Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let it Rot!

Last summer we had so much fun with our very first vegetable garden. We grew corn, carrots, 3 kinds of tomatoes, and pumpkins. It was definitely a crash course in vegetable gardening for us and we learned quite a bit from the trial and error of it all. Our garden will be considerably better for it this summer. The carrots turned out crunchy and sweet. They were whimsically gnarled and wrinkly, but that just added to the home-grown goodness of them. Plus, they sorta looked like something out of a fairy tale--an added bonus. What we learned: You must pull a lot of the carrot sprouts early on so that the sprouts you do leave will grow larger carrots. Crowded sprouts = teensy carrots. The tomatoes were out of this world. We had Early Girls, Romas and Yellow Pears. We really lucked out on the tomato crop, as, in our ignorance, we did nothing special and got a bumper crop. Jeff couldn't keep up with the plants' massive growth and was adding chicken wire supports weekly to buttress the new limbs appearing seemingly overnight. What we learned: Start with big tomato cages! The corn was a bust. We only got a few ears exhibiting overall stunted growth and enormous, irregular kernels with the taste and texture of boiled russet potatoes. The stalks attracted swarms of ants for some reason. What we learned: We won't be planting corn again this year! The pumpkins were also a disappointment but that's because we didn't do our research soon enough. The new pumpkins were withering and eventually dying on the vine, much to our bewilderment. Late in the season, we learned it was due to the flowers not being fertilized. We had to manually fertilize the female flowers using the pollen from the male flowers, but by then most of the flowering was over. We got two small pumpkins late in November--both products of manual fertilization. What we learned: Manually fertilize flowers from the get-go. (Oh, and BIG lesson: Don't plant (and let grow) 36 pumpkin seeds...unless you have a few million acres of gardening space...(Yes, I got a little over-excited about growing pumpkins. Forget science fiction novels about a supercomputer evolving intelligence and taking over the world. Pumpkin vines are a much more likely agent of world domination. I thought our house would be engulfed, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout style. This summer I'll stick to two or three vines...)). So where am I going with this? We thought we'd jump start this summer's garden with some quality soil created through composting. Jay ordered a composting book online called Let It Rot! Today he constructed the composting bin so we could get started. First we had to move our lemon tree (which, interestingly, was sold to us at Home Depot as a lime can imagine our befuddlement at the first harvest of some very strangely yellow and lemony tasting limes...). It got transplanted (let's all pray it survives) to a sunny spot in the front side yard where it can happily produce lemons. Then Jay got started making the sides. Lots of sawing & drilling. Super manly.
Bug looked on while Daddy worked. Actually, in this photo, she is Beatrix Potter's Jeremy Fisher (we look forward to her daily dramatic interpretation) and the stick is her fishing pole. (She's fishing for minnows, not expecting Jack Sharp the stickleback). Notice that her legs are crossed? That's so the water beetle doesn't tweak the toe of her goloshes. (If you read the book, it will make more sense (and you'll be able to confirm that I spelled goloshes correctly)). The finished sides:
Here is the (mostly) finished project, complete with removable slats for easy rotation of compost. The hinged top will come later after we've acquired some more plywood. Here's where all the composting magic will occur: Let's break for intermission with some random photos of my garden critters: Alrighty then. Let's press on. In goes the steer manure as a starter. Then I got in on the action with a few cuts from a daisy plant, trimmed to make room for the compost bin. We've got some coffee grounds from this morning to go in too. I kid you not; composting is so much fun! I want to go eat a banana just so I can put the peel in there. Hey, maybe I'll make banana bread so I can throw three peels in there! Apparently, even saw dust is compostable. Turns out, babies are not. She's all organic, but no. The book says no.


Meghan said...

Ok. I have so much to say about this one.

First off, you crack me up, Linda. Seriously, FUNNY!

Second, what a cute pic of Jeff and Grace w/the lemon tree. Grace has a little shovel!? And I am so jealous that you have a lemon tree!!

Love the garden critters. :)

And lastly, Sophie doesn't seem to even notice she's about to become composted!

Keep the posts coming!!

April said...

I love you intermission segment...too funny!

Corn...I learned this lesson too! You have to pollinate them yourself (unless you're growing a field of them where wind and a flock of bugs will do it for you). Use a paintbrush. Year 2 of corn produced lovely ears of corn...sadly the raccoons ate it all before I got them :(

Mr. M said...

So interesting that you posted this blog...we planted a garden last year and learned the same thing about carrots and pumpkins. We also had a bumper crop of tomatoes. My diappointment was our peppers...I was hoping to make homemade salsa but, it would have taken like 1000 peppers with the size mine turned out.

Anyway, we were on our way from running errands Saturday and there were a bunch of people out turning soil in our neighborhood...I thought...oh no, they know something I don't. So now that's my plan for this weekend.

Googd luck on your garden!