Friday, August 13, 2010

Soil Deficiencies

My soil stinks this year. We garden in 12 or 13 4x6 raised beds that my husband built out of pine and we filled with organic soil, compost and manure. I realized about a month ago, when my tomato plants looked so stunted as to be not growing at all, that I haven't really added any organic material to some of the older beds in several years. My husband thought that they were too dry but I'm pretty sure that wasn't it.
Many of these beds are over five years old, some closer to ten, and they have been used - hard core - for all of those years. We've grown tomatoes, beans, onions, garlic, greens, flowers, squash, potatoes, and cabbage in them, rotating around as needed to avoid planting nightshade plants in the same bed twice. I've managed to remember to add compost and other organic material to them periodically but...not in awhile. And it shows. I mean it REALLY shows. In a year when most gardeners are having fabuloso tomato crops, ours is paltry. One year I harvested over 60 pounds of tomatoes from two beds. This year I'll be lucky to get a bushel basket of tomatoes. My cucumbers? Fuhgeddaboudit. I mean it. I've supplemented my tomato, cuke and beet crops with produce from the CSA we belong to, the farmer's market down the road and the Amish that I see on the weekends because I simply will not have enough for pickles, pickled beets and beans and tomato sauce.
On the other hand, we've had a fantastic cheese pumpkin harvest, red onions galore and a years worth of garlic. Why, you ask? Well, because I planted all of those crops in newer beds which haven't been completely depleted of all their nutrients through growing vegetables and leaching due to rainfall. I tell you, if we had to live on what we grow, we'd be toast.
In about one month I'm going to layer manure, bags of organic compost that I've been storing in the garage and leaves for leaf mold on these beds. Every bed is going to get many inches of nutritious black gold on it so that next year, the gardener's mantra, we'll have better tomatoes!!
The link I'm posting here is one for an urban farm in southern California that I've been following for several years now. I love them. I love the way they farm and I love the way they live. I aspire to this. The only thing I can't deal with right now is the non-driving lifestyle. I live in the burbs and basically can't get anywhere without driving. They've even canceled the bus route that take the people in our village into the smallish city that is north of us. Ridiculous, right? Anyway, it seems like my garden for this year is going to be successful only in cabbage and squash, garlic and onions and maybe potatoes. I've learned my lesson. You must feed the soil.


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