Spring is always a little bit difficult for me. The garden doesn't
look like it will ever get started. That is because of the way I fertilize. Not because I
am organic because there are a lot of different ways to fertilize without using
synthetically produced chemicals. I know one farmer whose barn is set up with drains which
drain all the cow urine into a holding tank. He dips it out and side dresses his garden
plants with this rich, highly soluble fertilizer.
I am at the opposite end of the
spectrum, or have been for the past half dozen years or so. I spread lots of essentially
unsociable, low nutrient organic material on my garden the year before it is planted. The
best example of this is the hay mulch I am putting down now to smother weeds and hold in
moisture this year. The soil organisms will start turning that material into plant
nutrients this year and continue working on it next year. Since I am so close to the low
limits of fertility the plants sometimes suffer in the early spring when the soil
organisms have not gotten up to full force and activity.
This year I spread dried blood on the spinach patch to see if that would improve my
results with that crop. It did. We had the best spinach crop in many years. But the rest
of the garden has been fairly uncooperative this year.
I replanted corn, cucumbers and squash because of the cold soil. The seeds rotted
before they got warm enough to germinate. I replanted beans because the electric fence
charger broke. It was a race to see if the charger would be repaired before the beans got
high enough to attract the groundhog. I lost the race. I replanted a couple of eggplant
plants. Of the three varieties I'm trying this year, one appears to be particularly tasty
to flea beetles. I lost one tomato plant to cutworms. I always have back-up seedlings to
replace those lost to cutworms and these replantings were normal.
What is not normal is the number of cutworms in the rest of the garden. I have lost
onions, corn, potatoes, cucumbers and beans. Not enough to cause concern but it is
unusual. I think this is a first for onions and potatoes.
I have made many plantings of radishes and not eaten one single decent radish to date.
I should be sick of radishes by now. Flea beetles and something eating the roots have
frustrated me this year. I don't know if the moles have anything to do with it but I sure
do have moles. You literally can't push you hand into my garden soil without encountering
a mole tunnel. They don't eat vegetables and they seem to be missing the cut worms but
they may be making serious inroads into other soil organism populations like earthworms.
If anyone knows how to control these critters, please let me know. Windmills that vibrate
the ground don't work and I'm not about to pay $50 for an electronic sound emitter that
only claims to eliminate them for 100 square feet. The garden is 2,500 square feet and I'd
like them gone from the yard, too.
The two nasturtium plants Bill Spaulding started and brought by for me didn't last a
day. My fault. I put them out in the garden without hardening them off. Too much sun all
On a brighter note we started eating peas last week. The onions, garlic and potatoes
look great, knock on wood. There are tomatoes on a few plants and blossoms on the melon
vine that is mulched with black plastic. I think the rest of the garden will start looking
good soon. There is always a depressing week or two when I worry that the garden will be a
failure. If it is, it will be the first in twenty five years.
ŠJune 28, 1997
Mort is a husband and father. He authored a book, Gardening For
Independence and was named Environmentalist of the Year by Down East Magazine
in 1987. He is a consultant for organizations. You can eat his organic
produce at his son's southern
Maine restaurant. His address is 802 Bald Hill Road, Wells,
Mort retains all rights to his columns. Anyone interested in using them can get the
rights at a very reasonable rate.