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ALISON JENKINS: The beginner gardener has lost track of what's in the ground, but the plants are thriving

Tending to a growing garden is an ongoing but rewarding task.
Tending to a growing garden is an ongoing but rewarding task. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

My garden journey began when I started some seeds inside in March, hoping to make a meal from my efforts. 

So far, so good! 

With a couple of grow lights and salvaged materials from the barn and shed, I was pleased with my early success. I managed to harvest enough lettuce for several supper-sized salads just from my indoor beds. 

Then I decided to take it outside.

My property has been too shady to grow much of anything in the past, but post-tropical storm Dorian and some strategic chain-sawing has cleared a bigger patch of sky and my hope has taken root.

I had made an indoor set-up with two four-foot lengths of eavestrough and planted some leafy greens as well as some zucchini and buttercup squash. 

Everything sprouted! 

Ever hopeful, I made a rack of eavestroughs and 2x4s, again salvaged from the barn. 

Planning to plant some goodies from the Breadablane seed bank, I slapped together some plywood, trimmed from a home-improvement project, into a raised garden box around 24 inches high, four feet across and eight feet long.

Then, feeling ready, I headed down to the local garden shop – Island Pride Garden Co. in Hunter River.

Six buckets of compost and a bale of compressed soil later, I had filled half of the raised bed. 

Tucking in a divider, I refused to spend any more on soil until next year. 

I happily transplanted the lettuce, oriental greens, spinach and herbs from the indoor pots. 

The beginner gardener discovers a zucchini. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The beginner gardener discovers a zucchini. - Alison Jenkins/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

 

Two new strawberry plants were nested in one corner, and half the raised bed was left empty for seeds. It was not as much space as I had anticipated, but it was enough for this year’s experiment.

In the empty half of the bed, I installed my rack for the eavestrough beds, carried out my tender shoots and clicked them in place.

Within a week, though, I saw it wouldn’t work.

The soil in the eavestroughs dried out really fast. Nothing was thriving anymore, and I couldn’t keep up with the watering.  

After losing all of my hot peppers to a late frost (we never get frost way up here!), I was out checking on the survivors one hot day in June. I noticed the spinach was lost to drought, and just one Swiss chard sprout was hanging on.

In haste, and half angry at myself for not acting sooner, I scooped the plants out and plopped them into the empty half of the bed. I threw some water on top and hoped for the best.

They made it. 

Now, the mystery plants (I’ve lost track of what’s what) are growing large and leafy, sending tendrils out over the lawn.

Yellow flowers show the promise of some edibles.

They’re slowly taking over the bed, and to make room, I’ve been harvesting the plants in the way. 

So far, all the lettuce made its way to plates and bellies, and the oriental greens, which seem cabbage-y, were sent to the freezer. 

I also must share the coolest things I have on the go, garden-wise – Chilean potatoes.

The Breadalbane seed bank shared some potatoes brought back from South America.

There were around a dozen tiny potatoes, of all descriptions, red, purple, long, round, spotted.

I repurposed an old 50-gallon barrel cut in half from top to bottom and filled it with the last of the soil that was already at home.

The potatoes were popped in to one half of the barrel and are doing well – no potato bugs at all. I had hoped for some “new potatoes” mid-July, but no luck, as the spuds were tiny, only around the size of marbles. 

Stay tuned for another update and more potato news.

Alison Jenkins is a local journalism initiative reporter, a position funded by the federal government.

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