June 2016 – It seemed like such a safe offer. “Sure I’ll help with your garden. I know everything you need to know about gardening. I was raised on a farm and worked for thirteen years for the Department of Agriculture.”
So friend goes and rents a 1600 square foot plot at a ‘community garden’ on Moodie Drive.
“Wow, are you going to grow corn in that corn field?” I ask.
“No” she says. “These are vegetable gardens and they will be organic, no chemicals.”
“So they didn’t use herbicides or chemical fertilizers to grow their corn?” I ask.
“Don’t know .” She replied.
“And that compost that some of the gardeners are using. Is that the stuff the city makes from all the treated plants and grass they collect from average homes?”
This plot is solid clay with no detectable life forms. It sets up like concrete when dry and sticks to everything when wet. Watering has to be done by hand carried from barrels. Talk about discouraging the newbie gardener. The old English gardens I remember had soil you could sink your hand in and everything grew…… but that was before the global warming. Today we had the first rain fall in over two weeks. This project may be an embarrassing disaster. Who knows how to grow under these conditions? “Watch the others and we may learn something from the natives.”
What do we know about growing anything? For starters, if we are growing in an open field, we should consider the composition of the soil and adjust accordingly. The correct composition of the soil will allow drainage so that average plants will not have their roots rot off and the soil will have enough capacity to retain water between waterings and allow water to migrate from wet to dry areas so that the entire composition of the soil will have equal water distribution. Water will be drawn to the root area as the plants consume it. Roots will also have oxygen which they need like any other living organism and the soil will be loose enough so that roots can grow easily and root crops can expand into the soil.
This ideal soil composition is equal parts of clay, humus (the black earth or rotted manure/compost) and sand (can be vermiculite, now known as Pearlite since some mines were discovered to have asbestos in their product – no longer on the market, but the new name seems to sell better).
Plant nutrients come from the rock/sand/clay and from the decomposed vegetable matter (manure/peat) that can be dissolved in the water, and from symbiotic cultures that attach themselves to the roots of the plants and assist with the capturing of nutrients for the plant.
You have seen plant foods which contain little or none of the nitrogen, phosphorus and/or potassium we know as fertilizer. These substances unite with bacteria in the soil to form a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that attaches to the roots and feeds the plant. It is what gardeners refer to as inoculating the soil.
Have to go tomorrow to visit another garden plot she has rented in Nepean.]]>