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Home Kitchen Garden

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I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

Links to planters at selected vendors:

Garden-Fountains.com

MasterGardening.com

 

 

Sprouts

Amazon.com is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.

 

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Using Compost in a Small Kitchen Garden

I once heard a master gardener decree that you should never add sand to your small kitchen garden to improve the quality of soil that is primarily clay; add only humus. I respectfully disagree. One of the finest kitchen gardens I ever saw was planted in a sandbox—my dad took over the sandbox when I and my brothers outgrew it… and it produced fine tomato crops year-after-year.

The argument against adding sand is that you can add humus instead, and humus improves the texture of soil while providing nutrition for plants. Humus, however, breaks down over time. In just one season, your clay-heavy garden soil can revert back to its original condition; you need to continue adding humus year-after-year to keep clay from re-expressing itself in your garden.

Sand for a Lazy Garden

Even if you’re not lazy, consider this: when a greens keeper at a golf course builds up a tee box or a green—or even a fairway—he or she lays down a mixture of sand, clay, and silt. The greens keeper is planting perennials (grass) and will not be able to add significant amounts of humus to the soil in ensuing years. The preferred soil mix drains quickly, but not too quickly, and it doesn’t compact easily (ensuring air-flow to roots). When I see a scoop of this stuff, I wish my whole yard was built on it.

Even when I add humus to my clay-heavy soil, at the end of the growing season, the soil is crusty and hard to penetrate with a shovel… if there were more sand in the soil, this would be far less of a problem. Here’s a link to a web site that discusses what should be in your soil, and at what percentages: Organic Vegetable Garden

But what about Compost?

OK, this is a discussion about using compost, but I’ve rambled on about soil composition. Please forgive me. Here’s how I use compost on my small kitchen garden:

Mulch

I don’t use compost as mulch. I mulch with lawn clippings throughout the growing season. Being lazy, I don’t mow often enough, so I dump a lot of grass seeds, plantain seeds, and dandelion seeds on my garden.

Off-season soil amendment

At season’s end, I cover the garden with all the leaves we rake off our lawn. The grass clippings and leaves reduce to a thin organic layer by spring.

Fertilizer

I don’t till my garden, I till my planting areas. So, for example, when I set in a new tomato, I dig a hole about two feet in diameter and 12 to 18 inches deep. That’s where the compost goes. I put a generous amount of compost into the tomato hole and add about as much loose soil. I mix the two together, filling the hole so it is only about four inches deep. Then I put the tomato’s root ball in the hole and cover it over with soil. The upshot is that each tomato plant gets its own bowl of compost-rich soil two feet in diameter and eight to twelve inches deep.

This is my approach for whatever I plant: dig a hole or a trench, lay in a generous heap of compost and mix it together with soil, then plant something on it.

Weeds?

Does my garden have a weed problem? Well… it’s weedy, but it’s not a problem, and it has nothing to do with my composting habits… it has to do with my laziness. When I mulch with lawn clippings, I heap them deep. In a particularly rainy year, I might put 18 inches of grass and weed clippings on the garden seven or eight times. In a dry season as this one was, I get only two or three such heepings.

In either case, if weeds do come up through the lawn-clipping-mulch one week, I bury them in more mulch the next week. By the end of the season, the only weeds in my mulched areas are rooted in mulch and they come out with a relatively gentle tug.

Weeds grow out of the holes where I plant desirable plants; this is unavoidable because the conditions that make my vegetables want to grow in those places make weeds happy as well. For a month or so, I keep the weeds down by pulling them when they’re small. Eventually, my enthusiasm flags and the weeds have their ways… but by then the vegetables are well-established, and the weeds don’t overshadow them. Despite the weeds, I’m very satisfied with the food-production. I pull bigger, more annoying weeds—especially if they look like they’re going to flower—but generally I let them go.

What’s right for your small kitchen garden?

Is there a right way to do compost? Sure. But the right way isn’t necessarily practical, and in a very limited space, you may not have many options. In upcoming entries, we’ll explore design and planting schemes for home kitchen gardens. Your garden’s design will help determine the best composting scheme for you.

 

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