We’ll keep it short on words and long on pictures in this post as we review different ways of gardening using recycled materials. My wife and I prepped and planted our spring garden earlier this year. Here are some quick how-tos and tips for your 2014 garden.
There they are – a winter’s growth of cover crops. These guys are all ready to be folded back into last year’s soil which fed a bounty of tomatoes. Now it’s time to feed the soil.
There are a few articles out there on incorporating your cover crops into your soil beds. One says to get a pair of garden shears and do a bit of a mowing, trimming them all before anything else. We simply got a pitch fork and began turning the cover crops into the soil. It looks like hard work but it was actually pretty easy. The cover crops kept the soil moist and well aerated making short work of this task. The other thing we noticed was the soil, which was a light brown when we planted last year, was rich and dark black with worms and other small critters thriving below the surface. The beds were very much alive and healthy.
When done, our beds looked like this. Note that some of the greens are still at the surface. We didn’t mind too much because we planned on amending the soil with a few bags of organic soil. It is important, however, to make sure to cover up any of the greens. Remember, these guys are still alive with roots in the ground. You don’t want them to reestablished themselves amidst your new garden.
We added “Edna’s Best” potting soil to our gardens since it had a nice mix of soil, mycorrhizal fungi, earthworm castings, kelp meal, bat guano, feather meal and a natural wetting agent. It’s easy, just toss the bag on the garden bed, split it open with a shovel and then remove the bag. All the soil dumps right where you want it. We decided to spread it evenly across the top instead of folding it into the beds. Since it rains fairly often in Portland, Oregon, the soil and nutrients will melt into the rest of the beds. Again, this also keeps light away from any leftover cover crops to make sure they decompose into the soil.
The finished project: Soil is now spread evenly and ready for planting.
In 2013, we had an old wire and metal pipe greenhouse that was showing its age. We took it down and were planning on taking it to the dump. However, part of our spring garden was peas that love to climb. My wife, Rhonda (the brains of the operation), figured out a way to keep this out of the landfill while putting it back to work.
She took the wire shelves and some old tomato hoops from the green house and created an attractive and stable structure for our peas to wrap themselves around. The structures made it very easy to harvest the peas once they were ready.
There are a lot of books and magazines on gardening in the Pacific Northwest, but save your money – if you plant to start from seed, all of the instructions including when and how to plant for your specific region, are on the back of the packet. This would have saved me some money because I bough about a dozen heirloom tomato seeds anxious to get them going earlier this year but found it was too late. Oh, well. I’ll save them for next year and start them in egg shell starters.
Using the poles from our old green house, we divided our beds up into sections for spinach, beets, onions, kale, and carrots. A common mistake is to plant your crops and then forget to mark them. They all look alike as seedlings and you won’t know what’s what until they are mostly grown. For our spring garden, we simply followed the directions on spacing and number of seeds to plant. We then looked around the yard for more material that would end up in the landfill. We found some old boards from a planter box, broke them up, and then wrote on them with a green wax pencil to identify our different crops.
Now that the seeds are in the garden, make sure to water them well to wake them up. Follow watering instructions for your plants, making sure not over-water, which will drown those new roots reaching down into the soil.
You can also be very strategic about planting certain types of plants in close proximity to one another. Tomatoes and basil do well together. Marigolds planted in your bed near your crops will function as a natural pest repellent and helps gauge the health of your garden. There are many other tips and tricks to planting crops which we’ll cover in the coming weeks.
We’re so passionate about using recycled materials that we started a Kickstarter Campaign, where we are raising funds to bring our very first product, TogetherFarm Blocks™. Made from food safe recycled plastics, it’s an easy way to quickly build a garden bed in a matter of minutes. If you have a small space you can use these to quickly build a custom garden box without tools or carpentry experience. Check them out!
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