It was a late start; April instead of February.
My work and the rain have made it difficult for me to get to into my own garden. If you read my last veggie post (Can You) Dig It , we left off with me planting a winter garden instead of a cover crop. The spinach, lettuce and kale did a great job of getting us through the winter, but then a snow storm hit in February and left snow on the ground for a week, which is unusual for Port Townsend. That freeze was enough to kill off the last of my lettuce. Then the rain started falling and has hardly let up since. Gardening these last few months has left me questioning some of my life choices! Yes, it was getting bad.
My kitchen window looks out to the garden.
There it sat, weedy and wet. I thought about taking the summer off from growing vegetables. It was a pleasant thought: I could let the soil rest, maybe grow a cover crop and work to build the soil up for the next season. That sounded good in my head and not at all like an excuse for my bad attitude! Unfortunately, when I said it out loud to David, he thought it was a horrible idea. He’s really gotten into growing veggies the last few years and didn’t like my “let it rest” concept. He brought up a good point with just one word: tomatoes. It was hard to argue!
The summer vegetable garden is a huge commitment for me. Certain aspects are very time sensitive: when to start the seeds, regular watering, harvesting the food once it starts producing and keeping everything picked before it goes to seed! Then there’s the weeding…
…and that’s where we started, with the weeds.
Over the course of a week we managed to weed our way through the whole garden. It was Saturday when the last thing pulled from the ground was the spinach.
We did that on purpose so that in one fell swoop we could pick it, process it and put it all on pizza. We each made our own version of a spinach pizza. I made one that was reminiscent of lasagna with big dollops of ricotta cheese. David made his with more of a Greek flair; with kalamata olives and feta cheese. They were both good, but to be honest, my favorite is just spinach and lots of it!
Winter rains can leach nutrients from the soil.
A cover crop’s roots can help to hold nutrients and the soil in place. It is often referred to as a “green manure” because, not only does it keep your soil intact while it’s growing, but in the spring when it gets turned under, it breaks down and “feeds” the soil. This year was different for me because I planted my winter garden with greens, so there was nothing to turn under. That, combine with a late start this spring, made me decided it was time to add the real shit, animal manure. I figured this was a good way to make up for lost time and lost nutrients. I went to the Secret Gardens Nursery and got a yard and a half of aged-dairy manure. This stuff is a great soil amendment and fertilizer.
You want to be careful about adding soil amendments (manure, compost) and should always make sure that:
1) It’s fully composted
Fresh manure will burn plants because of its high levels of nitrogen and ammonia. Also, if it’s not done composting it will finish breaking down in the ground. This causes problems for your plants because the process of decomposition locks-up and uses nutrients, like nitrogen, making them unavailable to the plants that are trying to grow. And last, but not least, as plants and manure break down they give off a gas that will attract slugs; the bane of the spring garden!
2) It gets mixed into the soil thoroughly
Soil amendments tend to “crust over” if left on top of the ground. When it gets watered, the fines fill in gaps between the larger particles. Then, when this dries out, it forms a hard crust on the surface that water will have a hard, or even impossible, time penetrating. The water will just run-off leaving the soil beneath very dry.
So, that’s that and now the garden is ready to plant.
Now, pick yourself up and wipe off your shoes!
It’s the end of April. I’m happy that we got the garden going again.
I was getting pretty disheartened, but suddenly it feels like there’s an excitement and energy available to me. It’s amazing what a difference a little attention can make. This is exactly what I needed for the work ahead.
David bought tomato starts this week and planted them immediately. I’m considering using more starts in the garden this year just to make things easier. I still plan on using seed for the succession crops, but my goal is to keep the garden simple! There are some other projects that I’m wanting to get to, but first, if you’ll excuse me, I need to wipe this shit off of my shoes.