May Garden Update

Back in April, I posted a first look at our garden efforts and, while we haven’t seen too many changes, there are still quite a few ones to report on! (Although, for reals, I cannot–will not!–believe that it’s mid-May already. Next weekend is Memorial Day, say what?!)

This past weekend while G was out of town, I went on a garden frenzy–I finished filling the beds with topsoil, added the amendments, planted all the plants, and finished constructing the polytunnels. Whew. A day and a half and lot of loving labor but totally worth it.

First, a shot of the garlic still growing crazy in the large pot I planted it in last fall. Can’t wait to harvest and see what I get–first time plants are always exciting/nerve-wrecking.

First order of business was to finish schlepping topsoil into the three boxes and then add soil amendments to try to make it growable stuff. Top soil isn’t ideal, but I didn’t have a good source of cooked manure and I shied away from using Black Kow or another store-available manure since I didn’t know where it came from. Putting manure in my garden which would probably be laced with hormones and chemicals from the cows just seemed like a bad idea. So, while the soil isn’t ideal today, hopefully I can keep working on it throughout the season and make it into something amazing for next year!

So, post top soil (approximately 1 bajillion 40 pound bags–my arms are seriously ripped now), I started rehydrating blocks of coconut coir that I purchased off Amazon (again, seriously, Amazon Prime is one of the best homeowner investments the two of us ever made). The coir comes in dried bricks which expand into light, fluffy stuff once rehydrated with water. The easiest way I’ve found to do that is to gently spray with a hose, let it soak in, scratch of top layer, and repeat (all in a bin of your choice, of course). Worked well enough. The bricks didn’t give me quite as much coir as advertised, but it’s a good start for helping with drainage and the like. (Even though it’s far more expensive than peat moss, I favor coconut coir due to the fact that it’s renewable & sustainable–a byproduct of coconut production. Your choice, of course, for the best plan of action for your garden!)

Next into the boxes were bags of worm castings. Oh yes, it’d be much cheaper to have my own worms and produce my own castings. As would having compost. But my compost isn’t ready and I’m just not into buying the stuff from Lowe’s or any other garden store. I also need to find a way to cook manure in a contained fashion (we don’t have much of a yard). Lots of things to do. So, for this year, I went the, again, very expensive route of buying worm castings from Amazon. At $25 for 15 pounds, it’s a bit tough to swallow, but the castings are so dense in nutrients that they go a long way (or so I hope). Again, next year I ought to have a better system, but, for now, this works!

After throwing the coir and castings in with the top soil, I mixed it all in and, voila, ready to plant!

But planting isn’t a willy nilly throw stuff in activity, I had to think things through a little more than I had. With the help of Gayla Trail’s amazing vegetable gardening book, Grow Great Grub, I worked through which plants like to be next to which, and then laid out a tentative plan with the plants.

Everything planned out, it was time to plant! In each hole I mixed a bit of organic fertilizer I picked up at the store (look for one with high nitrogen while the plants are little and growing, then lessen the nitrogen when they begin to produce) and then plopped an plant in. Simple! While I could have kept the paper towel rolls in the hole (to decompose and help the soil), they were getting a bit moldy and I didn’t think mold would be a good thing to introduce to the beds. So the paper towel rolls went into the compost bed instead.

See that little zucchini plant? He was the first plant in the ground! And he’s already flowering. Go Mr. Zucchini! (Advice: don’t ask why I’ve given it the male gender–I have no idea, it just seems like a Mr. to me–smile.)

Everything planted, I watered, and then it was time to figure out how to make the polytunnels (since a storm was about to roll through and the little guys would have drowned in that much rain). After looking at pictures of Monica’s beautiful polytunnel and at other sites online, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to make an attractive polytunnel.

Not so much. But! for the moment they work. Just got to figure out how to make it not only temporary, but also good looking, since I want to plant ground cover in the box area and putting bricks and plastic on top of plants seems like a bad idea. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love love love them. For now the plastic is just protecting the plants since they’re a lot smaller than I would generally like to plant outside, but I was running out of space for them indoors. Again, next year will feature lots of better planning, but, again, for now, it’s all working out.

So, hooray, plants in the ground! After two days and torrential rain, they’re looking good and the polytunnels are working quite well. Since it’s sunny now I’ve left both ends open for air and light and I’m hoping everything keeps trucking along like it is. Can’t wait to see how it looks in June!

9 Responses to “May Garden Update”
  1. Impressive stuff! Your garden makes mine look like child’s play. I just have a plain old mesh fence around some dirt in my backyard, but hey, if it lets me grow a handful of tomatoes, I’d be thrilled. Someday I’d love to get more serious about it, if only our backyard got more sunlight.

    • Jes says:

      If it were my own design, it’d be a lot more free form :) Having an engineer boyfriend comes in handy every now and then, not gonna lie! Can’t wait to hear about your handful of tomatoes!!

  2. eileen says:

    Yay garden! I have to say yours looks quite a bit better than mine right now. Someone (probably a certain cat named Meatloaf) ate an entire jalapeno seedling! And then PG&E dropped half a tree’s worth of branches all over the green onions. I should probably invest in some of that hoop fencing–with chicken wire over it. :/

  3. Wow – that looks great. I have seen where people use a 2×4 along the base of each side to lay over the plastic to keep it down. I think your bricks will work fine, but they may tear the plastic – not sure. I also think once your ground cover is growing it will be fine to put bricks or 2×4 on it during the times you need to have the plastic up. Congrats. It all looks great!

  4. Becky says:

    Your garden is looking great!! I’m interested in how the garlic goes, too. It’s something I’ve always wanted to grow but never tried out!

  5. chow vegan says:

    Great job on setting up the garden! If I only had the space, so jealous…

  6. I haven’t heard of polytunnels (I’m such a novice!) but now I shall research them more. The gardens are looking great!

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