Today I arrived in the big leagues of community gardening. For the last six years I’ve been gardening in a p-patch of 20 or so people. Today I started gardening among about 200.
Here’s the 20’x10’ plot after I spent a couple hours removing old raised beds, clearing weeds, and turning over the soil. My first order of business was to remove the raised beds because they were made with pressure treated wood (a no no). I rolled out of bed 2 hours late to the orientation so neither camera nor coffee were on my person or in my blood (to help remember the camera) therefore no “before” pic. The large pile of dirt and weeds (front right and back right) stem from the fact that, in my “patch,” I like to compost in place— it saves me having to get and load a wheel barrow and it gives me the peace of mind that I know what’s in my pile. My worms like it too. I’ll cover the piles with burlap sacks when I get a chance to keep the weeds from germinating before decomp.
The soil in the garden is amazing… supposedly the result of being on a peat bog. I made a central path that leads into the plot that has side spurs on the right side and leads to a U-shaped path in the back of the plot. I dig out my paths so that my veggies will have more soil (depth-wise) to grow in. IMHO, It’s important that the furthest part of any bed from a given path isn’t out of arms reach so that weeds can be weeded and the harvest brought in. It’s also good to envision the ergonomics of moving hoses through the space.
Tools of the trade: garden tool bag, water bottle, hand trowel & claw, old knife, pruning tools, seed boxes containing seed, twist ties, permanent marker & blank garden signs, zip lock bags, and small plastic container with lid are some essentials. I brought the big pruners today so that I could scavenge some bamboo and cut it (at the joints) into small sticks to act as grid nodes for laying out my plantings. Before using this tact, I’ve tried pen and paper with much thought and ultimately struggled to keep the paper clean and dry and available (not lost). I laid out the corners of the imaginary boxes where a particular veggie would be planted with the sticks and wrote the seed type on a blank sign. This turned out to be super efficient and will ensure that I know what was planted where.
Usually I dote over purchasing seed each February. This year I’ve been too busy to afford doting and have plenty of old seed inventory to clear from my coffers. Seeds can last from one to several (or more) years. If a particular seed is a year old or isn’t supposed to store for as long as I’ve had it, I sow it more densely and hope to make up for lower germination rates (i.e. “the number of seeds” times “the density of seeds sown” = “the number of successfully germinated seeds”). I planted peas, lettuce, carrots, cilantro, chard, radishes, dill, broccoli, and some crimson clover (cover crop for the back 1/3 of my patch).
Here’s a collage of me inoculating snow peas. I poured a couple of table spoons of inoculant into my container, added several more of dirt, 1-2 of water, mixed it all together, and then added the peas. Inoculant sounds kind of nasty but it’s just beneficial bacteria that helps legumes grow. That said, it’s important to read the instructions/warnings that come on the packaging and not breathe it in. The directions said to moisten the seed before applying the inoculant to ensure good adhesion of the bacteria to the seed… adding dirt was my little tweak of the recipe.
After inoculating, I promptly dropped my container! I was glad I had moistened the brew because despite my clumsiness, the dispersed peas still had ample mud and inoculant caked on them. I planted them in furrows about an inch deep at a rate of every few inches. I’ll have to build some sort of trellis for them to grow up. I was very impressed with another gardener’s trellis he made using string and some sticks. I’ll get a pic of it sometime soon!