Both this weekend and last I’ve taken the steps I’ve been putting off to get my garden ready for the summer. Fortunately this year, unlike last, I did not have to rip up a good section of my yard to make room for plants – a spot was already cleared and ready for planting. With all things I take on, I try to approach it with combination of personal experimentation and by taking advantage of the valuable knowledge resources I have available to me. I also tend to
lack patience be very hands on, meaning that instead of beating around the bush, I’ll go straight to the source whenever possible. This is clearly illustrated by my preference of spearfishing to line fishing. Why would I sit around with a hook in the water and hope a fish swims by and bites it? I’ll just go kill the thing now.
When it comes to gardening, there is a seemingly endless amount of information available on websites, on blogs, in books at the library etc. But fortunately for me, I’ve got access to one of the foremost authorities on home gardening in the country, where I can get info straight from the
horse’s farmer’s mouth. A guy by the name of Jimmy Williams, and his 23 year old son Logan, sell organic seedlings every Saturday at my local farmer’s market. Jimmy runs a nursery called Hayground Organic Gardening, and has a reputation around Los Angeles as being “the guy” to see if you are planting a home garden. He also has a side business home gardening and harvesting for locavores that want the ultimate local food experience and are willing to shell out some cash for someone else to bring it to them. I’ll hold my comments about what I think of this phenomenon, but I will say that with all the money in Los Angeles, it’s amazing the ideas that smart and crafty people are able to turn into profitable businesses. Good for Jimmy and Logan. Jimmy is also the author of the book From Seed to Skillet.
So knowing that I’ve got the knowledge of two very seasoned seedsmen at my disposal, I figured I’d limit the amount of time I’d spend scouring the internet for the 1, 2, 3′s of starting a spring garden and hear what they had to say. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, ignorance has nothing to do with not knowing, and everything to do with not taking advantage when someone is willing to teach. To be reasonable, I do try and keep my questions to Jimmy and Logan to just a few each week as their space at the farmer’s market is hardly light on traffic.
Starting out there were a few things I wanted to get addressed:
1. I’m planting in the ground, have no idea my current soil quality, so what should I do to make sure my plants grow?
2. What can I plant now that will grow alright?
3. At this stage in the spring and growing cycle, how much water should I be giving the plants.
Not surprisingly, Jimmy had simple answers to each question.
For the soil quality, he insisted on laying down a high quality organic fertilizer. I asked about the stuff off the shelf at the hardware store or nursery, and he about fell back. Miracle Grow? No way. He emphasized getting a trusted source of organic fertilizer, “broadcasting” (spreading it thin) over the entire planting area, and putting the plants straight in the ground – no need to wait. He also suggested repeating this process about a month after the plants had been in the ground. Luckily Jimmy sells his own special blend.
As far as what to plant, his answer made more sense than any I could have anticipated – plant what you eat! I tend to find that in default dinner situations, I cook up a bunch of greens and a lean meat, so it’s important for me to have a variety of greens on hand. I also love tomatoes in the summer. He has countless heirloom varieties, most of which I’ve never even heard of, so I got a few. There were also a few things I bought out of curiosity, like a ghost pepper plant (One of the top 3 hottest peppers on earth. Come one now…not buying this would have been like declining when a friend says, “I’ve got a flame thrower and a bunch of dried up Christmas trees, wanna come by?) as well as blue potatoes and peanuts. I got a bunch of other things as well, but I’ll get into the success of those in later posts.
And how much water? Logan actually answered this for me. Not surprisingly, there was no single solution, but his general guideline was to test the soil with your finger. If it is still damp, you don’t need to water. If it feels dry, then get it wet! Again, all too simple and logical. Every yard/garden will differ based on the amount of airflow, direct sunlight, reflective heat from walls etc – so don’t stick to a “water once a day” or “every other day” philosophy. Humans are smart creatures that are able to think critically and analyze. Use your head (and finger) and water when your plants need it. This may be twice a week, or it may be twice a day.
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