Friday, May 24, 2013

The Gardens

Dear Mom,
After working hard in the 85 degree sunshine to get my garden planted last weekend, with my feet dirty in garden clogs, knees muddy, and shirt soaked in sweat, the seeds and plants are probably shivering in their lovingly made dirt beds today. Temps got down into the 40's last night and our forecast is for a cool weekend with highs barely into the 70's, if they even get there.  The Weather Forecast is a Big Deal in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend, so anything less than a perfect race day forecast is cause to take note. Despite admitting it may be "chilly" on Sunday, they will never come out with anything less than "a slight chance for rain". A big, bright, yellow and green blob could be swallowing up central Indiana on the radar and they will still tell us there is a "window in Terre Haute".  Still, I do hope it is a nice day. Our race tradition is to sit on the screened porch and listen on the radio. I must hear Florence Henderson warble her way through "God Bless America" and listen to The National Anthem, to Jim Nabors sing "Back Home Again in Indiana", to the prayer and finally the call for the drivers to Start Their Engines. We run outside like children sighting Santa's Sleigh on Christmas Eve when we hear the Air Force pilots fly over the house, excited to see them every year. We leave the race on as our soundtrack to the day, but we go about our business as we listen occasionally.

Ok. Back to the garden, because this started out to be about my gardens.
Everything is planted. Hopefully still alive and/or germinating. Despite my failed Potato Tower from last year, or maybe because of it, I have planted potatoes in three different contrivances, as an experiment of sorts. The first is the way potatoes are meant to be grown: in the ground. (imagine). Second, I used my compost bin (which is a metal can with holes all around) to plant them much like I did my potato tower, but just in a single layer. And third, in a big flower pot. The flower pot is already a damaged experiment as Olive decided to unearth the plants on Wednesday evening. She has not shown remorse nor given me an explanation as to why. I found no buried dog treasures in the muddy mix. Just a happy dog who, it seems, has added digging to tetherball on the list of her hobbies. I replanted what was salvageable of those potatoes. My purpose in conducting this loose experiment is to see if there is a marked difference in potato yield and to compare ease of harvest between the three methods. Already (and yes, it has been a very wet spring and much, much cooler than last year, and I started earlier) the plants themselves look 1000 times better than  the Potato Tower plants ever did.

I also got a jump start in March by planting spinach, romaine lettuce and snow peas. We've already enjoyed spinach from the garden. In Sunday's heat, I sowed green beans and lined the garden with zinnia seeds. I've also planted some melons that I started from seed, indoors. The seeds came from melons CarolWho'sHouseGotStruckByLightening sent me from California. These are varieties of melons she had never seen (or eaten) here in Indiana. We shall see how those California varieties like the midwest.

My last experiment of sorts is the way I am growing my tomatoes this year. When I think about it, I get a tiny bit nervous, because if this fails and I have no home grown tomatoes....... well, perish the thought!

I am growing my tomatoes in bags of garden soil. There are two reasons why I am taking this risk:
1. Our Brother has done this and swears he gets a greater number of tomatoes. ( I do believe he keeps track of these things.)
2. This is a way of expanding my garden space without really expanding it.

I wrapped the bags in landscaping burlap and tied the burlap with ribbon to make it all look prettier than  it would if the bags were just setting there all plain and bright plastic-y. As an added bonus, when I am cleaning up the garden next fall I can just add the bags of dirt to the garden for next year.

On top of all that- the plants, the seeds, the lavender in my flower box and the pots on the front porch- I sprinkle my home made organic fertilizer mix. One thing I am not is a Fussy Gardener. I like things to be low maintenance and other than watering, I want my gardens to take care of themselves. I mix up this fertilizer in the spring, put it where it needs to go, and that is the end of that. It works. I don't need to worry about over fertilizing or burning out seedlings with it. I found this formula years ago in an organic gardening book and after working on the math and making pounds and pounds and pounds of the stuff over the years, I have boiled it down to this easy concoction. When I first started making this, one of the ingredients (greensand) was not easy to find. That is no longer the case with the push towards chemical-free gardening getting stronger. Here it is:

All Purpose Home Made Organic Fertilizer
10 lb. bag of Greensand
2.75 lb. bag of Blood Meal
4 lb. bag of Bone Meal

Combine ingredients and mix well. All ingredients can be found at a good nursery. Support your local garden shop!

Have a Happy Memorial Day weekend!