Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Starting from Scratch

If you wanna start a garden where there was none, there's more than one way to do it. A lot of people think that you need a rototiller and to double dig before you plant anything. That is not my approach. I had an art teacher in high school who said, think of any art that you make as being complete as you are creating it. This definitely applies to a garden. Indeed, a good garden is good art. Art is often beyond your control. A garden is definitely that. A garden is really a partnership with nature.

You 1st need to ask yourself some questions. The 1st one should be how am I going to do this and have FUN with it? One thing that makes a garden fun is not doing too much work. You might have an overall goal but it's best to do it in manageable steps. When you take a step by step approach you also get to reassess your garden. Maybe that spot that you thought would be great for lettuce because it looks to be shady gets more sun than you thought. Watching a garden go through a year will help you make better decisions later on.

You've decided what area you want to use. What should you do to make things grow better? I start by clearing it of weeds. Ideally, one should get in there and not only pull them from the top, but dig down to the roots. Maybe your yard is a god awful mess. A large part of my garden was awful. Rather than weed the whole thing, I concentrated on the front. In back I covered my weedy mess with cardboard. On top of that was some landscaping cloth and on top of that I put compost. I made raised beds about 6 inches deep. you can't grow everything in that, but you can grow a lot. Square foot gardening is all about this.

The 1st picture shows an intensely improved bed. I dug in compost over most of it to a depth of 8-12 inches deep, some largely due to the fact that I had to dig up a weed tree then topped it all with 3 inches of compost. This bed was very productive but if I had committed myself to doing the same for ALL of my garden I would have become really tired. Personally I tend not to be so single minded. It's so much more fun to fill a silly swan planter with flowers! This year I will shape up more beds.

One bed all I really did is top it with compost. I'd dig some dirt in as I planted things, but I didn't go crazy with it. In some ways this is less disruptive to all the beings that lived in the soil before I arrived. My veggies did all right with that.

Another thing I did because a lot of my space was challenged is to grow things in containers. I like containers anyway because you can get very creative with them. Rose Marie Nichols Magee, and Maggie Stuckey's Bountiful Container: Create Container Gardens of Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Edible Flowers is a great book even if your plans are not all about containers. These ladies really make it fun with very specific instructions to make your plants grow.

Another thing I believe is important are flowers. Flowers are not only pretty and smell nice, they attract many beneficial insects like bees and good predators. Whenever there has been a lapse of flowers, the bad insects have dominated.

1 comment:

rachel ding said...

Great post! This is good inspiration for me. After seeing your swan container, I'd really like to start a little container garden.. how pretty!