I did everything right, I think, and nothing grew.
Remember this post? Well, take a look at that to-do list. I did it. I did it GOOD. I had to wait until the end of April to do it all, thanks to our record-breaking rains in March, but I did it. I planted my seeds according to Mel Bartholomew‘s directions after prepping my soil according to Steve Solomon and Portland Nursery‘s suggestions. May rains and I watered them in. It was cool, but according to my books, warm enough.
And nothing grew. Even the weeds haven’t been particularly enthusiastic.
I bought two tomato plants and two pepper plants at the Oregon City Farmer’s Market to ease the pain. They’ve begun to show flowers, but even they haven’t been particularly enthusiastic about being here. They haven’t grown much. And I’m seeing pictures from friends back in MN who have actual little green tomatoes popping on their similarly-early-varietal vines. What gives?
I have a few theories, but that’s just what they are–theories. I haven’t knowledge enough to definitively say YES, THIS was my PROBLEM, and NO, it WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN if I do x, y, and z. This is uncomfortable. I find myself in yet another face-off with uncertainty. Please, post in the comments if you have earthy wisdom to share.
In the meantime, here’s what I think. I think that I’ve only been in this house since November, when the trees were lean and it seemed like these raised beds would get sun. Well, the trees in my north neighbor’s yard are filling out and reaching over a little to shade my beds. My east neighbor’s trees are doing the same. And my own trees to the south of these beds are fattening up, too, leading to a mostly shady back yard. Oops. Seems like a no-brainer, but I didn’t see it back in December. The trees that were sparse in December will fill out and provide a canopy in June.
The tree-shade is one thing. How about the shrub-shade? The raised beds are dotted with large shrubs. Larger now that the weather’s warmed and the sun peeks out more frequently. Jesse insists, rightly of course, that we are the boss of them and can prune them down or take them out entirely. Removing them feels inherently wrong to me, somehow; they’re so mature and round, and I like round things. We’ve pruned and trimmed, but I wonder if their large roots are sucking up all the goodness I mixed into the existing soil. And they do cast shadows. And even if we did nix them, that would still leave the problem of the shady trees.
I’m not so sure about my seed-planting technique, either. The square-foot method of planting involved placing no more than 2 seeds in a spot; this seems to leave no margin for error. I trust Mel here, but have you ever seen a carrot seed? Tiny! The size of a comma on this page, maybe. I’m second-guessing.
And finally, drainage. These beds are made of cinder blocks and bricks that are mortared together. We’re talking minimal drainage. And since we’re on a south-sloping hill, any runoff from my north neighbor’s backyard collects in the beds and stays. Practically up until June, this soil has been cool and damp despite the warmer weather.
Hm. Perhaps this was not the best place to plant sun-loving veggies after all. Kale, you’re up.
This leaves me hunting for sun on our property. It seems most reliable, actually, in our south-facing and south-sloping front yard. In fact, it seems most reliable right off the front porch. I’m thinking rail planters. And a big giant pot of carrots. This isn’t quite scientific–instead of changing one variable and observing for a different outcome, I might CHANGE ALL THE VARIABLES and see what happens.
There’s something cheeky about the idea of having heirloom beet leaves, rather than impatiens and violas, peeking out over my suburban front porch rail.