Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Radishes: instant gratification!

I've grown radishes so many times, all the way back to when I was just a kid  squatting in my mom's garden and plunking seeds into holes, yet they will never cease to amaze me.    I gathered my first handful of radishes from our garden here today, and was filled with the same sense of excitement and awe I felt the very first time I ever harvested something.  I had to run around with the bouquet of brilliantly colored roots, a wild grin on my face, showing everyone the bounty.  They really are a gardener's instant gratification, easy and quick to grow,  beautiful to harvest, and deliciously crunchy and simple to eat right away sprinkled with salt.  

The soil here is heavy clay, great for our building projects, not so great for gardens,
so there are various ways we have been experimenting with building our soil and creating garden beds.  Today with the help of some volunteers, including our first traveling visitors(all the way from England and Ireland!), and our 9-year old neighbor (probably our biggest fan), we dug a couple of swales and built up two new garden beds in the back yard, using a method from  Toby Hemenway's book Gaia's Garden.   After using picks and shovels to break up the clay, we built up the following layers, wetting them thoroughly in the process:  
1) nitrogen, in the form of grass clippings a volunteer kindly clipped from the most lush place in our yard where the grass grows tall; 2) a layer of cardboard to suppress any grass seeds/weeds from growing through; 3) another layer of nitrogen, this time in the form of local horse manure; 4) flakes of straw laid out to be about 3-4 inches thick though double that would have been great had we had more straw; and lastly 5) a few inches of finished compost, that if deep

enough, makes it possible to go 
right ahead with planting while all the layers underneath decompose slowly overtime as roots and microorganisms make their way through.  We are wondering how root crops like beets and
 carrots will like this method. 

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