Friday, May 11, 2012

Something about Dirt

Finally Spring has arrived bringing daytime temperatures of close to eighty degrees f and night time above 45 degrees, so close to being over 50 degrees that magical number that tomatoes like so much.  It is the weather at night that is most important to tomatoes.
   My main organic garden area is surrounded with an eighteen inch curb of concrete like one big 50 foot by sixty foot raised bed and I have been preparing it for planting.  This is a process that I alternate from year to year, one year adding about eight yards of cow manure and other compost layered over the top and dug into the soil and the next year adding the expensive nutrients and minerals in the form of cotton seed meal, epsom salts, blood meal, bone meal and kept meal in addition to a healthy dose of dolomite lime.
   I always begin with the lawn mower, running it over the entire area, chopping down the weeds and winter broccoli and whatever might be growing where I want to begin with nothing.  Each year my garden begins with a clean slate, like my blank canvas.  The paths are never in the same place and I never plant the same plants in the same place.  I then rototil the entire area several times, back and forth and diagonally, maybe in circles even.  No method so far but I am thinking.  In my mind's eye I am the sun crossing the horizon or I am shade at the fence line or I am the plant and wondering who my companion might be.  Or I might be a garden guest and I begin to entertain interesting pathways to investigate this garden.
   After the garden is tilled by not designated in any way I take a break and just pretty much look around.  I have worked this soil for over 40 years.  I have hauled in dump truck loads of grass clippings and the ground up debris from fallen trees brought free to me from the City workers.  Over the years I have added tons of sand and hundred of yards of manure from the local farmers (actually their cows!).  I have added rock phosphate and vermiculite and mushroom compost and mint and bark mulch.  Finally, after 40 years I have pretty good soil.  It is dark and rich, has a good smell, the worms like it and it falls apart in your hands. After all of these years it is only about 18 inches deep and then you will find clay.  Not sort of clay but real clay, almost potter's quality, blue and like plastic.  At least my plants get a good start before their roots discover reality.
    So then I lay out the paths taking a flat shovel and scooping as I walk a meandering path, like a snake through my garden.  Once the beds are designated I sprinkle them with the essential earth nutrients, this year
kelp meal, cotton seed, bone meal, epsom salts and a dusting of lime.  Then I til all of this in again creating a smorgasboard of nutrients  for for the plantings to come.  Then, of course I have to redo the paths but this time I can find them.  Today I will get a truck load of fermented mint leaves and layer the paths about 3 inches thick.  This smells nice, keeps the weeds out, the mud off the shoes and adds to the garden next year when it will be all turned over again.
    Earlier this year, between rain storms it seems, I had already prepared and planted a small section of potatoes, carrots, broccoli, onions and lettuce.  Now I can plant the rest of my garden.  I have discovered places for 24 tomato plants!  All heirlooms and from seeds from the year before.  I also will try again for some corn which didn't do well last year.  And cucumbers, peppers, several squashes, eggplants and maybe another tomato!
   Last year we had a rainy Spring and I didn't get the garden in until the end of May.  This year I will gain a critical three weeks and predict a great tomato season!  I love my garden.  I just like playing in the dirt.

1 comment:

CrimsonLeaves said...

If it weren't for the bugs and worms, I'd love playing in the dirt too. I guess potting soil is my only option. No bugs or worms in that stuff. Your tomatoes are awesome, Jer. We ate the whole bag in a day last time you sent some to us.