FROM THE RIVER BANK…An Occasional Newsletter
By Kay Jennings
Topic: My Garden
Before I get to the important stuff (plants!), a quick update on the progress of Code: Tsunami, book 3 in my Port Stirling Mystery series. I expect to get feedback from my developmental editor by March 26, and I will begin revisions immediately. The cover design is in its final tweaking now, and it looks great. Unless my manuscript requires extensive rewriting, I hope to get it out to my team of beta readers in early April. Still on track for a late May publication, I hope.
So, what am I doing while I wait for my editor? It’s March, silly – I’m planning, prepping, and planting my vegetable garden. For those of you who are new – thanks for signing up! – I write and I garden. In normal times, I also travel, and hope like heck that kicks in soon. But for now, it’s all about the garden.
My vegetable garden covers over ¼ acre, and is divided by grass paths into four planting plots. It’s in full sun, and is located in the upper meadow of our five-acre property in Estacada, Oregon. Because I started it from scratch last year – our first year here after moving out of the city of Portland – I had to dig up the grassy meadow and add a truckload of organic compost.
Last year’s garden was a success beyond my wildest dreams, and told me that our soil is very, very good. I had overplanted, expecting failures, and ended up supplying friends and the Estacada Food Bank with lovely produce all summer. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the grass keeps coming back, and it’s a constant struggle to keep it away from my veggies. So, late last fall, I covered most of the planting area with cardboard, topped by another truckload of compost, and covered it with black tarps that I stapled down with large garden staples. I’m happy to report that as I began to remove the tarps this month, much of the grass is dead, the cardboard has decomposed, and I now have beautiful, loamy soil ready for planting. I’m a realist and understand that my war with the grass is not over, but I have won this freakin’ battle.
We’ve had an unusually chilly spring so far in western Oregon, with most days wet and the temperature not breaking much over 50 degrees. It should be inching closer to 60 by now, but it is what it is. However, my soil thermometer (a crucial tool) tells me that the ground temp is 48-50 degrees overall, and about 52 under the remaining tarps. Many cool-season crops can be sown directly once the soil temp is 40 degrees. So I’ve begun!
I drew up my new plan during the inside winter months, accommodating a crop rotation plan for the four plots. I will rotate on a four-year basis. The strategy behind rotation is to kill off any pests or diseases that like particular vegetables. Gardeners can get really anal about crop rotation (“You must follow Legumes with Brassicas!”), but I think life is too short to get too hung up on it, so I just go in a clockwise direction and hope for the best.
First to go in were Walla Walla onion starts. Peas were next, and Oregon Sugar Pod II seeds are my choice, year in and year out. By the way, I buy the majority of my seeds from Territorial Seed and Nichols Nursery – both Oregon companies – and some additional seeds from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. For the warm-weather crops like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, I buy plant starts from Territorial instead of seeds to give them a head start. Yes, I could start the seeds myself indoors, but see above “life is too short”.
Also in the ground as I write this are Spinach Winter Bloomsdale, Gondar Iceberg and Red Sails Lettuces. Going in this week are Watercress, Radishes, Romaine and Butterhead Lettuces, Arugula, and Seed Potatoes. And, because woman can’t live on vegetables alone, I will plant three packets of Sweet Peas this week as well.
Before this season is over, I will plant almost every vegetable you can think of that will thrive in Oregon, plus add to my herb garden and cutting flowers garden. I’m happy to answer your questions about gardening. Currently I write in the morning and garden in the afternoon, but that will flip when it starts getting hotter outside.
It’s a good life.