What’s Growing On

So right now I’m noticing a huge difference between my home plants in containers, and my raised bed plants at the community gardens. My home plants are just thriving. My herbs have really filled out the terracotta planter well, and my tomatoes are really taking off, especially my yellow pear. Unfortunately, the plants in my raised bed are really struggling. After three weeks they look the same as they did when I transplanted them.

Yellow Pear tomato, (marigold trying to sneak out of picture)

So, I fed them last week with an organic liquid fertilizer, (4-2-3), and I’ve still seen no difference. I used the same fertilizer at home too, and everything here is growing great. So, I’m going to blame the soil. Unlike my containers, I did not fill those beds. I don’t know where that soil came from, but I have been told by one woman who gardens there, the one who planned the garden site, that the soil is seriously depleted in nitrogen. Everything growing in the communal beds is also struggling. There is no compost on any of them, and I doubt anyone has been fertilizing. When I look at them I’m reminded of The Grapes of Wrath. I call them the dustbowl beds.

We have a compost area set up, and I was told someone is in charge of that, but it doesn’t look very promising to me. It is full of sod and weeds; no vegetable scraps, no egg shells, no coffee grounds. So, I’ve started bringing my compost from home to supplement it.

I have a lot of plans for salvaging my bed for next year, but I can’t afford to do those things on as large a scale as the three communal beds. I imagine other people have been implementing their own startegies, as a couple people have lush growing beds there. I’ve been thinking of talking to one of our local chicken farmers. I’ve heard that chicken manure is very high in nitrogen. Part of the problem is that I still have no communication with my fellow gardeners. There hasn’t been a meeting. Apparently there is an email list that I am part of, but I haven’t seen any emails, and I don’t know how to post to it. I’m trying to stay patient, but I’m getting frustrated by this.

Three buildings have been built on the site now, though. We have an office, and two storage sheds. Plus the gazebo has a roof on it, and we have two picnic tables. So, at least something is happening there. I am very excited to have the opportunity to garden there. I guess I just wish it seemed more like my fellow gardeners were equally excited.

Do any of you have suggestions for ways to amend depleted soil?

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2 thoughts on “What’s Growing On

  1. Hey Jenn, frustrating and discouraging for you I bet, the poor growth with your plants as well as wanting to connect with fellow gardeners but not seeming to be able to find a way to connect. Do you know Colleen very well? You could always pop her an email with any questions as she has been with this particular garden since it began and may be able to help you to connect and find out more about the gardens and what makes it all tick there.

    Do you know if you will be able to use this same bed next year? Is there a way to determine that? If so, you could put some $ into it and buy some sea soil to amend with. I’ve had a lot of good experiences with that… That and just keep on adding lots of rich, well-rotted compost, well-rotted manure, etc. You could try gathering some comfrey from around town and rot it down for a comfrey tea! It’s free and it’s a good way to put lots of minerals into the soil. In the end, there is no quick fix with nature though. It takes years to create truly fertile, dependable garden loam. Patience and time is one of the key ingredients with gardening I think. As far as adding stuff to your beds, don’t add anything that is still decomposing, as you probably know, the decomposition process actually robs the soil of nitrogen and your plants will really suffer. And chicken manure, if not fully rotted (at least 6 months old), will burn your plants. I did suspect the soil at that community garden plot may be poor quality (after having a look at it, it looks a lot like “crappy” soil from a commonly used source in the south end of town). Both of the orders we got from them were useless and this has been the experience with many other people I know. It’s terrible and nothing will grow in it. It’s like sand with wood chips thrown in. I’d never buy it again. The only soil source I’ve heard of lately with positive feedback is Cedar Valley.

    PS… Now I know why I’m not seeing your compost over here anymore 😉

    • I am planning on using sea soil for next year, and doing some layers of good compost interspersed with seaweed and comfrey leaves, if I can find them. Yes, I can have the same plot next year. It would be so frustrating otherwise. I’m planning on writing an email to the organizer today. I leave for vacation in exactly two weeks, (Yea!), but I still don’t know how to contact anyone about watering there for me. So far I’ve taken one batch of compost over there, and I’m feeling better about things there now, as I noticed yesterday someone else has dumped compost in, someone who drinks coffee. Yea! Things are looking up. 🙂

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