Community Garden Update: 1 June 2023

It’s been a couple months since the last update, so let me catch you up on how we’re doing so far this season.

Soil

On April 1st I did a jar test and a very informal pH test (I mixed our soil with some water and used my digital probe; not the most accurate method).

The soil structure came out as a sandy loam (around 75% sand, 20% silt, and 5% clay). I feel like that tracks considering we’re in the Danube river valley. The soil pH came out at an 8.0 which was a little bit unexpected. I had the sense that there was little organic matter in the soil, and by extension little carbonic acid, but I didn’t imagine the soil to be anything but neutral, especially because our pepper plant last year thrived.

We started using a bokashi food digester at home which means we’re now producing bokashi tea from our food scraps, and for the last three weeks or so I’ve been using that as a soil drench. The plants are definitely responding positively, and the additional lactic acid is certainly lowering the soil pH. I also created a batch of LAB serum but instead of using this as a soil drench or for foliar innoculation I will probably be using it to make more “bokashi bran” so I don’t have to buy another sack of the stuff.

Direct Sow

From what we planted in March, we’ve seen growth from the carrots, one section of beets, and the arugula. Not lettuce, and nothing that we sowed into our containers germinated.

On April 7th I sowed alternating sections of purple and white onion with sixteen plants in each section. I haven’t made a count, but each of those sections has seen onion seeds germinate and those individuals are appearing to do quite well (even where they were stepped on by a well meaning auntie 👺).

On April 23rd I sowed four sections of corn and two of sunflower. Among the corn, after they had grown to a height of about 15cm, I sowed white beans, and around the sunflowers I sowed the cathedral bells. The lower leaves of the sunflowers are now so broad that I’m not certain the cathedral bells will get enough light to grow properly. I definitely expected the sunflowers to get some height before putting out leaves of any significant size. The corn and beans, on the other hand, are cooperating very nicely so far.

Unfortunately I did not record the date, but I think that same weekend I also sowed four squash seeds. Only one variety (“early butternut”) has germinated so far, whereas there is as yet no sign of the two albatök.

Unless I decide to replace any of the sections in our parcel this marks the end of our direct sow for a while.

Transplants

I’ve been growing chili peppers and cucumber plants indoors since about February, and finally took time to plant them out during the first week of April. All of those transplants have survived so far. The cucumbers have required attentive pruning, since they’re determined to flower. I think they have now accepted their fate and are putting more energy into growing leaves and vining, and there are supports next to each plant ready for them to climb on.

We have been gifted an insane number of plants so far this season; tarragon, lemongrass, violets, a royal poinciana and even pomegranate seedlings. We’ve only lost a couple of the tarragon transplants that didn’t manage to take root.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a basil at Aldi and chopped all the stems at ground level, leaving them in water to root. Today, I planted 24 basil plants at various locations on our parcel; in empty spaces in the containers, near the cucumbers, between the peppers, at the front of the parcel around our gift plants, and between my imaginary sweet peppers and tomatoes.

Those peppers and tomatoes are not entirely imaginary. I tried soil blocking back in April and germinated fuck all except for one basil and a solitary tomato plant. A couple weeks ago I started over with just a 2-3cm layer of potting mix in my prop bin and placing my seeds gently on top and can currently report a 99% success rate. I’m eager for those seedlings to get big enough to be planted out, and that will more or less mark the end of our planting for the season.

Yields

We had a chance to make our first harvest of the season about a week ago, bringing home 213 grams of arugula. It made for some nice salads and pasta dishes. I’ve actually done a second harvest since then because the plants seemed determined to go to seed, cutting 119 grams of stemmy arugula that hopefully my wife processes as some kind of pesto before it goes bad in the refrigerator.