As you can imagine it has been a great weekend for gardening and this also being a holiday weekend I get one more day off tomorrow for more gardening. I wait and wait for so long and then a few nice days come and I want to be outside and do everything but everything can’t be done at once so it gets done bit by bit.
Yesterday I attended my first ever gardening class. It was two hours and focused on edible landscaping. The person who taught the class runs a business in the Twin Cities designing and installing edible landscapes. I was very excited about the class. I don’t feel like I understand the principles of design on a large scale, I totally understand the height and color and texture mixing in a single bed, but I was hoping for tips and ideas on yard-sized design like how to decide on where to put paths and beds and how big to make them and what shape and then how to do that big picture so when I step out on my deck and look over my backyard I see a pleasing arrangement instead of “oh we need a new bed I guess we’ll put it here” willy-nilly creation. Though I admit there is something to be said for the organic development and continual evolution of that sort of gardening, I wanted answers so I wouldn’t find myself wishing I had put that shrub over there instead of over here kind of thing.
That is not what the class was about. What I learned for my $20 was that I already know a lot more about gardening in all its aspects than I give myself credit for. I walked out of the class thinking, gee, I could have been the one up there teaching it. It was an amazing boost of confidence.
When class began I was really excited because the instructor had four books on the table about edible landscaping and I had read every single one of them. Let’s talk about these books and what’s in them! Let’s talk about permaculture! Let’s talk about sustainability! Those things were just barely touched on. We did talk a bit about soil and how important it is to always be working to make it better. She recommended a book called Teaming with Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and noted that if you spend more energy improving soil you spend less energy growing plants. I have a request in at the library for the book and am enough of a garden geek to be looking forward to reading it.
The instructor talked about observing your area and making notes about dry and wet and sun and shade, etc. Talked aboutmaking a wish list and then researching and selecting plants. And she reminded us to consider the vertical: obelisks, trellises, arbors. She mentioned some of her favorite plants to use including glow-in-the-dark peppers, okra, and artichoke as well as edible flowers. She discouraged us from growing apples and blueberries because they are so hard. I am growing both and have great success with apples and no chemicals used ever, and blueberries, well, we’ll find out this year whether I have managed to keep the soil acidic enough to get fruit (I just bought a soil ph tester!). I did learn that if I don’t manage to make my blueberries happy, honeyberries taste a lot like blueberries and don’t require an acid soil. I am, however, determined to have success with blueberries even more so now since she was so discouraging about them.
And that was it. I didn’t take many notes because I already knew the stuff she was talking about. She showed us slides of some beautiful edible gardens around the cities but didn’t talk about how they were created. So I left disappointed because I didn’t get the class that I wanted, which wasn’t actually a realistic expectation anyway. But I was also happy because, gosh darn it, I sure do know a lot about gardening!Today I actually got to put some of that knowledge to work. Well, sort of. We finished building our raised polyculture bed. It is 4 x 8 feet (1.2 x 2.5m), took 18 cinder blocks, ten 40lb (18kg) bags of topsoil and ten 40lb bags of compost to fill it up. It took another four bags of topsoil to fill the holes in the blocks full enough for planting in. We’ve not planted anything in the bed yet, it was enough to just get it ready today. Tomorrow is sowing day for the new bed as well as other parts of the garden.
Finally, I have come to the conclusion that I stink as a worm wrangler but I do excel as worm brothel madame. Pushing the old bedding to one side of the bin and putting new bedding in the other with fresh food and damp does not compel the worms to relocate like a worm composting website I read suggested. For the last two weeks I’ve been scooping out handfuls of compost and sorting through it for worms, putting the worms back in the bin on the new bedding side and the compost in a separate bin. It is slow, tedious work and I get worms in every handful some of them such tiny babies that they are hard to see. Before I resort to dumping the bin out onto a tarp, I will do more research to try and discover if there is a simpler, less work intensive method of separating the worms from the finished compost. Wish me luck!