Well, I can’t quite believe it but today is the first anniversary of my very first blog post on Root and Bud! On May 16, 2017 I made a post with a recipe for my copycat version of Sweet Kale Salad and the Root & Bud […]
This week marks the third weekly produce donation I’ve made from my wicking bed to Victoria’s Women’s Transition House. I was very pleased with the quality and the quantity of the produce today. In just three weeks so far this spring I’ve already donated over […]
Well, it’s been a bit of time since my last update about my wicking bed projects this year so I though I’d give a little early spring update on how things are growing.
If you remember from my last wicking bed post, I installed this first lovely bed at my friend’s house on March 7:
Well, here it is 5 weeks later:
Look at all those delicious looking greens! You are seeing a variety of mustard greens and baby salad greens, with a few green onions and pea shoots hiding in between. Her family will be able to start eating those baby greens any time now and for the next couple weeks.
As an interesting comparison, here is my Women’s Transition House wicking bed that was planted one week earlier:
My bed still has reasonable growth, but it’s been a bit slower. Why? Microclimates. My friend’s bed is tucked into a south-east facing protected side of her house. It doesn’t get a lot of wind and the house keeps the bed a little warmer. Hence, those little baby plants are nice and happy in their nursery bed and are growing steadily. My garden is a little more exposed and gets a lot of cool wind sweeping up the hill from the ocean.
Here’s a few other things I have found that are working well and not so well with my wicking bed experiments this year:
What’s working well?
I planted the same blends of mustards and mescluns in my own persoanl 4’x4′ garden bed (NOT one of these wicking beds) at the beginning of March. Everything germinated nicely, but I didn’t quite make it out quick enough with the beer traps and the slugs had an evening feast.
The wicking beds, on the other hand, have had ZERO SLUG DAMAGE. I think this is because they are raised well above ground and the slugs just can’t get to them. I’ll never say never, but so far so good! This is so exciting – slugs are usually my nemesis in the garden in this cool and wet early spring weather. I’m so relieved not to have to battle them in the wicking beds.
Good working height
Another thing I am really pleased with in the wicking beds is the working height. They are raised about a foot an a half off the ground and that makes them really comfortable for planting, peeking, and (soon) picking. There is no uncomfortable squatting or kneeling when working in these beds, which my back really thanks me for.
The watering needs have been minimal so far this spring, mostly thanks to mother nature. The first week or two after seeding I sprinkled the surface with the hose to keep the soil surface nice and damp for good germination. Since then we’ve had a nice combination of rain showers and sun and I haven’t needed to give my bed any supplemental water.
It’s so exciting to be able to get an early spring harvest from the garden. Of course perennial and overwintered plants such as kale, parsley, sorrel, arugula, and miner’s lettuce can bring an early harvest as well. These wicking beds, however, were newly built and seeded just last month and they are already almost ready to offer a first harvest. These mustard and mesclun blends are meant to be harvested about 45 days after planting and I think my harvests will meet that specification precisely.
What’s not working so well?
There’s a few minor aesthetic design changes I’ll make if/when I install more of these beds. I’ll be experimenting with different types of liners for the beds too. I’m also looking for someone to work with to construct the beds. While I love working with my hands, my passion is gardening, not construction. I think in the future I’d love to share this kind of project with someone who gains the same joy from working with wood as I do from working in the soil.
This worm composter post is based on an assignment I did recently for my Organic Master Gardener course. The course is all wrapped up now and I’m having fun putting everything I’ve learned into practice in my spring garden. I’ve been doing lots of mulching, […]
I’ve been hard at work putting the finishing touches on my wicking beds in preparation for spring planting. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen the wicking bed where I will be growing food to be donated entirely to Victoria Women’s Transition […]
So this morning I hosted everyone from my Organic Master Gardener class for our compost building workshop in my backyard. Everyone came with something in hand: straw, leaves, seaweed, kitchen scraps, pallets, effective micro-organisms, and glacial rock dust. We learned about how a good compost should start with high quality materials, be layered in brown and green, and be given enough food, water, and air to develop and healthy microbial ecosystem. I could write a whole blog post about this, but instead there are some other layers of emotion that I am compelled to unpack.
Compost is absolute gold in the garden. You cannot buy anything in a bag at a store that will be as valuable as a good home compost. And similarly, the following values are ones I am using to forge gold in my own life.
Whooo-eee, did I ever have to keep my own self-judgement in check today. First of all, for an introverted person such as me to invite twelve almost-strangers into my home was intimidating enough. But to invite them into my garden. That was even harder.
