It seems that here in Hanford, we’re getting out of the rainy/foggy season finally. The sun is shining, the skies are blue, my husband is flying more and more, and I’m shedding my jackets and hoodies and getting out in the garden. It’s still cool enough that Zora is enjoying basking in the sun, rather than seeking out any shade she can find, and it’s completely comfortable to be outside for hours, as long as a cloud of gnats doesn’t find you.
This winter I got an email from Evan W. asking me about my gardening experience. Now, just to remind you all, this blog is “domesticity by trial and error.” I really have no clue what I’m doing. But I can tell you what I’ve done in the past and what I’m attempting this year!
Evan asked me:
- How did you prepare the soil? Because we’re using raised beds and containers, rather than planting in the ground, it is easy to create good soil right from the start. Our soil is a mixture of peat, vermiculite, and compost. This year we mixed in our compost that we had made last year (still not totally broken down, but I figure the goodies can leech into the soil this way) along with some manure from Lowe’s.
- How did you choose what to plant? There are a couple factors involved for us. First, because we move so often and we’re lucky to have been able to garden at all, we need something that will grow quickly and be harvest-able THIS YEAR. So things like blueberry vines, asparagus, and fruit trees are obviously out. The other important factor is knowing ourselves and what we like to eat. The first year we gardened, we planted eggplants. The plant did very well but we quickly found out that we only like it prepared a couple of ways (trust me, I tried MANY recipes). So after that, we decided to just buy eggplant at the store when we want it. And last year, we planted green beans and peas, which we both LOVE, but we were lazy about harvesting, so we won’t do that this year.
This year we planted squash, zucchini, cucumbers, 3 kinds of tomatoes, and 3 kinds of peppers. We’re waiting for another kind of pepper seedling to be available (decided not to do seeds this year for various reasons), as well as cantaloupe and watermelon. As experiments, we also picked up strawberries, artichoke (though I think that’s a long-term thing – oops?), beets, cauliflower, and broccoli. As is the trend, we have no idea what we’re doing with those. It’ll be a fun thing to play with though! In smaller containers, we are growing basil, parsley, oregano, and green onions.
- Do you use worms? Worms are great if you have them. They help keep the soil loose and aerated, and will break down your compost and all of that… but in a raised bed or containers, I don’t think it’s necessary. If I find some worms while I’m digging around in the front yard, I might bring them to the veggie garden and toss them in, but it’s not something I’m making an effort to do. Once we’re in a place for several years and we can have a more long-term compost set-up, I might get some worms for the compost to help it move along.
- Have you had any problems with pests eating your harvests? YES! Last year we had aphids on our pea plants. I think part of the reason it got so advanced was because we used a drip hose to water, so we didn’t have the hands-on bonding time with our plants (i.e., I could’ve caught the problem much earlier if I had been looking at the plants more closely). The year before that, some sort of horrid beetle/bug killed my zucchini plant. It attacked while we were out of town and when we came back the plant was beyond saving. This year my plan is to spend more time with my plants, so I can catch any potential evil going on at an early stage! Aphids are relatively easy to combat – just squirt them off the plants with some water, and they have a hard time finding their way back. And lady bugs will help by eating them too.I’ll share another couple issues we had too, though they’re not “pests” per say. Last year, our zucchini, squash, and tomato were all experiencing blossom-end rot. After a bit of trial and error (that’s how we roll) we determined it was due to calcium deficiency in the soil. So I went to GNC, no joke, and got calcium supplement pills. I ground them up with my mortar and pestle and watered the powder into the soil. It actually helped and we got some great veggies after that. The year before that, we believed the little peat pot when it said “you can plant in the pot! Just tear off the bottom.” and well.. it didn’t work out. Our pepper plants were root-bound and stunted the whole summer. Now we rip off the pot our seedlings come in and throw it away or compost it. The plants are much happier that way.
Another thing some people had asked me about was my Vibram Five Fingers shoes you all helped me to win in September! Well let me tell you, it was a long journey to get them but I love them.
I tried 3 different sizes before I got the right fit, and that is no small feat (feet. hehe) since Vibram is pretty consistently SOLD OUT of several styles/sizes. So between waiting for shipment, trying them on and shipping them back, waiting for a new size to be in stock, etc… it took many months to get VFFs that fit correctly. And they’re not in the color I wanted since it was out of stock (the color I posted in the linked post) but black will do.
THEN it was too cold to wear them. My fingers and toes get super-cold when it’s chilly out (I have Raynaud’s phenomenon – just putting it out there) so socks are my friend all winter. And I didn’t feel like ordering those toe socks to wear with the VFFs… so I wore them in the house a couple times but that was it.
Now it’s delightfully warm and I’ve worn my VFFs several times around our house/yard/neighborhood, and also when running errands on the weekends sometimes. I love them! It’s crazy the way you can feel everything beneath your feet in a way you don’t even get with low-support “ballet slipper” type shoes or converse sneakers or anything. And one time when I was going for a walk I even got a little plant stuck between my toes. How often does that happen in shoes? hehe. I am more conscious of my ankle alignment and I’m pretty sure my ankles and calves have gotten a bit stronger since I made the conscious switch to low-support shoes (probably last August or so?).
Now I just have to work up the courage to wear them to more places.
But who couldn’t love a shoe that leaves footprints like this?