Would you believe it if I told you that I have already had more success in my garden this summer than I did in the entirety of last year?
Chalk it up to learning experiences. Or perhaps our soil is better. Or perhaps the weather has been more forgiving this year. Most likely, it has been a combination of all three. In any case, I couldn’t help but share my progress, as past attempts have shown me that I have to celebrate the little victories, lest they be fleeting and present me with a brown, withered garden in the coming months.
When we began to landscape the yard (more to come on that — very exciting!), Anthony set aside a huge plot for me to plant my garden. It’s about 20’x6′ — much bigger than the small raised bed I built at our last place. Our first order of business in prepping the yard, was to make the area a suitable long-term solution for my veggie experiments. We spent one hot April weekend removing dead sod, digging trenches and laying bricks. We had several stacks of bricks laying in the yard, left over from the house’s old chimney, which turned out to be the most beautiful pavers for the yard. The process of digging and laying the pavers was a feat in itself, but the end product turned out just the way we hoped, and the carefully-placed pavers create the perfect walkways for me to incessantly check on my plants.
Next, I brought a few items into my garden that have become the talk of the town. My neighbors have been staring through their windows, my parents and grandparents grilled me about my plans, and my friends stared skeptically at the new addition to our yard.
No, I did not install a naked scarecrow — I just added a few straw bales.
After having such bad luck with the dry, nutrient-free soil just one block away last summer, I chose to go a less traditional route and follow some advice I gleaned from the trusty Internet. I will let you read the article if you’re really interested, but the gist of it is that you spend a couple weeks prior to the growing season “conditioning” your bales by adding fertilizer and heavy doses of water each day. When the frost danger has passed, the insides of the straw bales should be warm and composting — the ideal place for seedlings to start their lives. I was eager to try it (any method deemed “foolproof” by the New York Times sounded worth trying to me!), but not place all my eggs in one basket. So, with the help of a couple of friends (one of whom was also giving the straw method a try), and a feed store outside of town, I came home with 5 bales of straw, enough to fill up half of my garden. [Sidenote: If you ever want to be condescendingly called “city folk”, show up with a leather interior Denali to an establishment selling chickens and ask to have it loaded with 8 bales of straw. Then, later, note the look on your friend’s face as said straw fills up said Denali and coats its nice interior.]
More to come on my straw efforts later, as the summer progresses and the plants inside them [hopefully!] mature, but the real shocker was the plants I planted in the previously-assumed “no good” dirt.
While my parents were in town, they helped me get started with a few kale plants that I started indoors, in our sunny mudroom. After the garden went in, I transferred them to the backyard and crossed my fingers. At first, they were droopy and sad, and I lost hope immediately. Within a couple days, however, they perked up and gave me a little hope! Fueled by the kale’s potential success, I planted a few other spring vegetables, including spinach, lettuce, and carrots. And, just a few weeks later, wouldn’t you know it:
That’s right! My own little plot of leafy greens! I have been so excited to see my plants take off, that I marvel at it every time I walk in from the garage. The kale has been going so fast that I haven’t been able to keep up with the harvest, and have even sent some home with friends. The lettuce and spinach haven’t quite matured, but I couldn’t help but make a couple leafy salads for Anthony and I to have at dinner the other night. Even just pulling the biggest, most mature leaves, we ended up with quite the bounty.
Anyway, one of the other things I thought was funny, and has given me much more faith in my soil, was that I planted the greens all in carefully labeled rows, within the confines of my brick border. After putting as many spinach seeds into the ground as I could fit, I lazily tossed the remaining few left in my hand into the dirt outside the garden (prepped for some pumpkin mounds). As the garden spinach popped up, I was surprised to see that the unfertilized, unwatered, unburied spinach seeds had begun to sprout, and were doing just as well as those tended within the garden!