PopPop Heath grew the very best watermelons in his lower Delaware sandy soil. He'd take me out to the garden pick a watermelon and then proceeded to cut open a big juicy watermelon and tell me that we were only going to eat the best part...the heart. So we did! Then he buried the rest. At their home, after a delicious dinner, PopPop would say he was going to "bury his garbage"...I now know that he was creating a compost pile...to him it was just a part of daily life...collect your kitchen waste and then bury it. I'm sure he amended his sandy soil with that very same compost. I think of him every time I "bury my garbage"...which somedays, living on a plant based diet...is quite often. I sometimes use compost trenches, sometimes I toss in a bin and just keep piling it in...hoping it's going to break down with the help of a few worms...and I have a worm farm in the garage. The worm farm has been working it's magic for about a year and I'm ready to sift the soil and remove as many of my red wigglers as possible. One sad fact here....we have no worms in this sandy soil. None!
I remember my first garden back in Maryland. We weren't even finished building our home and I hand turned the sod to plant a garden that was only tended every few days or once a week, depending on how often I was able to go out to the building site. Our ground in Maryland was a clay loam...more loam than clay, but we always had 6-8" of top soil. Always!
Coming to Texas was a completely different ballgame! Texas literally kicked my life long garden butt this year!
I had several factors stacked up against me.
- Sand...everywhere I look it's a sea of sand...but no beach! Some areas Sugar Sand...others a little loam.
- Shade...one important factor buying this place was there was no grass to cut (weeds...yes...grass...no..lots of shade)
- Heat + Sand=thirsty plants
- BUGS! OMGOSH I HAVE NEVER seen so many bugs. Fire Ants!!!!! Grasshoppers as big as my thumb...no joke!
Everything BUT veggies! I had corn for Hobbits! It all came up but then stopped growing. For the life of me I couldn't figure it out....I knew I needed compost...but there was only so much a girl could do in her first year.
After my test plots...the Hired Hand, made some phone calls and surprised me with a truck load....17 yards worth of beautiful mushroom compost! It was much lighter and had more organic material than the first load our friends brought...and boy was it hot! My favorite foot wear here are Yellow Box flip flops...oh they are so comfortable and I wear them everywhere. The mushroom compost would fall on my flip flop feet and boy was it hot hot hot! Then I have to use a brush and scrub, the bottoms of my feet every night before bed.
After my experiments and researching I decided on 6" of mushroom compost directly on top of the sand, newspaper on top of the mushroom compost and then mulch. However, my 6" of mushroom compost seem to be working very well and the only reason for the newspaper is for weed barrier and the mulch is for holding in moisture.
I also learned that I have to water often....and I mean daily! We don't get much rain here....at all! And unfortunately we don't have a water source on our property, however we do live in an area of abundant springs and it's possible that we could put in an artisan well for gardening.
I topped off my best producing tomatoes and rooted them to get new plants for fall.
All of my Fall brassicas are doing great in the mushroom compost....much better than the Spring.
Basically it's all been a learning experience. And I keep experimenting with different methods to find one that will work the best with all my challenges. Next I'll show you my Hugelkultur.