Tag Archives: how to garden in areas with alkaline soil

Heidi Mae’s Garden: Getting Started

If you’re new to gardening, it can be helpful to have a gardening buddy to help you know what to do, and what to expect.  Even if you’re a gardener from way back, it’s fun to compare notes about what works and what doesn’t.  So, here I am!  Your online gardening friend, Heidi Mae. (Mae isn’t part of my given name, but one given to me by one of the greenhouse owners, and it just stuck.)  I’m one of “the girls” who work up front at the cash registers at Mt Garfield Greenhouse.

happy and tired

 

I’ll share what’s happening in my garden in a sort of step-by-step way with pictures of what I’m doing this year.  My garden changes a bit from year to year, as I like to try new varieties of veggies and I like to rotate crops in my raised beds.

ready to amend

I live in the Whitewater area.  The soil here is NOT garden-friendly, so my fabulous husband constructed these beds, we lined them with plastic to keep the alkali from leaching up, and we filled them with 3-way mix from Mt Garfield Greenhouse.  Some of the beds are made from 6×6 lumber, some are plastic build-it-yourself kits from gardeners.com.  The wooden ones work the best–you’ll notice in some of the pictures that the plastic ones bow out–I don’t like that.  I also have an assortment of containers that expand my plantable space.

I garden organically, using companion plants to help with bug eradication, as well as hand picking some of the beasties and squishing them–eeewwwww.  More on that in a later post.  The pictures and happenings in this post took place April 25, 2013.  I keep a garden log to keep track of where I plant what and when I can expect to see germination.  I also record what varieties worked and which ones I should skip next year.  I start some veggies from seed and some from plants.

journal

seeds

Every year, I amend my soil.  3-way is a fabulous garden soil, but veggies rob nutrients from it each growing season that need to be replaced.  In the past I used a combo of Soil Pepe, Mesa Magic, and Earthworm Castings; the last few years I’ve been using Happy Frog Soil Conditioner.  I like that it’s organic and I like the boost it gives my plants.  I distribute it out among the beds and containers–a bit of  process because those bails of Happy Frog are heavy!  🙂

conditioner divided

Then I spade the amendment in (troweled in in the containers), and smooth the surfaces with a rake.  Then they’re ready to plant!

spade in conditioner

beds are ready

I planted my potatoes on the outside edge of one of the beds, a different one than they were in last year.  The outside edge because they’ll be growing for the whole season and they’re kinda out of my way there.  I dug a trench as deep as the garden and spaced the potatoes in it.  I’m lazy and leave them whole.  You can cut potato sets so that each section has an “eye” to create more potato plants.  If you chose to do that, be sure to let the cut edges dry overnight before planting so the raw edge won’t rot.  Anyway, then I just cover them up, pat the soil on top of them and mark the row.  Later, I’ll plant green beans next to them.  Beans and potatoes are companion plants–the potatoes keep bean beetles off the beans while the beans keep potato beetles off the potatoes.

planting potatoes

marking rows

I also planted snap peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions, cabbage, and beets directly into the garden.  These are considered cool season crops, pretty much unaffected by late spring frosts.  Each veggie was seeded/planted, marked and watered in.

cabbage

watering in

I have rhubarb, planted years ago, in a half wine barrel.  I scratch in a bit of amendment and time-release fertilizer each year, but otherwise leave it alone.

rhubarb

I lost a lot of strawberries over the winter, but those that had rooted in the gravel outside the garden as runners survived!  I dug those up and placed them in the container where the others had been, scratched in some soil conditioner and fertilizer and watered them in.

strawberries

Amending and planting just this much took the better part of my day.  I was sore (sooo out of gardening shape!), tired and happy.  There’s just something wonderfully satisfying about starting a new garden each year.  I can hardly wait for a fresh salad or a radish sandwich–an old Iowa favorite from my childhood.  🙂   The next post from Heidi Mae’s garden will be about the veggies I started in my unheated greenhouse.

3 Comments

Filed under amendments, General gardening, soil, Uncategorized