Friday, August 26, 2011

The Harvest


So...one thing you should know about me is I am really great at starting projects. The follow through, on the other hand, is not one of my strengths. So if something requires only minimal love and care, it is my friend (thus explaining many of my problems properly caring for Kidder Kaper :P ).


Now, I love gardens. I love them in May and June. When July hits, I am bored (the sunny beach and a good book are always calling my name by July). I will water them if there is a drought, weed them in bulk when the flowers are being overtaken, and that is about ALL I can give my garden. But at the same time, when August rolls around, I am desperate to harvest tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and green beans. My love of the vegetable garden can be attributed to my Grandpa. He was an adorable, short, dark haired, full-blooded Italian. (I strongly urge you not to pronounce Italian with a long I at the beginning lest you want the wrath of Jade to come down on you) and I was his favorite grandchild. He had a small, sun-filled yard, with a lovely vegetable garden. He planted rows in exactly the same spot every year. Tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, cucumber, green peppers. He watered them every day and once a week put Miracle-grow on them. I grew up enjoying special family recipes all summer long that featured his perfect harvest. The things my grandparents and my parents made from his harvest are cherished memories. The last two years of his life, he was slowly dying from cancer. I stopped by his house several times per week to do some housework, help with grocery shopping, and for those last two summers, do all the garden labor. He taught me how to plant his vegetables from seed. He taught me how to weed it properly, and he lovingly instructed me on the proper use of Miracle-grow.


In the spring of 2010, I told Kidder that I wanted a vegetable garden for Mothers’ Day. We live in the country, so I needed his help in building a fenced in garden so the deer would not eat every last thing I planted. He was amazing. He designed the garden, picked up the supplies, and we built it together. When it was all fenced in, we had 16 yards of garden compost delivered and he brought it into my garden with the four-wheeler. By mid-May, it was time to plant everything I started from seed (first inside under a heat lamp, and then outside on the deck, bringing the plants in each night to protect them from the cold evenings). I had watermelon, squash, pea pods, beets, carrots, and of course my favorites, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, cucumber, green peppers. I even added oregano, basil, sage, and cilantro. I watered these plants diligently through June. They looked like crap. They were not growing. Nothing was producing flowers that would lead to vegetables and when they did, the flowers would fall off with no result. My harvest was pathetic. By the end of summer, I produced two squash, one bunch of stringy carrots, six peapods, and enough green beans to make a side dish for dinner one night. I was so angry. I even used the stupid Miracle-grow about once a month (which is a lot for me based on my tenacity).


Now when things go wrong, I usually blame just about anything other than myself, so I automatically assumed that either my garden wasn’t getting enough sun (must task Kidder with cutting down a few trees) or my soil was crap. As it turns out, my soil was indeed crap! Lorax gave me a soil tester for my birthday last summer so this spring before planting, I used it and found my expensive 16 yards of garden compost was completely lacking in Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Since I did not have an extra $400.00 laying around to buy an additional 16 yards of decent soil in May, I bought a few bags of potting soil to try to give my plants a chance this year. For each plant I put in the garden I dug an extra big hole and filled it with my fancy potting soil. I maintained my watering schedule through June and used Miracle-Grow once or twice. Thankfully we had much rain this year so my lack of watering did not cause many problems.


Now that it is August and I am greedily awaiting my crop, I am happy to report that I have had a decent harvest. I have picked enough green beans to feed my family four times. I have already picked four small zucchini to make the old family recipe of fried zucchini as well as a few fat ones to make zucchini bread. I have pulled four peppers out and used them in soup and eggs, and I have at least 20 green tomatoes that I am hoping will ripen without splitting. My carrots and beets are looking a little pathetic, so I am waiting a few weeks to pull them out of the ground, but other than that, I must say that my laissez-faire attitude has pleased me this season. Imagine what I can accomplish next summer when I further amend my soil, water and fertilize at least a few more times, and make Kidder cut down a few more trees to up the time my garden spends in the sun!


5 comments:

  1. Glad to see you are improving your skills in agriculture. It will come in handy when we're forced to grow our own food in the inevitable zombie apocalypse. I'll cut those tree down fer'ye too, as chainsawing will also be a much needed skill when fighting off hordes of zak. :P

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  2. You guys have a Bobcat, right? Or is it still in the fraking shop?

    I'm asking because there are a few really awesome things I could suggest for you in improving Jade's garden that would also seriously cut down on the watering and some of the maintenance.

    Look into hugelkultur. Paul Wheaton, who is awesome, does giant mounds, but it works really well by digging down as well. Basically, since Kidder will be felling a few trees, and you can probably find some extra wood around your property, there is no reason to pass up on this. What you do is dig out your garden down to 2-4 feet and fill that in with logs and wood, then cover it with good compost and then soil.

    This will create the most amazing growing environment for your plants as the wood will retain many factors more water than the soil and the roots will find that moisture, and after the first year the rotting wood will begin to put more nutrients into the plants as well. If you are in a dry spell, you may have to water the bed ONCE A WEEK, if it has rained normally you may NOT HAVE TO WATER AT ALL.

    This technique mimics the natural forest floor's ability to retain and disperse water incredibly efficiently. If you do go this rout, I suggest adding a healthy dose of some natural very high nitrogen fertilizer straight to the wood before covering; The wood's natural decomposition process makes it use a lot of N in the first year, but it then multiplies and doles it out to the plants later, kind of like a battery.

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  3. This sounds like a great idea! Thanks, you Curmudgeonly Bastard :D

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  4. I have been using the square foot garden method for 4 years now, and it has really worked for me. Basically you concentrate your effort into a couple of raised beds, and use very good compost, vermiculite, and peat moss.
    see this:
    http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7330-new-beds-and-new-trellis-pictures-from-knob-hill

    (we are friends on FB)
    See: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=227003697310198&set=a.101652849845284.3373.100000017083862&type=1&theater

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  5. I'm so glad you are having success with this, it gives me hope. I have started a veggie garden 3 years running now, but our stinking hot summers and the location & way-too-efficient drainage of the garden bed mean everything eventually goes crispy crunchy and dies. If I get my timing wrong with the watering it cooks. Gardening is tricky stuff but I persist because tomatoes taste tomatoey and there is nothing like fresh basil at your doorstep.

    This year I have a plan. It is going to work. <-see that, those are very determined words that are bound to assist my success.

    Looking forward to garden updates :)

    -Anna

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