A week into our gardening season and I haven’t killed anything yet. Yet. I count that as a success.
As a professor that studies food politics and who has worked with community supported agricuture (CSAs in the States) and small farmers for years, it is funny to be on this end of the food production scale. This is the first place that we’ve lived where I have been able to have real garden space, not just containers. I am also, however, surrounded by gardens tended by expert gardeners who have been at it for years. I am relying heavily on their knowledge, picking their brains about everything from how to prune tomato plants to the best time to water plants and which plants grow better in compost versus manure-based soils.
I also find myself comparing my funky garden to their amazing plots. Due to the construction of our garden space, I didn’t get my seeds planted until a bit late in the season, and most were seeds sown into the ground rather than seedlings. So my neighbors have a few weeks of a head start on me, and their gardens look like magic. They look like a sort of Magician’s Apprentice version of gardening. These staid Canadians must go out to their gardens in the cool morning mist, and sing a song conjuring their plants to rise as they slowly lift their arms. Green shoots obligingly spring from the earth at their command, quickly growing into full fledged fruiting plants. Or so it seems.
I find myself greedily staring at the dark brown soil every morning, looking for new green shoots that will hopefully provide my table with gorgeous (or at least delicious) veges in the not too distant future. Little Man’s favorite thing to do in the evenings before dinner is to go to the green house and play with the strawberries. He moves from plant to plant, carefully holding each berry in his little hand before moving on to the next.
The other day the first strawberry was finally ripe, and I plucked it from the plant to share it with him. I took a bite of one of the warmest, sweetest strawberries I’ve ever had and held the other half out to Little Man to sample. I thought this would be a wonderful moment, sharing with him the first fruit of the season. He, on the other hand, looked at me in horror that I would eat one of his small red toys that just happened to be growing on a plant in the greenhouse. At that moment I thought of all the blogs, web pages, farmers market people, etc. who talk about how meaningful it can be for little kids to grow their own food, how for many kids this helps them start eating more vegetables, and how angels sing whenever a young child helps tend a garden. Apparently we are going to need a bit more help in this area…
Bah. Humbug! 🙂
Manure and compost are virtually the same thing: organic matter on its way to humus. The biggest differences are that manure has the advantage of being half-broken-down by the animals, and it carries a certain amount of their intestinal microflora.
In the end, you only need around 5% organic matter in your soil, whether it’s compost or manure. Alternating between using compost or manure from year to year might be advantageous. But neither compost nor manure is a critical difference-maker in your garden soil.
We’ve gotta get you mineralizing your soil. Then maybe you’ll teach your neighbors a thing or two. 😉
The main difference for us between compost and manure is the impact on root vegetables. According to our farmer-landlord root vegetables don’t like manure. They’ll be all sorts of leafy green, but they don’t produce well underground. So my beets and carrots may suffer a bit, we’ll see. I can say that already my beans (both pole and runner), squash (mystery pumpkin and sunburst squash), and kales are doing amazing!
As for mineralizing, I’d love to give that a try. I’m trying to pace myself a bit with this first year of gardening. That and the fact that the international shipping of your tremendous product would be a bit intense. 🙂
I’ll see what I can find out about root veggies and manure. If your carrots suffer, that’d be a loss. If your beets suffer… not so much. 😉
There are on-island suppliers of all the ingredients you would need. I wonder if I could find somebody up there that would custom blend a mineralizing mix for me, on your behalf. That’s worth researching, to save you the money of buying all the bulk supplies yourself and ending up with leftovers.
Thanks for the offer, but we’ll have to wait for next year for that possibility. While I’d love to do it, mineralizing our soil is just not in the budget for this year. I’m definitely interested in pursuing it for the future, so if you find someone good please let me know. 🙂 I appreciate the help!