Feed the Garden
It's the first of June and the garden is in full swing! We are really starting to get a lot of produce from it, great variety. Tomatoes are so close (we actually had our first homegrown ones this morning - just two! A grape and a cherry which we shared) with green tomatoes all over the place and the plants already tall and staked!
We have zucchini and squash, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, parsnips and carrots, snow peas, beets and turnips and a lot more that we are bringing to the kitchen almost every night.
While these plants are providing us with great food, they are feeding themselves in the process. The nutrients and minerals are coming from the soil (and the sun) and making their way to the final product. All of this drains the soil so replenishing is a must.
We use a variety of methods to do this, and it's a fairly constant process though time between feedings really varies depending on the season. Right now, as we are in full swing of the most productive time of year it is more necessary than ever. During the winter we add compost and we turn the soil, but there isn't a lot of growth going on to take as much as we are putting in. The Spring crop takes some (the greens, lettuce, etc) but nothing draws from the soil more than what we grow all summer long.
This time of year we are feeding the garden weekly. We have compost going all year long. Scraps from the kitchen, leaves from the fall (our yard and bags from our neighbors), the plants we grow then take out from season to season. We have a couple composters and these materials break down into beautiful dark nutrient packed soil. We add it to the top of the soil around the plants in the beds and we also produce "compost tea". This is done by taking the compost, filling a bucket up about halfway with the mixture then filling the bucket with water. We let this steep for a day or two, drawing the nutrients into the water, then pouring it at the base of all the plants. While the solid compost we add moves its way into the soild more slowly, the liquid version moves in quickly.
We use both methods to try and always have plant-food ready for absorbtion as the plants are heading up and towards the sun and sending food our way!
We also use other organic fertilizers to bolster the compost. Bone meal and blood meal are by-products of meat production and can be found in nurseries and garden centers. These add minerals and other essential nutrients. We buy composted chicken manure as well - we find it at the hydroponics store near our home - they have a big selection of organic options.
All of this combined keeps the garden producing long into the season and the plants really healthy. If you expect the garden to feed you, you'll have to feed it!