Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Garden Commences...and Compost Tribulations

While I will try to integrate other subjects into the blog as I am able, since we are almost to Spring here in Portland you will be hearing a lot about gardening. I hope you find it interesting, because it is at the front of my thoughts and what I want to write about! My love/obsession for gardening has made Matt think I’m a bit of a nutter (possibly the correct conclusion to arrive at when you find your significant other lying on floor by the grow lights, telling her onion starts to “grow, little plantlings, grow!” But hey, this is the first year I’ve had garden possibilities of this caliber, so do I really need a disclaimer?)

I had the day off on Monday for Presidents’ Day, and the forces that be must have been looking kindly on me (which I already knew- Matt and I had already had two days of amazing weekend, but that’s another story) because the entire day was sunny and warm like you wouldn’t believe for February 16th! I already had planned to spend most of my day gardening, and as it was I found every excuse I could to work outside, and ended up spending 4 solid hours in the yard and garden- in a t-shirt. I even had to wear sunscreen! Naturally, it started raining at night, but what a jewel of a day!

Cherry blossoms (!!) outside my bedroom, looking toward the garden.

I had planned simply to plant a few more starts to go under the lights, which I did- Coreopsis, a beautiful tall yellow flower that was always in the garden back home, and some pansies (a long time favorite since the days when my parents tested seeds of new varieties for Organic Gardening Magazine. I was always put in charge of the flowers, and they always had gorgeous new hybrid pansies). This year I planted “Horned Viola Mix” from Johnny’s.

Planting the starts involved mixing another batch of planting mix in a Rubbermaid tub (meaning I got to play in a box of dirt): approximately equal parts peat moss and soil from the garden plot, and then as much good compost as I could find- unfortunately it’s in short supply. Because I failed to lay in a stock of dry leaves in the fall (everything I gathered went on the garden for mulch), I have no “browns” to mix in with the “greens” that are all the kitchen scraps from my apartment, Julie’s apartment, Matt’s apartment, and my office. I love that we are keeping so much food waste out of the garbage, but I really need more browns (dead leaves, straw, sawdust, etc.- carbonaceous things that mix in and help break down the nitrogen-packed kitchen waste). Well, now I have learned my lesson, and this fall, I will lay in a supply of leaves to last the duration. Currently, my compost bin is very wet, kind of stinky, and with hardly any good black compost at the bottom. For now, I am attempting to remedy the problem by adding shredded newspaper and any dry leaves I can find. Funny timing that this had been on my mind, as I got onto the Down to Earth blog this morning, and Rhonda has a series of posts going about enriching soil and making good compost- it’s a really good rundown on the process.

One garlic patch all tidied up (see the tulips invading?)

I spent the rest of my garden time generally cleaning up the yard and garden space- pulling out all the sticks and twigs that had fallen down during the winter, taking down the stakes and twine marking off the garlic beds (now that the garlic is six inches tall they are no longer necessary), tying up the clematis vine on the fence behind the garden and pulling out the dead vine, scouting out all kinds of sprouting bulbs, planting snap peas (Oregon Sugar Pod II from Nichols Garden Nursery), and raking all the sticks and winter debris out of the yard, and stirring the compost.

Everything looks neat and tidy now, and it felt good to get so much sun and so much done!

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