Monday, March 07, 2011

Urban Garden Notes: Starting Spring Right

The ole peach tree is blooming.
Spring is a busy and exciting time for the Southern urban gardener. It's not only a time for planting but a time to measure the readiness of the soil for the entire season. While the world is turning green we are following our now yearly ritual of strengthening the soil before everything really cranks up.
Onions planted during winter are now growing strong.
Garlic planted last Fall really responds to the warmer weather.
These cabbage grew uncared for and completely unattended all winter. They won't last long now!

It all starts with the soil. The soil community is the life of the garden. It must be put, with the limitations of time, money, and knowledge, in the best condition possible. Here are some of the products we use to increase the productivity and long-term health of the soil:

Compost-each Spring we borrow or rent a truck and drive to our friendly sanitation department where they load us up with compost produced from the city's yard and construction waste. This compost is not aerated and so is probably not as high in microbial content as would be actively aerated compost, but what it does do is add water retention capacity and nutrient to the soil. If you're growing in the south-east, and especially in the Sand Hills of South Carolina this cheap source is an excellent way to boost the soil's capacity to hold water. Better water retention means less watering, more stable growth for plants, and a better environment for the microbial life that makes healthy soil possible. Our composting facility sells compost for $30 a yard cubed. But they are very generous and always send us away with more than that. As you can see in the picture below the compost has been deposited on top of the beds and will be lightly mixed in the top several inches.
Here is a view of our main eight beds. The darkened rows are covered with rich compost. It will be integrated into the upper-layer of soil along with other amendments.
Sea Kelp-we purchase Thorvin Sea Kelp. This is a great source of nutrients containing over 70 different vitamins, minerals (major and micro), and other bioactive agents. A standard fertilizer focuses on the major essential nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, without which not. But these nutrients are not sufficient. Sea kelp is a great catch-all supplement for other necessary nutrients. We apply it broadly when conditioning the soil, put it in our seed-starting mix, and sprinkle it in with fertilizer as a side-dressing during the spring and summer seasons. As a side note sea kelp is also a great amendment to add to your compost, enriching it and giving the bacteria in the compost a chance to break down nutrients before the application of compost to the garden soil.
Espoma Fertilizer-we like Espoma because it is organic and it also includes microbial life. Microbes are crucial for any healthy soil. They break down nutrients, tie up nutrients so that they are not leached, and even form beneficial relationships with some plant roots. When applying Espoma Fertilizers we are able to provide a higher level of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium,   and add the crucial mibrobial life that will help make those nutrients available to plant roots.  Espoma makes a variety of fertilizers for different applications. We use Garden Tone.
We planted the majority of our Spring garden this past weekend. Below are two of the trays of seedlings. And, a reminder of our need to learn more and continue to experiment: In the top tray there are empty cells. We learned this year that onion seeds degenerate very quickly. Never use old seeds. Buy new seeds each year. Old seeds will not germinate. In the lower tray the spinach on the left is going to seed. Why? We have no clue. One friend suggested the length of time I was running my grow light may have stimulated flowering in the spinach. Who knows. More failure is sure to follow. But there will also be lots of good eating.
 Here some strapping young kale are sprinkled with Biovam beneficial fungal spores (a bit of an experiment on our part) before being introduced to the garden soil. Kale is powerfully nutritious, grows well for us, and is extremely productive. We started a bunch this year.
We are harvesting turnips, cabbage, and collards (Arianna and Ellen hold a single turnip and single collard below) from our uncared for and unattended winter garden. The winter garden here was easy. We planted in the Fall and left these guys completely alone all winter. They grew slowly but surely and now we have an early harvest before the Spring garden gets kicking.


William Kruidenier said...

Great post -- good info for all gardeners.

From the Sea Kelp paragraph -- finish this unfinished thought: "A standard fertilizer focuses on the major essential nutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, without which not." Don't meant to correct, just wanted to know the rest of your thought there about NPK.

I like the new captions under each picture. Is that a new Blogspot feature?

Daniel said...

"Without which not" is a poetically compact phrasing for saying that one thing is necessary for another. In the context of the garden post NKP are the things without which no healthy soil, garden, food would be possible.

I picked it up in the dedication of a book by a favorite philosopher of mine who wrote: "To my wife without which not."

Or said more straightforwardly "If no wife, then no book."

The captions appear as an option when working in the "Compose" or "Edit" new post. You can change the position (Right, Left, Center) of a picture and I guess now you can add a caption.

The only thing I didn't like was the way it automatically enlarged the border of the picture with an increasing caption text instead of wrapping the text within a constant border.

Jason said...

Gorgeous seedlings!!!

homegrownsunshine said...

Wow! Looking good. Your diligent work ethic carries into your success in gardening.

Sure would love a big ol' bowl of your homegrown turnip greens.

Miss you all already . . .

sbobet said...

sip bro...langsung ke TKP..
mo cek harsbobetganya nih

sbobet said...

sip bro...langsung ke TKP..
mo cek harsboganya nih