Today, the garden was measured using cross country skis – way more fun than plodding through the snow with a measuring tape. Four-and-one-half skis wide by 16 skis tall equates to a garden that is approximately 2,665 square feet. It’s one long rectangle and for a visual, it would more than accommodate six school buses: three, in front of three.
I located each corner, pushing the snow around with my mittens to find where the tilled dirt met the grass. I’m fairly confident of the measurement and I’ll measure again when the snow melts. Using graph paper, I’ll measure the 27 feet by 97 feet area with the tiny squares representing each square foot. This method is very helpful for visualizing a garden, and more importantly, for measuring how much room vegetables require before they are planted. I’ll graph several garden plans before I arrive at the one I actually end up planting. It will take hours and the planning is necessary.
I didn’t do this last year. I threw all caution to the wind and it was one gigantic intertwined, weed-filled monstrosity that yielded way too much zucchini and squeezed out any chance for melons. The pumpkins did just fine except that I had to keep moving the “tentacles” back into the garden to avoid the lawnmower. All that effort and excitement waiting for melons, and what grew were strange, mushy orbs. They simply didn’t have enough room.
Next on the to-do list is obtaining soil samples. I thought winter would be a ‘’great” time to do this since I would definitely beat the spring rush in the Michigan State University soil testing lab. Well, one must get a shovel in the dirt in many spots in the garden to gather the samples, and yes, the ground really is frozen. Instead, I’ll visit the local MSU Extension office and buy the kit (msusoiltest.com) so I have it ready. It’s Michigan, maybe we’ll get an odd warm-up in a few weeks and I can do it then.
Understanding the condition of a garden’s soil – learning what type of fertilizer is needed and what nutrients already exist helps to ensure healthy, thriving plants. It’s a waste of time, energy, and money to plant a garden, only to watch it turn sickly. While there could be many reasons for dying plants, ruling out a soil issue is easy when testing has been done and the recommended fertilizer(s) have been properly applied.
Over the next week, I’ll determine the vegetables I cook with the most and want to grow myself, research the seeds, learn about starting seeds indoors, “companion planting” or what vegetables do well being planted near each other, and any other subjects to keep in mind while designing the garden.
I look forward to sharing all that I find. Until then, enjoy the sparkling snow!