Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Do you want to build a (vegetable) garden?

If only I knew then what I know now... and other things I never thought I would say about vegetable gardening.

In the 24 years I lived in Arizona, I never felt much of an urge to grow anything (besides our family). Upon arriving in the South, I quickly realized that gardening is a *thing* here. If folks weren't growing flowers in their yard, they probably were growing tomatoes (at least in a pot). Our first summer here we were the benefactor of many gallon ziplock bags full of peppers and tomatoes. Almost out of nowhere the overwhelming urge to start our very own veggie garden began to weigh heavily on my mind. Then, last spring (after too many springs had passed us by) a neighbor gifted us a raised bed out of galvanized metal. My father in law decided to bring his raised bed down to our place (after vegetables had failed to thrive in his shady yard) and we officially had 72 sq ft of raised beds to grow our own vegetables.

$200+ later, the beds were filled with straw, top soil and mushroom compost, plus peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and sweet potato slips. I recorded a video recapping our first year experience here:

It was so much fun, and such a fantastic experience... but I quickly wished that I had more space to grow, and was discouraged by how much it was going to cost to build the additional raised beds I needed. I needed more raised beds because here in the Upstate of South Carolina, the soil lends itself more to making pottery than it does to growing carrots. I lamented that there wasn't a way for me to just grow right in the ground without the exorbitant cost of bringing in tons of soil/compost. 

Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon the mittleider method, and I was pretty stoked about that. Raised beds full of material that didn't have to be soil (mittleider often calls for a mixture of sand and sawdust to fill the beds), and I just had to feed it weekly with this mittleider mix/plant food to yield excellent results? Sign me up! Then, while researching more about the mittleider method, I started to come across youtube videos with titles like "Mittleider vs Back to Eden"... and because I'm curious, I wanted to know more about the Back to Eden method. Back to Eden lead me to Ruth Stout, Deep Mulching and basically the concept of growing a vegetable garden employing permaculture methods. The basic concept, no matter what you call it, is this: cover your ground with a thick layer of organic material (such as wood chips, leaves, straw... ) and over several months, that material will break down and begin to work wonders on even the crappiest of soil, making it friable, loamy, and full of rich nutrients that will keep you plants super happy! Added bonus - the deep covering keeps the soil nice and moist, so watering is greatly reduced.

So, if I knew then what I know now, what would I have done differently? Well - instead of having my husband blow all the leaves into piles to be mulched off to the side of our property last fall, I would have had him mulch the leaves over where I wanted my garden to be planted. I would have piled the leaf mulch up so high (8-12 inches) and then this past spring I would have planted straight into the ground. 

I am here to tell you - it doesn't need to cost hundreds of dollars in building raised beds and filling them with soil and other fertilizers. Forget all that. If you have a yard and a space to grow vegetables, just cover it with mulch this fall! Next spring you will thank me!

No comments:

Post a Comment