Thursday, July 20, 2006
Veggies, flowers and sorry dirt
When we lived at Snow Lake we had wonderful sandy, loamy soil and I had a big garden; 40 feet by 40 feet. Grew everything, some ordinary, some strange, some just a bit unusual. I was working full-time then and every evening was spent weeding, or harvesting or preparing the harvest for the freezer. Supper came when it came.
Since we moved to Kirkwood, our little lot didn’t seem to have a lot of room for veggies or flowers. However, did manage to carve out a rectangular space for various flowers and found there was a little triangle that would do for veggies.
The dirt was a shock! Solid subsoil and hard as a rock. A young man spent three or four hours with a heavy tiller breaking up this mess and only got down about five inches. To plant flowers, I went behind him with a shovel and “The Claw” and managed to dig down about two more inches. By heavy digging I was able to plant a number of things, taking about 30 minutes a hole to dig, incorporate potting soil and other amendments and finally putting in a plant. The fun went out of it by hole #3, with about 40 more holes to go.
Then, I looked at the little triangle where I wanted to put veggies. It was tilled but not deep. Got out the shovel and the little Mantis tiller and dug and shoveled and dug. After some hours it occured to me that the seed bed was only going to be about 5 inches deep and the plants would either grow or not.
So, planted snap beans, bush limas, okra, two hills of straight-neck yellow squash and two hills of red sunflowers. Tilled in fertilizer and lime and sowed the seed, exhorting them to do their best in this really, truly, sorry dirt.
Well, amazingly, the various flowers have done well, with or without fertilizer, don’t remember who got what. Finally, the veggies are up and bearing. We are getting a fair mess of snap beans every day or two, the bush limas are beginning to fill out and the squash are going crazy! I’m here to tell you that two hills of squash are plenty! Have been sharing already with the neighbors as I don’t think squash every night in some form makes for a healthy diet. Nor do green beans every other night. The okra is just now giving up two or three little pods a day but they should soon be bearing heavily. As the plants get taller, their lovely blooms will be visible to the street - they are a member of the mallow family. One bloom in a small vase will last a day - a short-time joy but a joy, nonetheless.
I’m just so shocked that this really awful dirt, even with fertilizer, would allow anything to grow and bear. What I would really like is to rent a Ditch Witch, cut down about a foot, turn in lots of soil amendments and see what happens next year.
The moral of this tale is that if your secret farmer self yearns for fresh veggies, see if you have about six hours of sun a day in a spot, then just get in there and plant. Three or four 10-15 foot rows will give a surprising amount of veggies and the satisfaction of harvesting your very own food. There will be some weeding but is minimal in a tiny garden. After everything has come up, scratch in some Treflan for weed control.
When I look at this small spot bursting with flower color and bearing some of our food I just have to sigh with satisfaction. Dirt between the toes and under the fingernails, food in the harvesting basket. And a soul at rest.
This is what real, old-fashioned basic life is about, even on a small scale.
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