The beginning of another year's garden

It doesn't look like much now but my 2008 vegetable garden is officially underway. Eighteen bell pepper transplants are in (Red Beauty), as are 18 tomato plants (Roma, German Johnson, and Beefmaster). I picked these up at our local farmer's market, which is only about 2 miles from my house. I'd love to grow my own seedlings but I actually don't have a great spot to do that in the house - maybe a small greenhouse is in our future?

We picked up seedlings of the crazy tomato varieties I described in my first post but they're still pretty tiny and will likely need to be grown out a bit before planting. But that's ok. One thing I've noticed with tomatoes in our area is that even plants that are supposed to be indeterminate tend to wither and fade out by mid-to-late August. September and October are still prime growing months in our area of NC so if a few plants get in the ground a little later it may just mean an extended harvest - that works for me.

In addition to transplants we've also done some direct sowing of cucumbers (two varieties, but I can't remember the names), beans, and some peas. It's probably way too late for the peas to do much but that's ok. If they work out, great; if not, so be it. We'll learn something either way.

One of the most satisfying things about putting in this year's garden is seeing how much our soil has improved over the years. After four years of dumping as much organic material as we could get our hands on into the garden we're starting to see a terrific payoff. Our garden soil is dark and easily workable, it seems to hold water just right - it stays moist but is never soggy. The best thing we ever did for our garden soil was to put in about 4-5 cubic yards of composted horse manure. Wow, this stuff is really fantastic - and cheap!

Still to do in the garden is plant zucchini and basil and run soaker hoses up and down each row of plants. Once the hoses are in by the tomatoes I'll set a tomato cage around each plant. I use farmer's wire field fencing to make cages. I had a big roll of the stuff left over from a fencing project and decided it would be perfect for cages. I cut the bottom-most horizontal strand of wire off each cage and that leaves 6 or 7 vertical pieces of wire to serve as stakes to keep the cages anchored in heavy winds. The cages were cheap to make and are effective and durable - this will be our third season using them. Wire from the same field fencing also makes great stakes for holding soaker hoses in place. Using these stakes allows me to keep the hose right on the ground and right next to my plants.

One of my favorite things about gardening, and something I look forward to every season, is the daily ritual of coming home from work and checking on my plants. I check on everyone's progress and note who's thriving and who needs some attention. I usually don't see much change from day to day but over a season's worth of daily tending I've witnessed the growth of another year's garden.