Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a meeting at an Amish farm about gardening. The scheduled speaker did not show up to answer my millions of questions (didn't he know that I was going to be there??). So the group moved into more of a question/answer discussion mode. This worked out so well for me! I soaked in the info and varied processes of these experienced women and tried to write it all down so that I wouldn't forget it all the instant I stepped foot back into the chaos that I call 'home with four kids.'
One of things I figured out is that the white 'lime' type powder my farmer friend, Mrs. W., had me use was Aregonite and is used to add calcium to the soil and lower the acidity of the soil. I sewed this in with the seeds and not into the entire beds.
I will admit that one of the things which overwhelms me is the topic of soil composition or acidity. So far, I have no idea how to tell whether my soil is balanced with the minerals and nutrients that our veggies need or not. But from listening to these women, I am feeling better about looking at this as a learning process. Something is bound to grow, huh? I just hope that I can start to get a better feel for what it is that I need to add to the soil over time to improve it for improved food results (or lower bug results).
While all the women use some type of fertilizer (I will be using fish fertilizer - peeeeeuuuwww), some use compost and some do not. Some use the dead and dying leftovers from the garden and till them back into the bed to decompose while others use composted grass or leaves. All of them recommended that manure be let sit for at least a year before use (don't think I did this!) so that it will compost also. Epsom salts and kelp were also recommended to nourish the soil but I will stick to the guidance of Mrs. W for this season or until I know better what I need.
We discussed organic bug repellers (I've made a note to look up something called Bullseye) and beneficial attractors - a.k.a. "good smelly plants." I heard the word "Tansy" enough to know that I will be planting a ton of it to attract lady bugs (aphid eaters) and that I should plant a diverse selection of herbs for other good bugs. Marigolds will keep slugs away (although I don't know why they'd invite themselves to my garden in the first place?) and are edible as well.
I will be attempting to grow two heirloom (50 years or older) varieties this year - tomatoes and green beans. I know that they have better nutritional value and draw all their nutrients from the soil (rather that relying on plant food) but heard many times in the discussion that the soil must be very good for them to produce well. They will not look nice and pretty (like grocery store produce) but should taste wonderful, even if I don't get many this year. This weekend is when I'll get a moment to start the tomato seeds (inside) and sunflower seeds (another request from Jefferson).
I would like to say the Jefferson sat on the edge of his seat with excitement upon learning so much from this discussion. But at only 7 years old, and with the beautiful spring weather calling him, he only made it to lunchtime before running out to muck around with the baby pigs and the chickens and the Amish children, whom he couldn't understand. All in all, he would say he had a great time, but at the end of the day couldn't tell me why it's important that we feed our soil good things. *SIGH* Hopefully, he'll pick up the bug for gardening with me and will soon be painting his thumb as well? He's sure to learn something from his gardening unit eventually!
In the meantime, he and Reagan continued their science lesson this week by working on copywork for their gardening notebooks and making these cute garden dioramas. They always love the hands-on projects! Jefferson had wanted to use the veggies on stick as puppets but was pleased with his finished box instead. We still need to hang our butterflies from the top and glue soil on the bottom (it's been too wet to gather dirt). They did a good job reminding and helping me with watering the garden and helping me weed around the house as well.
We are on our way....getting greener every day! I've never been so anxious for the warmer weather to arrive!