The title says it all. Or, at least, quite a bit.
Since moving into our lovely lovely home, I’ve had to work a bit to change my mindset on my living space. In the past, it’s been apartments or stepping stones–you move in, you think “I better get this shit up on the walls and enjoy it before I move out in 6 (8, 11, 12, 20) months.” And, significantly, you often don’t have any of your own dirt.
Dirt in the ground, I mean. Containers be damned. I kill things in containers.
We moved in November and have a smattering of things up on the walls. Every few weekends Jesse will get a burst of ambition and hang things or reconnoiter the office (or the closet, or the garage–bless him). Every few weekends I’ll get a burst of inspiration–or is it indignation?–and say EFF IT and paint the living room purple (“plum swirl”, actually) or the half bath a crazy mango and Caribbean blue. Or start a garden.
Woah there. Like I said, I’ve never had my own dirt. Like, in the ground. I remember the MULCH garden back at Mac, where I never helped out or had time or interest in learning anything from my green-thumbed neighbors. I succumbed to my (false) perception of futility of growing things in Minnesota. Whatever. I’d like to think I’d have changed and would be doing the same thing if we’d stayed in Minneapolis, despite the relatively infinitesimal growing season.
That said, the Northwest has its own set of challenges too. We had sun and 50 degree weather a week and a half ago–couldn’t imagine another frost–and on Tuesday it snowed a few inches. It’s been raining for the last couple days, and turning over our clay soil while it’s this wet would make for a raised bed full of bricks. I learned this stuff from the good people at Portland Nursery on Division, who don’t care that I know nothing and was in fact a garden cynic a few years ago. I did my own research, too, and picked up Square Foot Gardening and Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades at the Powell’s Books for Home and Garden store on Hawthorne.
The Portland Nursery people seemed pleased that I’d picked those two to be my main guides after a brief and caffeinated Internet search for help. I like these books–if you can get past both authors’ “my way is better than any other way and let me tell you why a million times before I tell you how to fucking do it” tones, you actually will encounter a wealth of valuable instruction. I’m relying on it.
Well. So far, I’ve:
- pulled back the leaf cover over the raised beds we have against our south-facing fence in the back yard
- transplanted a giant fern because I own this place and put my ferns wherever I damn well please
- lay down 1 bale of Black Forest Soil Amending Compost to help break up the clay and improve the soil’s nutrients
- bought and assembled a compost bin (that Enviro World guy–perfect for our smaller space, my lack of motivation for turning the pile, and because we don’t need 15 cubic feet of amazing compost every 2 weeks)
- bought seeds and started planning my little square foot plots (I plan on picking up tomato, pepper, and lavender plants at the OC Farmer’s Market when it comes time)
To do, still:
- lay another bale of compost when the rain lets up enough for me to go outside without melting
- turn the compost under when it’s been dry enough
- pick up large garden labels and nylon cord or string to keep myself honest about how big a square foot really is
- …and, according to the Almanac‘s projected date of last frost, start planting in about a week!
Apparently, keeping soil healthy is a year-round task. We’re jumping into the cycle now, but not entirely from scratch–it’s clear that the previous owners cared about their dirt, at least a bit. The Portland Nursery info chick started waxing poetic about overwinter crops and I went cross-eyed. One step at a damn time. I’m under no illusions that I’m, like, a new hipster homesteader or anything.
But I do have some bitchin’ Carhartt overalls in my dresser.