Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Gardening Urge

This is the time of year when my thumbs get an itching to be green, but I have to make them wait because the wind is still blowing 25 miles per hour and the nights are still 38 degrees in Idaho. I can plant spinach, lettuce, peas and potatoes now, but what I really want to plant are squash and tomatoes. And flowers, lots and lots of flowers! Unfortunately, there aren’t really any flowers that can hack 38 degrees besides pansies, which I do have in flower boxes by my porch. What I really want are those giant zinnias and morning glory, sweet peas and nasturtiums. I did get some lovely tomato plants yesterday, but I’m trying to decide if I risk planting them in the ground yet, or if I want to keep them in containers all summer, which is risking that I’ll let the pot dry out. Hmmm…
As you can probably guess, growing a traditional garden in what qualifies as a desert is all about water. I don’t think it’s possible to over water anything in Idaho. These people practically invented “flood irrigation”, which if you don’t know, is the practice of periodically flooding a field to soak it. It was the only way to grow anything here before they got the big, industrial sprinklers. Makes you wonder who in their right mind ever got the idea this would be a good place to farm. We grow more rocks here than anything. Every spring, you can see the poor farm hands “picking rock” out of the fields, some big enough to be called boulders. They put them in piles near the fields. After 50 years, some of the piles are pretty huge.
Luckily, in my little garden spot, most of the big rocks are out. I managed to find a little patch a soil that’s fairly deep, but I’ve decided there’s something not quite right about it. Raspberries, which are supposedly indestructible, won’t grow in my garden more than a year. If they make it through the summer, they don’t come back the following year. Maybe the soil is so alkaline it burns them to a crisp? A friend who lives nearby told me a trick to try, so I’m doing it this year. She said to dig a deep trench, fill it with potting soil, and then plant the new raspberries in the potting soil. I figure it’s one thing I haven’t tried, so I’m sacrificing two more plants this year. They were looking pretty good, but the dang wind gave them a good whipping yesterday. Hopefully, they’ll recover.
My son grew a pumpkin seed in preschool this year. It’s a beautiful little plant, complete with flower buds already. I’m thinking we should plant it in potting soil too, but when do I dare set it outside??? They say to be a gardener is to believe in tomorrow. I think maybe being a gardener in Idaho is some form of insanity!

1 comment:

  1. First...Start a compost pile, bin whatever. Start adding banana peels, whatever is left over from the kitchen excluding fats and protein. In the fall save some leaves...thats the "carbon". Layer vegetable matter, then leaves, then a little soil or manure. Stir ocassionally. You will have humus in a few weeks. Add to small garden plot and work into the soil. A quick fix this year..incorporate peat into the soil, with some manure (commercial or lama in your case). Have your soil tested at your Extension Office. Then you will know if it is alkaline. If it is, add sulphur. Don't waste your money on potting soil. It takes time to get the plot right but it will reward you for many years.. also, MULCH. Use cottonseed hulls, or if you want to get fancy, get Back To Earth compost. All found at your Big Box Stores. Good Luck!