Farmer Andy Update: Organic Garden May 2012

Farmer Andy reporting in with news of our gardening results so far in 2012.

The raised-bed garden seems to be off to a good start this year. We are already eating regularly from the garden and have had enough harvest to share with neighbors. We have them believing that we actually know what we are doing – if you see them, don’t tell!

Our trellised pea vines are already 6 feet tall and we can barely eat them fast enough (I usually snack on them straight-off the vine when I’m out back working.) The swiss chard and collards can be harvested once or twice a week and those peas are coming every 2 days. There are also carrots, radishes, squash, tomato, cucumber, peppers, and salad greens coming in as well.

We’ve been surprised a few times by ‘volunteer’ tomatoes growing wild in the yard (go, heirloom seeds, go!) Some came in inside the beds from last year (no surprise there), but a bunch came up in the compost pile and two even grew in the front bed – we’ve never planted a tomato within 100 feet of that bed. Birds moving seeds is the only way we can explain that one. I started a second tomato bed along the side of the carport with these hardy plants and am giving the rest of them to neighbors.

We have had a few issues with bugs eating some of the leaves in the garden. All of our brussel sprouts were destroyed (that was painful to watch.) Since then I have been using neem oil on the leaves to control insects and that seems to be working well. This tree oil disrupts the leaf-eating bugs and a few other things without killing off all of the insects in the garden. I recently read about using wintergreen oil to attract beneficial insects to the garden (soak a cotton ball and place it in a small plastic container with holes in the lid) to help control the others. I might give it a try.

It won’t be long before the zucchini starts producing. We over-planted them last year and after a few weeks of regular harvests, they stopped producing. We are following the square-foot gardening approach this year to help manage our planting density and crop rotation. So far it has been much more manageable than last year’s garden. Plus, the trellises will keep the vining plants from crowding the garden and causing moisture problems like leaf mold.

A few weeks back I did some preliminary soil tests to see if a nutrient imbalance was causing some of the plants in the garden to get off to a slow start. We seemed to be very low in nitrogen, so I added some blood meal to the soil to perk it up followed by some fish-oil based organic liquid fertilizer. In another week or so, after the amendments have had a good chance to mix in with the soil, we will send out samples for a detailed analysis from the local agriculture department.

One of the nice benefits of having a food garden is being able to go ‘produce shopping‘ in the yard. We had friends over to dinner yesterday and cut some fresh lettuce and edible flowers from the garden for a salad. We cut some mint, lemon balm, and stevia leaves to make a delicious iced-tea to serve with the meal. And, we were even able to send our guests home with some fresh herbs.

That’s the news from the garden. Now Farmer Andy needs to go and turn the compost!

Andrew Seltz

Andrew was born in Michigan, raised there and in Tennessee, and has since lived outside Orlando, in Chicago, New York City, and now Birmingham, Alabama. He produces videos and websites for a living and is married to a beautiful, generous, loving woman who also happens to be a talented actress and writer - www.ellenseltz.com. They have two daughters.

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