Gardening is my new geek focus, my Big Project. As I've blogged recently, I've got a flat of tomato seedlings gaining strength for when the ground gets warmer. Oh, you didn't know that tomatoes need the soil to maintain 60º F in order to thrive? That's the kind of information that really gets my geek on with gardening.
It turns out there are a lot of places on the web to get great information about gardening. I've been following and even took the tomato class from Cynthia at growbetterveggies.com, which was great. I encourage you to sign up for the next class if you think you have a little gardening geek in you. Cynthia understands gardening (especially tomatoes) in a way only someone with a real inquisitiveness can. She studies and experiments every year and encourages others to do the same.
Gardening is one of those pastimes that can return huge dividends based on how much attention you are willing to give it. Since I am focussing my energy on it fully this year, I expect to get a better than average garden.
For my tomato seedlings, I spent quite a bit of effort looking for a fan. Having the fan blow on them for a few hours a day stimulates stem thickness and strengthens the plants. Sandy finally found one at an artists supply store. I built a little stand for a grow light (basically, an under cabinet fluorescent fixture with a plant bulb in it). This allows them to grow strong despite the fact that we don't have a great place for direct sunlight in our house.
Last week, I spent four days creating and amending raised beds in the garden. I grabbed a bunch of 1 by 8 fencing in 6 foot lengths. I knew I wanted 10 foot by 3 foot beds, so I used 5 boards for each bed. One board I cut in half as the ends, the others, I took a foot off of the end. I used two of those foot long pieces to join together two of the 5 foot sections each. I then took some 2 by 2 that I cut to match the width of the other boards and used those to connect at the corners. I used zinc plated screws, so if something goes wrong, I might be able to just pop off some screws and screw down a new board. I haven't treated the boards with anything, and I just used common redwood, why spend for the expensive heart redwood?
To put them into place, Sandy and I dug down a little and created a level trench that the beds would sit in. We removed some soil from between the beds and added a good 3 inches of mulch between and around all of the beds. I then added, in order, humic acid, chicken poop (about 2 inches worth), Dr. Earth's fertilizer with a bit more P and K, to make up for all the N in the chicken poop, topsoil from what we took out, and some soil building compost (about an inch and a half's worth). Needless to say, that was quite a few trips to The Garden Co and OSH. I then gave all that new soil a quick turn. I had bought a manure fork for that, but it broke on the second turn, so we had to return it and get the more expensive one.
Sandy's parents had brought us some onions, so Zach, Phoebe and I planted those in the new soil. I'm still trying to figure out what I really want to plant in the beds this year. I know I'll do at least one hill of pumpkins, and at least a few pepper plants. Other than that, I'm still mulling it over. If you have any ideas, leave a comment.