My Vegetable Garden Soil Preparation

raised-beds

I love raised bed vegetable gardening. Raised beds have many benefits. If properly (and minimally) taken care of, there are few weeds, nutrients and water can be conserved, and growing organically is easier. In addition, a raised bed can be put on most surfaces, and since soils must be added, you have the ability to mix and develop your own soil which will suit your needs.

I read a lot about soil and experimented with soil mixtures for decades until I read the, All New Square Foot Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More Food in Less Space (2nd edition) book by Mel Bartholomew. Now, square foot gardening techniques are fine for people who grow what they eat and don’t preserve a large number of vegetables, but I don’t use the technique as it is written by Bartholomew. I do use use his soil mixture, however.

Mel’s soil mixture is a little expensive to initially make (or buy pre-made), but it is easy to make, good for most plants, and my plants seem to love it. There are only three ingredients: compost, medium-grained vermiculite, and peat moss. Even easier: When you mix the first batch of the soil mixture, you use equal amounts of each ingredient. How simple is that?

I also use Mel’s suggestion of making the beds no wider than you can reach without having to step inside them. If you don’t step in them and compact the soil, you promote a light, airy soil which needs little work in the future. My beds are never more than 4 feet across. You just plant your plants, and when they are exhausted, you pull them up, add compost, and replant the garden. As you can see by the photo, the plants love it!

Mel Bartholomew’s techniques really work. I suggest that you read his newest book which was published after he perfected some of his techniques further than what was in the first book. Use some or all of his ideas, and I think you might be surprised at how much nicer your garden might be. My garden is a hybrid design between Mel’s ideas and the ideas of a couple of other gardeners… more on that at a later date! Happy Gardening!

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Go Bananas Go, Go Bananas

bananas

I heard Harry Conick, Jr., today, say that he learned that humans share more than half their DNA with bananas. My first thought was, “No wonder America is going bananas since the election!” My second thought was a memory trip back to Molokai’i, one of my favorite vacation spots in the world.

Molokai’i is one of the Hawaiian islands. What I like about it is that it is the least commercial of all of the islands. It doesn’t even have a McDonalds or other chain-style of store or restaurant. It has gorgeous beaches with virtually no one on them, on most days. It isn’t a big tourist spot, and when I want a truly relaxing, inspirational vacation, it is my destination of choice.

The people who live on Molokai’i are as friendly, if not more friendly, than small town folks from Indiana. They have a love for life, and a strong connection with tradition and real Hawaiian life. The island also has some really beautiful gardens with crops only available in places with no winter, like bananas.

One day while on Molokai’i, we stopped at a post office to “post-a-nut.” They have dried coconuts available for visitors to draw or write on with colored markers. After drawing on them, you address them and mail them as if you are mailing someone a postcard. It was a fun experience.

As we were leaving the post office, the post master showed us a huge bunch of freshly picked bananas at the door. One of the neighbors had brought the bananas from her garden, and he wanted us to take them with us. Since it was just the two of us, we only took a couple of the bananas with us. Later that day, however, I regretted not accepting the rest of the bananas, because they were the best tasting fruits I had ever eaten.

I learned that the bananas we get in Indiana are picked green and never really develop full flavor. Fresh from the garden bananas, however, are absolutely delicious. If I ever move to Hawaii, remind me to plant a banana tree in my garden. If you have the chance to go to Molokai’i, try some of the fresh food grown on the island, and go bananas over the flavors. Aloha, my friends!