THE TEMPERATURES ARE crazy warm for us here on the Peninsula — as promised last week — the advice for worm castings and your soil is to have copious amounts of organic material, which retains much-needed moisture on days like today!
And talking about organic, your vegetable garden can be very diversified — and very rewarding — if done correctly.
Correctly done means being able to grow and harvest all year round. Correctly done means going organic.
Organically-grown produce is free from the poisonous chemicals, also the preservatives and colorings, often found in grocery store produce.
The veggies usually contain more vitamins, or greater concentrations of them, and they taste better.
Did you know that the vast majority of inorganic fertilizers use salt and/or urea as a base?
A typical 50-pound bag of vegetable (or any type) fertilizer usually has only 7- to 12-pounds of usable nutrient in it.
The rest is salt, urea, industrial-grade waste metal products and a host of things I won’t list for fear of outrage.
If month after month, year after year, salt keeps going down on your produce, what do you think the results will be on your beans, peas or carrots? Yep, that somewhat bland taste of mass-market vegetables.
An organic vegetable garden can also be less costly for you.
Instead of bags and bottles of chemicals, you use very cheap products like bone meal, wood ash, compost, leaf mold, blood meal, manure and lime.
Here on the stone quarry we call the North Olympic Peninsula (unless you are fortunate enough to be in one of the Fertile river valleys), mounted raised beds with at least
12 inches of good, black soil are the only way to go for a garden. Raised beds are simple to build (nail
12 inch cedar together or fill dirt between logs) and also provide numerous edges for beans, strawberries, melons, cucumbers or even peas to cascade over.
You need to know the pH level of the soil.
It will determine many things, including what crops go where.
Check with the experts at your local gardening center or nursery on how to do this.
Where do you put your vegetable garden? Easy — the sunniest spot possible.
The absolute ideal spot would slope slightly east, southeast or south. This maximizes the sunlight.
Southern slopes also warm up faster in spring and fall. The location should also be favorable to you, your movements, access to work, tools and hoses, and the in and out flow of compost.
Avoid any area next to shallow-rooted common nutrient-sucking trees and shrubs.
The size of the garden plot is a mathematical matter, based on the sum of the plant’s growth area, the amount of work you desire and the type of crops you want to produce.
It is not enough just to know that you placed high vegetables (corn, tomatoes, pole beans) at the north end of the garden, or that corn is planted in four or more row blocks.
Map out your plot. Figure those items you want, pencil them in but remember successive sowings. Space must be left for the garden to grow!
Every week you should be in the garden, putting down some new seed, onion set or tuber root.
Because of soil temperature, sunlight intensity and time of year, your garden should never be fully planted. A true vegetable garden ebbs and flows with new rows of radishes, salad greens, beans, peas, carrots, onions and corn, even late crops of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale and cabbage are perfect here on the Peninsula.
With the right crops, there is never a bad time on the Peninsula to start a garden or expand your old vegetable plot.
And please, stay well all!
Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).