Well, the first few weeks of gardening here have been somewhat challenging- a learning experience, I suppose.  I am accustomed to planting into soil that has been worked by other hands before mine. Soil with organic matter and nutrients and the possibility of getting a shovel into it. At least a digging fork. Well, it took a little more work than that. But after hours of pick axes, a rented roto-tiller, and many, many pounds of organic compost and soil amendments, David and I thought that we had everything in shape. 

So, in the beds that David laid out we planted our first seeds. We are growing mostly salad greens, as they produce a fairly large quantity in a short span of time, and from them we could get the most from this piece of land. In went a variety of lettuce seeds, and lots of mustards to make the salad mix more interesting; mustards like red russian kale, arugula, tatsoi, and mizuna. Taking turns watering every day, we quickly got discouraged. Almost nothing came up! I have been farming and gardening for years and that has never happened to me. At first we couldn’t figure out what we had done and entertained all sorts of ideas of what had gone wrong- bad seeds, damaged in shipping, too sunny, not sunny enough? But slowly David and I started to put the pieces of this puzzle together.  
We remembered that when we started this garden a few weeks before, there hadn’t really been any signs of life at all. No weeds, even- just blackberries and a few tufts of Bermuda grass.  That was a flag to me at the beginning, though I hadn’t thought of it too much after we began working the soil. And then one day, after watering for nearly an hour, I stuck my hand into the dirt and realized that the soil just half an inch below the surface was still bone dry. It was a strange experience. The water wasn’t running off into the walkway that runs alongside the beds- so it was certainly going somewhere.  Later that evening, we deduced that given the compaction of the soil, any rain that had fallen on it in the past year (few years?) had simply run off its solid surface. As this is California in August, the last rain to have landed here was well over 6 months ago! In the end, it was a very simple matter of buying an overhead sprinkler and watering it for a couple of hours a day for a few consecutive days. I was slightly frustrated that such a simple conclusion took a few days to come to- but thats why I say that this is an experiment with a great learning curve. Never before have I started with land that no one had really been actively working. I’m learning a lot.
Anyway, what an amazing change the consistent overhead watering has made. Seeds that we had long given up on have sprouted, the soil feels healthier, is retaining moisture and looks dark and rich. Things are sprouting up everywhere and I’m trying to keep up with planting new things and thinking about a garden plan for the next month and a half when David is away on a long journey on his bicycle.

One response to “Sprouts!

  1. Well all that organic matter ought to really improve your water holding capacity, too. Good job! What is the texture of your soil? Sandy? Clayey? Have you had a soil test done?

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