Raise your green thumb

A New York Times story on Wednesday suggested that some Americans are responding to this time of economic uncertainty by planting vegetable gardens.

In a way recalling the Victory Gardens of wartimes-past, seed companies such as W. Atlee Burpee are reporting a rise in sales not seen in recent years, and lawns across the nation are giving over to tomatoes, basil and squash. Furthermore, people who formerly didn’t know where eggs came from are building chicken tractors and hen houses.

Have rising food prices prompted you to get reacquainted with your spade and work gloves? Do you find yourself thumbing through poultry catalogs with a certain acquisitive interest? We’d love to hear your gardening experiences, your tips for others and your plans for future agricultural expansion.

— Kent Priestley, contributing editor

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4 thoughts on “Raise your green thumb

  1. An uncertainty about the imminent future more than the current rising food prices prompted me to commandeer an existing vegetable garden. Over the years it had gotten smaller, growing a few tomatoes, cucumber and squash. I cleaned up the whole area, reclaimed a few beds and mulched the whole thing with wood chips fresh from the trimmers truck. The earth worms have gone nuts under this mulch giving me lots of free fertilizer.

    I have not grown a dedicated vegetable garden in about eighteen years and definitely not in this climate zone and not at a 4000 feet elevation. This is my learning year. I already learned not to set out the warm season crops like tomato, pepper, melons and squash too early, even if it is past the average last frost date. The cantaloupes died of hypothermia in the forty degree weather and had to be replanted. The others just sat there until it got warm.

    I need to learn what critters I may have to deal with here. The list of potential diners is quite large. I do know my predator population is also abundant and see their tracks in the garden area almost daily.

    I need to see what my existing soil can produce. My lazy way of doing things is to just add organic matter to the soil in the form of a mulch on a regular basis. Time and decomposition will do the rest. The question is, will this soil need a jump start?

    When I have a better understanding of the wider environment that will influence my particular garden, there is room for expansion.

    You can see the roadside vegetable garden at: http://outsideclyde.blogspot.com/2008/06/steamy.html

  2. William P Miller

    I love my vegetable garden. It is so relaxing to spend time in it tending the plants. Even pulling weeds. I do counsel folks to be organic and not to use chemicals. It just isn’t necessary. Then beneficial insects will live in your garden and eat pests. Also, a 50-50 liquid soap to water in a spray bottle will kill any insect almost on contact. For fertilizer, I use Black Kow manure compost. Great stuff.

    Also I like to grow plants that are expensive in the grocery store anyway. Roma tomatoes are a favorite. Also several varieties of cucumber are fun to grow.

    Plant, tend, grow, then enjoy!

  3. sylva

    “The question is, will this soil need a jump start?”

    Chris, my question is: If you mulched with woodchips, what are you using to balance out the nitrogen they will take to break down? It could compete with your plants, yes?

  4. Sylva in my twenty years of using fresh from the trimmers truck, wood chip mulch I have never had nitrogen deficiency problems. I had exactly the opposite results of vastly improved plant growth, health and vitality. I often would add compost or manure and a light fertilizer application to this. Granted this was mostly in a landscape plant situation and not in a vegetable garden and in a much warmer climate.

    Recent studies are showing any nitrogen loss is at the soil mulch interface and not in the soil itself. As long as the fresh mulch is not tilled into the soil, the nitrogen levels should be fine and the benefits are numerous. It is easy to add nitrogen if needed and each plant was dressed with cow manure when planted.

    Here is an article from Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott at WSU who debunks the nitrogen stealing myth. She doesn’t recommend doing this in vegetable gardens, but I am a risk taker.

    http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda%20Chalker-Scott/Horticultural%20Myths_files/Myths/Wood%20chips%202007.pdf

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