I made a beautiful mistake and I am so glad that I did because I learned so much! When I was adding materials to my garden bed I didn’t pay enough attention to the carbon/nitrogen ratio, so now I am struggling to bring my bush beans back to their beautiful green color. Plants need nitrogen to grow and when they don’t get enough, their leaves can turn yellow. Nitrogen can be added in the form of green stuff like grass clippings, or urine, manure, blood etc. I am currently using an amendment derived from dead sea birds and I am slowly seeing my plants regain some color. I have been spoiled in the past with really great soil to begin with, so I don’t have experience building soil from scratch. I am fortunate to have this opportunity because it gives me an appreciation for the complexity of soil life. I am noticing that without the right balance, my garden is void of the variety of bugs that I used to see in my old garden and I don’t have mushrooms! My plants are also not as big as I think they should be at this time of year. I’ll keep trying and learning and let you all know what happens!
I never plant anything in rows, and have always had great success with polycultural gardening. My gardens look like a wild mess, but this way of gardening helps maintain a balance between the the “good” and the “bad” bugs and weeds. I planted lettuce, carrots, collards, alliums, turnips, parsnips, and a bunch of other stuff. The idea is that when the lettuce comes up first, I’ll harvest the whole plant which will make room for other plants to grow. Everything is planted close together, but not every plant has the same needs. For example, lettuce is shallow rooted and carrots have long roots so they don’t really compete for space. Also, the onions won’t be ready to go until later on in the season, so they won’t be needing the same space as plants that are coming up early this summer.
I am looking forward to another year of experimenting and learning more about polycultural gardening, and I am super extra excited this year because I created a raised keyhole garden bed based on a design that has been successful in dry parts of Africa and Texas. The basic idea is that most of the garden is composed of compost materials like wood, cardboard, weeds etc and has a wire mesh basket in the center for kitchen scraps which provide nutrients and moisture. For more information here is an interview with Deb Tolman who is an educator and teaches others how create these types of gardens: Interview with Deb Tolman) Here are photos of my garden and I’ll keep you updated on how it evolves.