real organic top soil (with no shredded plastic)… : (
OK… so he got talked into getting me organic mushroom compost from the same place he was buying his soil.
First off… you can’t plant new plants in straight compost. It can burn the plants, and second….guess why they call it mushroom compost? I didn’t want it in my rasied beds, so I had to have it spread out in my garden, which sprouted a gorgeous crop of mushrooms for about 3 weeks. That would’ve been just what I was wanting in my 2 beds instead of the lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas and kale (not!).
Finally, I did what Verdura Gardens had wanted me to do in the first place…. I got bags of blended soil from Pro Grow that consists of things like peat moss, pumice, fine bark, calcium, dolomite, etc.( to balance the pH) trace minerals. This way I knew exactly what was in the soil and it was the right composition for not drowning the new seeds and plants.
Then amendments like dairy manure, worm castings and feather-meal were added in along with some fish fertilizer, and voila! I ended up with healthy, light soil filled with good nutrients and minerals for my growing food to absorb.
I realize that getting bags of soil would not be realistic if you were planting a big garden vs. 2 raised beds… but even so, the comments about soil and it’s importance can’t be overstated.
Anyway, here’s a picture of my spring garden beds and produce. Who wouldn’t be thrilled with this?! We ate lots and lots of lettuce, spinach (SOOOO good), radishes and I think my favorite… peas and pea shoots. As for my summer garden, I think kale has been my favorite and it keeps producing more than enough to saute or add to salads.
You may notice in the top picture that the beds are strung with string, making little squares. The method that Verdura Gardens uses is called square foot gardening... you may have heard of it before, as there are several books on it and there was a PBS tv series on it for about 8 years. It’s a great way to get a lot of produce in a small space, not get overwhelmed with your garden, and have it look absolutely beautiful too! Honestly, I think it looks better than a lot of people’s front yards.
Anyway, you’ll also notice the trellis. In my garden it’s for growing cherry tomatoes (sungold… yum!) and also cucumbers. I’m JUST starting to harvest them, so I don’t know yet if I’m going to end up with enough cherry tomatoes for my liking. But I do know that my tomato plants were absolutely out of control last year and I ended up with an awful lot of them on the ground and felt like I was fighting the tomato bushes constantly.
The rooster in the picture below is fake. Just can’t get up the energy to build a chicken coop and add that to my chore list right now…. maybe next year.?