It’s officially June and the garden is officially looking kickass! Zach has been hard at work pruning, weeding and tending to the garden. After we transplanted everything, we made some improvements to the soil, constructed supports for the tomatoes and laid down various materials for weed suppression/organic amendments. Translation: our garden looks hella profesh and waaaayyyy better than it did last year.
Since we’re still in the process of building up our soil, we knew that we wanted to use an organic fertilizer this year. No chemicals + organic material = win-win! We found a local supplier that adds compost with bone and blood meal to act as a soilless fertilizer. And by bone and blood meal I mean dead animals. And by dead animals I mean this dude’s property smelled like roadkill. But apparently this stuff is so high in nutrients that you won’t need to add any more fertilizer (especially chemical fertilizer) to the garden for about 3-4 years. And since the garden now smells like animal bones, it should deter any deer.
After we spread the compost and got some rainfall, we can already see a huge difference in the plants. The new growth on our tomatoes and peppers are a beautiful dark green. Our squash plants are starting to vine. Our tomatillos are even starting to flower.
Our next step in the garden was to build the tomato cages. Last year we got the cheapo tomato cages from the big box store. You know the ones, the cone shaped thingys that break apart when you even look at it wrong. By the time we were harvesting the tomatoes last year, we had all the cages tied together in an not-so-intricate grid of wire and twine. You had to crawl through a tomato labyrinth just to get them off the vine. Sheesh! This year we came up with a construction that will not only be durable, but aesthetically pleasing as well.
It seems that we always have a spare roll of highway mesh because it’s super handy to have around the farm. So we measured out a 3-4′ length, cut it and fastened it together to form an open ended cylinder. They fit over the tomato plants perfectly, and are stuck into the ground which makes them super sturdy. We’ll be able to re-use these again next year, which makes them way more cost effective than the store-bought cages.
The last step we had to do to finish the garden (and again, we put in the garden completely backwards this year) was to mulch the walking paths. Last year we used wood chips and although it looked really nice, it was really expensive. This year we did a combination of sorts to see what works best. In some of the paths we put down seedless straw. Cons: Hard to find and more expensive than your regular run of the mill straw. Pros: We were able to get a deal on it. The seedless straw comes pre-mulched so it makes a cleaner line and doesn’t blow around everywhere. In some of the other paths we put down a double layer of newspaper, watered it to keep it down and then put a layer of regular straw on top of it. Cons: It takes a lot of time. Pros: It’s cheap. Free newspaper is really easy to find and straw bales are pretty inexpensive. We’ll see which method works best as weed suppression this year. But either way, we’re adding in organic material to the garden when we till everything in this fall. We’re hoping that the combination of the compost/fertilizer and straw will break up the clay soil that we have.
All in all, the garden looks great. All of our plants and varieties are in, and we even threw in some extra herbs here and there. We’ve had so much rain that we haven’t really had to use the drip irrigation system much, but I’m sure it’s amaze-balls.
Here’s a quick look around the garden: