How Does My Garden Grow?

baby kale and arugula, growing in a pot in our yard

I hate to taunt any of y’all living in more Northern climes, but, spring is here! The trees are budding, the sun is hot, the fever has struck. It is a bit harder to feel like it’s spring when it was never proper winter (yes, it got as cold as 20 degrees, but with no snow, and still green grass everywhere, it didn’t feel like winter), but that it is. Having my community garden plot finished, finally, finally! and ready for planting helps the fever hit pitch.

Oh, yes, have I neglected to mention? (I have so many things to say, and so little time in which to say them.) I finally just couldn’t wait for the help of kind but busy friends anymore. I had a load of dirt/compost delivered. $200, but I have been able to sell some of that to other gardeners. More than the cost, what I don’t like is the quality. They call it soil, but it’s compost, and hardly compost by my (very high) standards. It looks like black wood shavings, mixed with a little sand. Although it would be a great amendment to a pre-existing garden, since I built my bed from scratch, and that’s all I could find to fill it with, I will be growing in the stuff straight up. My garden advisor assures me that, although not ideal, it will work, and that by next fall it will have broken down almost completely into very good, very organic soil.

But, it’s too rough to start seeds in, which is why I’m starting all my seeds here at home, in flats. This is kind of better anyway, since seedlings take daily watering, and it’s much easier at home.

In addition to my newly built bed, the garden coordinator has handed over the care of the bed next to mine. He was growing it out and sharing the produce with an elderly woman who used to tend it. So, now I will do the same. With basically half of that bed, and the one I built, I have about as much square footage as the other gardeners, which is to say about 75 square feet. That’s very exciting! You can do a lot with 75 sqft. Particularly since I will get at least two crops a year from it.

Now that my garden is a physical reality, I’m feeling very daunted about how to go about it. It really cramps the growing style to be going back to Alaska for the summer, leaving mid-May. Spring is here now and the temperatures are positively lovely, but summer and it’s wicked heat are well on their way. By the end of April it will be sweltering, much too hot for “cool season” crops. But we will be leaving before the “hot season” crops really come into their own. Supposedly, I should be able to get some tomatoes and beans before we leave, but it’s cutting it very close.

So, what am I growing then? Greens, lots of greens. The great thing about greens is that they’re never a complete waste. Even if you have to harvest them at half size to avoid the heat, you still get a half sized kale. If you have to cut short a tomato plant, you get a big fat nothing for your two months of work. So, I’m heavy on the kale, collards, chard, salads and spinach (the latter of course pretty marginal, but maybe I’ll get babies). But I can’t resist at least trying tomatoes, beans, and even a few pepper plants. I also planted some basil and nasturtiums, a few beets and carrots for experimental purposes, potatoes and oh yeah, two kinds of summer squash. We’ll see.

i bought these collard, chard and kale plants from the farmer's market, just so I'd have some leaves to play with. They've already doubled in size!

I’m so curious how this all works, and feeling so completely inadequate. I’m such a garden planner, and have really found that the only way to get a viable quantity of food from my garden. But here, I just don’t even know what or how to plan. You can only get so much from books, the rest has to come hard won from experience (read: failure). And, it’s a bit depressing, because I know enough about gardening to know how long it takes to learn just how to plan for a specific climate, and we’ll only be here two more years.

But! Not to bring things down. I’m so excited to have my hands in dirt, seeds germinating, leaves unfurling, woohoo!

And oh boy, next fall, I’m gonna be ready. My dirt matured, a little growing experience under my belt, seeds already in my desk drawer. I’ll take the New Orleans gardening world by storm!

anyone has enough outdoor access for a few pots of quick growing salad greens...

2 thoughts on “How Does My Garden Grow?

  1. oh goodness, i love your pictures. i’ve been itching to get in the dirt since the thermometer climbed up to 40 degrees but i’m holding out since it’s march and, well, i’m going to be gone for a week. but come april….

    did you start anything inside? how did you keep the toddler out of it?

    i’m jealous of your bed. i had a nice one last year but then we moved and now i’m screwed and back to patio gardening with only western exposure. i bought these crazy hanging plastic bags at the sally though, i think they might work for nasturtiums.

    which reminds me: i need to go dig up the good dirt that i made at the last house. also, re: planning, have you seen _the square foot garden_? i love that book. i might get a bed at church now that i’m thinking of it…we’re going to the unitarian one here, and they have fabulous grounds and even a hill.

  2. “You can only get so much from books, the rest has to come hard won from experience (read: failure).”

    – that’s exactly how I feel about my big passion – making and sewing clothes and homewares, and gifts. I’m a dreaded newbie, and I hate, loathe and detest waste. But we soldier on, us Mama’s in the Learnin’, cos it’s what we do. Congrats on your beautiful crop-thats-a’comin’ CJ, can’t wait to see these yummy vegies and herbs and plants get turned in to even yummier recipes!

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