Saturday, March 21, 2009

To be a gardener - help!

I am not good at gardening or growing anything, really, other than nice fat animals. If it wasn't so much more trouble, I'd skip the gardening bit and go straight into animal husbandry. I can raise animals! Hamsters, turtles, fish, cats, dogs, birds - THOSE I can manage. Somehow plants escape me.

Anyway... back to gardening. Like I said, I have a black thumb, but I keep trying. Last year, by sheer neglect, I raised a pumpkin. It was a plant that the preschool had been raising, and I brought it home to die. I literally stuck it in the ground when we got it home and forgot about it for three weeks. I figured it was dead. I was absolutely amazed when I went back out there and it was thriving. I continued to neglect it all the way till October when we cut the pumpkin off of it and carved it! I did save the seeds, but I am pretty sure there's no way I can grow things from seed yet. That's always been a pitfall for me, especially with herbs.

All that said, I really wanted to have a garden this year. For Christmas, my dad got me some gloves, tools, and a kneeler (and ones for the kids as well), and I got a couple of books on gardening. I actually have read through a good chunk of them. One of them is the Dummies gardening book; the other is a book specifically on organic vegetable gardening. (Am I game for organic this year? I'm not sure yet. I'm thinking probably not.)

Next, time to pick a location. That was a no-brainer for me. We have a spot in our back yard where we used to have a pool. It wasn't a big pool, just one of those 4' deep, soft-sided ones, but still a pool... that eventually sprung unrepairable leaks and had to be pitched. The pool area is surrounded by railroad ties, is a good-sized square area, is close to the hose/house, gets shade in the evenings in summer, and thus makes a perfect spot for a garden, right??

It also, at one point, had no grass in it. I say at one point because by this spring, it had been neglected for a couple of years and was definitely grown over. So we had to clean it out. What, you may ask, does "cleaning it out" entail? First, we had to get all the landscape fabric out from underneath all the weeds and about two tons of sand. I'm not kidding - about the 'tons' bit, I mean. With my husband Oz's help and a lot of grunt work, we got that done. Now I'm working on getting some of that sand OUT of the garden plot. I want to keep some of it, because we have very thick clay soil around here, but not all of it.

So that's about 7/8 done. All I have to do now is work the sand into the last quarter of the plot of soil. Then we're going to put in some good topsoil, work in some manure, and maybe add some of the dead leaves that I rake up every fall and which always sit in my front yard till it's time to burn again in spring.

Does this sound right to any of you other gardeners out there? Anything I'm missing? I would love to have this done by planting - originally that was going to be April 18, but something about a lake weekend has killed that ;) So I'm thinking the weekend before - the 11th, perhaps, assuming the weather cooperates. Like I said, I'm just going to go with plants instead of seed. I'm thinking bell pepper, green beans, squash, okra - some things that are very, VERY easy to grow. I'm scared of tomatoes.

I also talked Oz into going to Lowe's today and getting me a compost bin. I'd have him make one, but - God love him - he just isn't very motivated about things like that. So we got a "Darth Vader"-style bin. I put some of those leaves I mentioned into it already, made sure it was good and moist but not wet, and tossed in the leftovers I had from chopping up taco salad veggies. Do I need to do anything else to it for now? I don't want to kill COMPOST, for heaven's sake. I'm accomplished enough at Murdering Flora. Let's not extend that to the microbial genre.

I'm happy to take any and all advice you guys have. I don't want to kill everything with love or neglect, and I fear both. Thanks!

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