Tuesday, April 22, 2008

So a gardener walks into a plot . . .

Monday I found my plot. For one thing, it's quite a bit smaller than I expected; 14x23', roughly. (Yes, I took my tape measure.) That's about half the size I'd been planning on, so that throws things off. Most of that area I had planned to put in beans and squash, so I have to decide what I'm going to do without. Potatoes, probably, for starters, and much fewer/no carrots and parsnips and other veggies that require loose soil.

My plot's pretty new; it was only cultivated for the first time last year, by people who my neighbor described as "planting a whole bunch of stuff and vanishing." It shows; the remaining stalks showed that something grew last year. I found plastic tags indicating tomatoes and peppers (the boring kind you get from the greenhouse). And there are two onions that somehow survived the winter without protection of any kind. I hate to take them out, but they're in the middle of my planned beds, and I need to dig in stuff around them.

There's a fair amount of junk I need to haul away; bottles, broken plant containers, and random trash. I scratched my arm pretty badly pulling up one of those hideous short green mesh fences with SHARP WIRE EDGES. Thank goodness I remember my last tetanus shot (May 2005) - sometimes travel has peripheral advantages. I took out the worst of the weeds, piled up most of the organic matter from weeds and dead tomatoes on one end of the plot (to be hauled/composted), and dug up a bed approximately 14x2.5'. One wheelbarrow provided ~1 inch of organic matter, and a healthy quantity of worms. I put in a few onions, a sprinkle of forget-me-nots, and a few salad greens.

I'm seriously considering tilling - just once. There can't be that much microlife in the soil now; I found an entirety of one worm in the clay I disturbed. Not a good ratio at all. I've been reading a lot about not tilling, to avoid disturbing the fungi hyphae, which create a giant web throughout the undisturbed soil, doing all sorts of good things for plants and bacteria, but physically loosening and mixing in compost is incredibly difficult work, and I'm not convinced that the bed I "prepared" is properly prepped at all. It should have been better mixed and loosened deeper.

Something bit me, and my arm is now covered in lovely strawberry-pink dots. (I was examining this in class while my prof was lecturing on the dangers of Scarlet Fever, diphtheria, tuberculosis, and other Really Scary Diseases. Allergies pale in comparison to those scary things, but I did spend an unhappy few hours last night wondering why I had neglected to stock my medicine cabinet with hydrocortisone cream. Fun fact: vodka, applied topically, actually helps with the itching. Another fun fact: Just because you enjoy putting your hands in mulch, dirt, and weeds doesn't necessarily mean that's the best idea you ever had.

Also, one Red Ruffled Eggplant is up (barely, as of this morning). This is a Hmong variety, which is appropriate considering the large Hmong population in the area. I really want my Purple Laos to sprout; I haven't given up hope, although I'm beginning to wonder about some of the tomatoes I planted two-three weeks ago. The radish seeds I planted Sunday were up last night; I knew they were fast-sprouting, but that's *awesome*. They're very cute. (And doomed; they're part of my indoor green collection, which is destined to be added to the rice cooker as an American version of Seven-Herb Rice Porridge, a traditional Japanese food for the 7th of January. It's not the 7th of January, of course, but then it's not going to have seven herbs, either.

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