Good, Getting Better in the Garden

Sunning Seedlings

Seedlings after Watering

In 1983 I became a gardener. At our rented duplex in Iowa City I planted tomato seedlings which yielded some fruit. Every year since, and with every one of our four subsequent moves, we have improved our gardening capacity and techniques.

Our garden in Big Grove is likely as good as it gets. Each growing season has been full of observations, experiments and efforts to improve. I’ve learned a lot about soil, compost, mulch, seed propagation, weed control, pest control and disease. There is a lot more to learn. Hopefully I’ll be blessed with a normal lifespan to pursue improved gardening.

Seedling Watering Station

Seedling Watering Station

Work in the local food community helped me gain clarity on gardening. Perhaps the biggest change has been growing my own seedlings for transplanting. It opened the door to plant diversity, better germination, better garden plantings and better crops.

This year’s garden may be the most diverse yet. I’m experimenting with multiple crops in the same space, beginning with early lettuce, spinach and peas.

Pea Planting Space

Pea Planting Space

This year’s planting includes two varieties of peas: snow peas and snap peas. Using the SE plot, where I grew tomatoes last year, I removed remains of last year’s plants, turned and tilled the soil around the stakes, and broadcast peas. I replaced the cages to protect the peas from predators. The hope is after the 60 day growth cycle, soil nitrogen will be improved and I can get another crop of tomatoes before the first hard frost. This technique came after research and some creative thinking, although I suspect I am not the first gardener to use it.

Watering Seedlings

Watering Seedlings

I inspected the garden for the first time in several days. Radishes and lettuce in the compost heap are progressing nicely. The broadcast early lettuce and turnips look to yield a crop. The carrots and spinach have not germinated yet. There will be spring garlic in abundance, although the Golden Delicious apple tree looks to be a goner, despite my efforts to save it from disease. The rest of the fruit trees are have leaf buds on them, but I can’t see flower buds yet. I have to remind myself, it is still early—a month before last frost.

We don’t use many potatoes, so I no longer plant them. I grow a patch of spring onions, but buy mature onions on the market. Eggplants are always in abundance, as are zucchini and cucumbers. I plan a row of zucchini and three types of cucumbers, but no eggplant.

The garden is in reasonably good shape for April 12. The next big project is harvesting mulch from the lawn.

Farm work made up 20 hours of my week: planting seeds and seedlings. The high tunnel was half planted as of yesterday. It will be the source of lettuce and greens for the spring shares. Word is onions arrive next week and it will be all hands on deck to get them planted in the field.

When I get my schedule at the warehouse this afternoon, every time slot will have something next week. With local food production in the mix, life is good, getting better.

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