big news in my own back yard

from dirt to dish

Sylvia Pendl's garden journal illustration of 'The Month of June'.

For the past 5 years I have been renting in a house with heaps of yard space and a healthy serving of southern exposure. On the downside, the soil quality is about as fertile as Saturn. It’s dusty, powdery and grey and I’m sure to blame for my garden’s mediocrity to date, despite my occasional yet optimistic additions of top soil and compost. But this year things are going to be different. It’s time to take the plunge…. but not without supervision.

As luck would have it, my good friend, Sylvia Pendl, just so happens to be a horticultural goddess. Not only is she an uber talented landscape architect, but also a very accomplished home gardener, ceramic artist, home renovator and, in my case, patient educator. I hope that she does not live to regret the day she decided to team up with yours truly, to assist me in realizing my dream of creating a real live producing vegetable garden all my own, while at the same time preparing her own garden for another year of bounty. There is a whole heap of prep to do if my project is to stand a chance of suc-seeding. So here is the plan:

1-Transforming my un-insulated sunroom into a greenhouse and using it to grow all our seedlings. Seeds and seedling trays and soil have already been purchased. A table for the trays was created by putting an old door on a fold out card table (my parent's first table from their first apartment some 44 years ago) and covering the horizontal surface with a plastic sheet. The first round of seeds were put in on February 14, as follows: broccoli, cabbage, 3 kinds of eggplant, fennel, kale, leeks, parsley and 4 kinds of tomatoes. So far, encouraging growth has been demonstrated by the broccoli, cabbage, kale and leeks. Word is, it is normal for the other seedlings to take a little longer to sprout. The seedlings require a very delicate irrigation technique. Each morning I mist water on them (with one of those spray bottles some of us used to use for cooling ourselves off during especially hot afternoons of sun tanning) and then turn them ¼ rotation. As instructed, I also place their lids slightly ajar for the day, so they don’t get all drippy with condensation and turn rotten and moldy on us. Then I put their lids down for the night, just like tucking in a toddler at bedtime.

2-Building 3 raised beds totaling 60 square feet of new food growing land and gathering various garden pots from secondhand stores in preparation for additional container gardening.

3-Filling new beds and containers with 3 cubic yards of soon-to-be-delivered amendment soil which will one day fortify and nurture the seedlings, so they may grow and prosper.

4- Learning how to water, weed and maintain all of this wonder, so it will one day grow up and become beautiful, gorgeous food.

5-Saving our seed, so that the whole miraculous cycle can be repeated again next year.

Shopping for seeds.

Feb. 22- Our broccoli seedlings are growing fast!

So far so good. In typical form, I am both excited and impatient. I want to be plucking salad from the raised beds yesterday, but the yard is still hard with frost. I know this year will bring a wealth of learning as well as immense joy and satisfaction…..All in good time, for you can’t rush nature. Stay tuned for the next installment of our gardening project, as we continue on our adventures….. from dirt to dish…..

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