Our vegetable garden has come a long way since it started as a wee basket of mixed herbs slowly browning and wilting on our apartment balcony a few years ago. My commitment to eating organic as much as we can, my husband's passion for gardening and the kids' fascination with all things growing and green have prompted us to devote an entire corner of our backyard to our crops.
This year we're growing three kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, cucumbers, carrots, strawberies and a variety of lettuces and herbs in our garden and we're so proud of how well it's doing.
It's taken us a few years to figure out and perfect our farming technique. We've tried a lot of different vegetables that haven't worked out for one reason or another - the squash grew way too big and took over the garden; the grapes had an unfortunate run-in with the weed trimmer; the eggplants were scrawny and pathetic. And we learned, after one summer's feeble growth despite constant attention, that the soil in our garden is planted in consists of a single very thin layer barely covering the solid clay beneath. Nothing grows in clay.
This year our garden is growing much better. We built up a stone retaining wall and filled the raised bed with rich organic soil. We're only growing those veggies that have done well in the past and that we'll eat every day. But the real secret to our garden's success?
That's right, dirt.
We make our own dirt, actually - we're just that fancy.
The composter is my husband's pet project. He built it himself and installed it in the back corner of our garden. He spent weeks researching the rules of composting, what kitchen scraps could go in and what couldn't and how to get the right mixture of carbon and nitrogen to create the most nutrient-rich earth. It was his project, really - I found the composter to be a bit of an eyesore, and having to sort our waste into yet another receptacle under the sink annoying and redundant.
I've changed my mind, though. A couple of trees and shrubs planted in front have hidden the box completely. Since last summer we've been determinedly collecting and layering dry leaves and garden clippings with banana and orange peels, eggshells, coffee grounds and the ends of lettuce heads. And the soil we pulled out to put in our vegetable garden this spring was the blackest, richest soil I've ever seen.
And that's the secret of our gardening success: dirt.
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