Backyard Farming (part 2)

I started my farm exactly 2 months ago. Not only have I had a rather comprehensive education, but also several very tasty salads. Twice a week Stefan, the urban farmer who makes it all grow, comes to my house and we garden. Actually, he gardens and I watch, learn and photograph his every move. Despite all that I have learned, if it weren’t for his dedication and vast knowledge, my garden would have gone the way of all my past efforts, to seed! We have had good days and bad, fighting the creatures that love to feast on organic produce and having to contend with lackluster soil. It seems that much of organic gardening is being on the defensive against these things. There are no chemicals to prevent them from happening so we just have to deal with it as it comes.

Here are some tricks I’ve learned from Stefan:

May 19, 2009:

Stefan arrived wearing a long face and carrying an arsenal of organic fertilizers. Because this is the pilot year of the backyard harvest program they were unsure of the virility of the soil that they laid down. To put it mildly, it sucked! It was literally sucking the life out of the plants, as opposed to giving it. According to Stefan it lacked NPK (Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium). Each of these adds to the promotion of healthy plants:

(N) Nitrogen – energizes the plants growth and green color (we knew it was lacking because the leaves were turning purple.)

(P) Phosphorus – helps the plants produce healthy roots, flowers and seeds.

(K) Potassium – makes the plants more heat and disease resistant.

He also added a liquid bat guano that gave the garden a serious boost of NP and would absorb faster than the dried fertilizer. We were in desperate need of nutrients.

May 28, 2009:

taking care of the critters

That week the baby bunnies were out testing our fencing. The fence worked and our plants went untouched by them. My neighbor, who was fenceless was not so lucky.

That is not to say that we were untouched by ALL nasty pests. Here is a fine example of a cut worm, the most annoying of all the garden dwellers. They live under the soil, come up at night, wrap themselves around the base of young plants and cut their way through the stalk. You know that you have cut worms if you have leaves laying on the ground next to the stalk. It is like they have little machetes.

Stefan consulted “the old timers” who have been gardening organically “forever” and know all of the tricks. They suggested that he put skewers in the soil next to the stalk of the plant so that the cut worms can’t wrap themselves around the base. So Stefan did just that and it worked.

He also planted some beans.

June 2, 2009:

Stefan thinned out the very crowded rows of lettuce with a pair of shears.

He also staked the pea vines with branches of a dogwood tree. The peas need something to cling onto so they will grow up and not lay on the ground.

June 9, 2009:

Look at the beans go, after only 1 1/2 weeks.

Stefan and the boys inspect a giant bucket of Llama dung. Stefan used it to fertilize the areas where the tomatoes and peppers will be planted.

Despite looking like and being POOP, it didn’t smell like it. Thankfully.

He planted cilantro, peppers, tomatoes, dinosaur kale and basil.

June 14, 2009:

Charlie checking the progress of his sunflowers.

The peas are flowering, which means we will get pods soon.

Stefan found the caterpillars from white months on the broccoli.

The only way to get rid of them is to go around and pick them and their eggs off the leaves. The eggs are the size of a sesame seed and nearly translucent. Not an easy job. Thank goodness Stefan is here to make sure my garden survives all of this.

June 16, 2009:

My first radish harvest, aren’t they gorgeous and they were the best I’ve ever eaten.

Here is my first harvest basket of salad greens, the first nasturtium flower and radishes.

June 23, 2009:

Here is the garden as of today!

The beans are going nuts.