Saturday, May 7, 2011

Growing Food - My Garden

I will share the progress of my garden through this site off and on as things change.

I am currently living in row house in The Netherlands.  I only have a small terrace in the back and it is on the north side of the building so it is shaded for most of the morning.  Direct sun doesn't hit the garden until after 11:00 in the morning and it is gone by 4:00 in the afternoon.  The terrace is surrounded by walls, other buildings, and an ivy-covered fence.  The "soil" was mostly clay and sand with bits of construction debris mixed in.  When dry, it was as hard as concrete.  To make matters worse, the buildings and walls cause terrible wind turbulence that blow my furniture around.  It is far from an ideal situation for growing edible plants. Below is my neighbor's terrace but this is what mine looked like when we moved into this house.

The first fall and winter (2009-2010) I really just kept the weeds under control.  I dug under everything growing several times because it was so choked with weeds.  It was too late to plant anything and the soil probably wouldn't have supported much.  Even weeds barely survived in it. As the weather cooled I started incorporating organic material into the soil.  I have been an avid composter for 20+ years but I have no space for it here.  So I had to locate other free (because I am a cheapskate) sources of organic material.  What I found was old piles of wood chips from brush and tree clearing work alongside the roads.  So I started taking a five gallon bucket with me in the car and I would pick up a bucketful every once in a while.  I dug down to the bottom to get partially composted material.  Wood chips don't break down easily in a garden and they actually take vital nutrients out of the soil because the bacteria that break down wood need them.  I was also able to get one bucket of horse manure and a bucket of shredded leaves.  I worked this into the hard soil and then covered the garden plot with plastic to keep it a little warmer.  Soil organisms (worms, bacteria, and other little critters) work harder when they are warm and moist.  I also started burying my kitchen scraps in small holes I dug in the garden to help feed the soil organisms.

Plastic sheet on garden and my fat cat

By spring, the soil was a little more friable although when the surface dried out it still set up like concrete.  In 2010 I planted radishes, onion sets, onion seed, green beans, one tomato plant and one pepper plant.  I mulched the whole garden with more wood chips since they would keep the soil from drying, protect the plants and soil during the normal, heavy rains we get here, and decompose over the next year.  This garden was not exceptionally productive but I did get quite a bit of food from it.  I raised more radishes than I could eat over most of the summer and fall through successive plantings.  The onion sets did pretty good and I ate the last of my (very strong) onions about two weeks ago.  The beans were a bit stunted but I still got six full servings from the 10 plants I had.  I got one pepper.  It was full-sized and really good but it seems I did not have many pollinaters visiting the garden.  I had two tomatoes growing as well but lost both to a strong wind storm.  Again, the flowers were just not being pollinated. I also had a good stand of sunflowers, which were just to look at.  I put the heads out in a field nearby to feed the birds in the winter.

This winter (2010-2011) I picked up another six buckets of decomposed organic matter and worked that into the soil and again buried my kitchen scraps.  I put the plastic on it again.  This year the soil seems to be pretty decent but I will continue to add organic stuff as I get it.  When I turned the soil this spring it was full of earthworms, which is almost always a sign of healthy soil.  The prior year there were very few worms.  This sandy/clay soil does not hold water at all and the more organic material I can get in it the better.

This spring I used leftover seeds from last year and planted radishes, onion seeds, green beans, lettuce, two pepper plants and one tomato plant.  So far I have not been able to find onion sets but I have some leftover seeded onions that over-wintered and they will be my early eating onions.  I still want to find some sets to plant because I eat a lot of onions.
This year's garden
I have a problem with a fat cat that likes to lounge in my garden and two cow birds that like to pull up and eat the sprouting seeds.  To give my plants some protection I put some decorative garden fence pieces around and over some of the seed beds.  The white plastic is to protect the tomato plant from the destructive winds.  It is open at the top and bottom to act as a chimney, which keeps the plant from over-heating.  I have the plastic sheet ready in case there is a chance of frost; beans are very sensative to the cold.  This year I planted a couple flowers in my garden to (hopefully) attract pollinators.  I also have a plastic pan filled with water in the decorative house on the pole to attract beneficial insects. 

Radishes grow very fast.  In thirty days from planting you can start havesting.  I planted these three weeks ago and will plant a new area this weekend.  This spaces out the maturity of the radishes so you are not getting so many at one time.  I will do the same with the beans in a week or so.

So, that is what I have going in my little garden.  If all goes well it should give me quite a bit of food while giving me something to do on my terrace.  I will post my progress as we go.

More to follow...

1 comment:

  1. Check out my Blog. I thought I would give it a try.