First Thoughts: The Garden of ’09

Homeowners are encouraged to test their soils ...
Image via Wikipedia

The potatoes of August are still firm and unsprouted in the 10 x 10 space directly underneath my feet. It is a space that was a very crude dirt-floored cellar not but four feet high when we first saw the place. With a concrete floor and a ceiling a few inches lower than my height, it now serves as our root cellar.

We’ve had no mold, no rodents, no rot so far on the potatoes stored down there in a plastic crate and that is good to know. I was thinking to grow more turnips for this purpose next year, but just read that brassicas (like turnips) do not store well; here, beets were recommended instead.

This year, while we don’t have enough space in our Gulag Garden for many potatoes, we do have some level land that was our garden before. My thoughts at present are to plant what will produce a couple of hundred pounds of potatoes there, and here’s what I’m going to try for keeping the deer off of them.

I can use the t-posts I already have spaced along two lines 5-6? feet apart. Between them I’ll arch 16 foot lengths of 8 foot wide cattle panel after the plants come up. So we’ll have a “tunnel” wide and tall enough for the little bit you do to potatoes after they begin to grow.

The panels (which can be used for many years) can be removed for hilling up and grubbing weeds and when it’s time to dig the tubers for storage. If this works, there’s space for several of these growing tunnels side by side–and other variations for how to accomplish the same end: save the roots, prevent the deer damage.

Anyhow, the fact that gardening has come to mind is a sure sign of spring!

And for my money, our relationship to the soil should be very central to our thinking, including this year’s Earth Day focus. My proposed title for the event is “Floyd’s Future: Soil, Sun and Sustainability” and I’d like to see soil care (including composting), seed saving (including heirloom varieties) and seed swapping and solar applications (passive and active) at center stage.

The highest priority in crisis–financial, meteorologic, or otherwise–is to maintain body heat, when you get right down to it. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Keep those internal homeothermic engines idling. Then you and your community can tackle the next level of issues to survive and thrive.

Just set an alarm for early March when the soil thaws: get the soil in the new garden space tested.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Fred,
    A coupla’ weeks ago, I contacted the county Ag. agent in Floyd and told him we’d be there by the end of January. I told him that I’d like to get some info on veggie gardening in the area and he said he’s set me up with everything I need.
    I’m looking forward to getting past the last frost so I can start some container veggies going on the patio deck.