Would they judge my suburban two-kids-and-a-dog lifestyle? Would they judge my gardening skill? Design? Abilities? My weedy lawn? My ocean view (just how does a 30-something afford that anyway)? My drip irrigation (which I’ve now learned is a no-no)?
I am trying so hard to embrace an attitude of non-judgement towards others in my life, inspired by the priniciples of Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication (NVC). What I am realizing, though, is how hard it is to remove self-judgement from the equation. Nobody at all today overtly judged me, but internally I had to constantly keep myself in check.
We had a professional gardener onsite teaching us the workshop. I felt completely inadequate in terms of skills, knowledge, and experience. When I look out at my garden, 90% of what I see is everything I want to change. I see my mistakes, I see the weeds, and the empty areas begging for color. I see where I’d love to have a beautiful shed/greenhouse, big new garden beds full of edibles, and where I want to build my boys a big sandbox for playing diggers and dump trucks. But I know that others can’t see what I see in my mind, even though I wish they could.
Authentically Me is Enough
Questions running through my mind today: am I crunchy hippy enough? am I skilled enough? am I Enough?
But you know what? I may not be a professional gardener. I may not be as crunchy as most of Victoria (though my mainland friends would beg to differ). I may have two kids, a dog, and a suburban home. But damn, I’m living as authentically to my true self as I can figure out how to and that is Enough.
I love to garden and I’m committed to getting better at it: that’s why I’m taking this Organic Master Gardener course.
I love my family and the joy they bring me. Yes, I’m a 30-something stay-at-home-mom with two kids and a dog. I might be a stereotype now, but hey, it’s not a bad one to be.
I love my big ol’ suburban traditional middle-class home. It affords me space for my family and my garden to grow and flourish. It’s Enough.
Am I privileged? In many people’s eyes, yes. But everyone has their demons. Everyone is fighting their own battles. I seriously can’t believe I’m about to do this, but every good compost needs some high quality shit, and damn there is some high quality shit in the Bible:
1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.Matthew 7:1-2 NIV
About 10 years ago someone gave me some feedback that I have reflected on many times since. In a nutshell, they told me, “Shannon, you have so much potential, you just need to open yourself up more.” Oh yeah, “just” do it. SO EASY. Is my sarcasm coming across?
But, this is so key. I’m pouring my inner emotions out onto a public blog that (hopefully most of) my close family and friends, along with perfect strangers, will read. I opened my garden and my home to my class. I’m working to open my head and my heart, live without judgement of myself or others, and to be authentic to myself. And you know what? Since working to live more openly, I’ve seen the world transform from one of limited opportunity to one of boundless possibility. I’ve formed deeper friendships, had more ideas, and gleaned deeper meaning from life since becoming more open. I’ve created gold.
Like compost needs to be open to the air so that it doesn’t go anaerobic, I think our hearts need to stay open too lest they fester and rot.
So, after a post like this it may seem that my little Garden & Lifestyle blog is treading into the new-age, self-help category. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. The garden teaches you so much more than soil and plants. And isn’t THAT the point of this blog?
In my last post I mentioned that I was putting the finishing touches on my second announcement, and I’m very happy to be able to make that announcement today.
Here it is:
You may be looking at the above picture and thinking to yourself, “Uh-huh. Okay. It’s a cedar garden bed. Nothing too exciting about that.” Allow me to explain: this is not your ordinary garden bed that you plop on the ground and fill with soil. This is a specially designed self-watering wicking bed.
A wicking bed is designed with an internal water reservoir and a wicking medium that draws water up from the reservoir into the soil layer. Instead of watering the soil from the top, plants draw their water up from the bottom. This leads to much less frequent watering, as plants are take only what they need and less water is lost to evaporation at the top of the soil.
The water reservoir is filled via a pipe that leads into the lower resevoir:
In 2018 I will be installing these self-watering wicking beds in several family and friend’s homes and I will be planting some beautiful and delicious edible gardens in the beds. I want to see how much I am able to grow in this small space. I will be utilizing successive plantings, fast-growing crops, and a vertical trellis to maximize the harvest yield. I will be posting updates on this project here on the blog, so follow along in 2018 to see how I’m growing!
My third announcement for 2018 is coming up next and it is an extension of today’s announcement. I am very excited about it, as it’s a very special way for me to use my skills and passion to support a worthy cause in my community. There will even be a way for you to get involved!
It’s been a little quiet around this blog lately, I know. It’s not because nothing has been going on but rather because a lot has. Between a family vacation to Hawaii, a mobile baby and active preschooler, Christmas preparations, choral concert season, and a project […]