Friday, July 25, 2008

Fall Crops

According to our local county extension office, it's time to plant most fall crops. We dug a new bed and planted broccoli, chard and radishes. We'll need to dig another bed for root vegetables, lettuce, spinach, etc. Unfortunately we're running out of space AND good soil in our backyard. The fluffy bd we double-dug for the broccoli has settled into rock hard adobe, and we're not sure any seeds will be able to fight their way to the surface. There's only one more spot where we can squeeze in a new bed, but it might make it too hard to walk around the yard.

In both these spots, the soil is so bad that we might not be able to grow any food in them this year. Instead, we could plant a tough cover crop that would help to break up the soil with its root system and that, when cut and turned under, would add nutrients and organic material back into the soil. That might make the soil more habitable next season.

Since it seems we're able to cultivate all the available space in the back yard, we will need to improve our container gardening techniques. Nothing that we planted in a container really thrived this season, with the exception of the cosmos and the zinnias. All of the food we tried to grow ended up stunted, pest-ridden, or washed out. I suspect it's a combination of the fact that the soil dries out more quickly and that the nutrient supply is more limited. Now that we have a worm bin, perhaps some compost tea would help potted veggies thrive.


Anonymous said...

Hey Libby,

Have you looked into no till gardening? I don't know much about it, but my understanding is that it is much better for the soil and the environment in the long run. I don't think it would let you use you're adobe soil right away, but it might help you attain and preserve good quality soil.

I know Lisa Depiano, from Valley Free Radio, knows lots about it and how it can be implemented on small scale. It was also a cover story for a recent Scientific American, though the bits I read there were all about large scale mechanized no till farming, so you might not be able to apply any of it to your garden plots.

Also, broccoli, radishes and chard are some of my favorites!


Libby said...

Hey Ben!

Thanks for chiming in here--you bring up a good point. I'm actually much more a fan of the "no-till" method, and that's more or less what we've been using thus far. We just break up the soil, mix in some organic matter, and plant. The double-dig thing was an experiment, but now that you mention it perhaps the "no-till vs double-dig" debate deserves its own post!