Don’t be fooled by the snow. It really is spring and under that heap of white is some new soil which I’ve been working really hard on!
“Put yourself in this picture. It’s a beautiful day. There’s not a cloud in the sky. The temperature is in the middle 80’s. And there you are in your backyard picking loads of vegetables from your own small garden tucked away in the corner of your property — tomatoes, peas, onions, corn . . . you’ve grown them all. More than you’ve ever dreamed possible in a small space.” Duane Newcombe
That’s the mission of an IPS garden and because I want exactly that (and my parents achieved it in the 1970’s) I’m following Duane Newcombe’s advice to a “T”. Some friends have cautioned that maybe things have changed in the gardening world in the last thirty five years but I am determined and hope that just as the old saying proclaims, “some things never change.”
Newcombe used a car engine analogy in the Postage Stamp Gardening book to emphasize the importance of creating “super productive” soil in an IPS garden. “What you really want to do is install a Lincoln engine in a Volkswagen body.” So I worked hard this week, gathering nutrients and digging trenches, for a total rehab of the soil in my 8 x 8 patch of ground — which if all goes as planned, is soon to be a thriving vegetable garden.
Since I didn’t have an electric rototiller (the all in one multi-purpose gardening tool created by Garden Maid — the proud sponsor of the Postage Stamp Gardening Book), I opted for what Newcombe names the “General Hand Method.” As I sweated through the manual labor, digging one trench after the other, I was encouraged by his advice that if you take the time in the beginning to properly build your soil you will be rewarded with “some of the greatest vegetables you’ve ever seen.” I get it now. It’s the condition of the soil that will make or break my garden. And it’s the imaginary rows of lettuce, climbing peas and carrot tufts I see when I work the soil, removing rocks and layering nutrients.
Newcombe writes: “I don’t need to tell you that plants need to eat just like you do.” (Well, yes he does!) He says I need to add the proper nutrients to achieve a 1/3 original soil, 1/3 sand and 1/3 compost balance. And for a healthy IPS garden I need four organic components: vegetable compost or rotted manure and blood meal for nitrogen, bone meal for Phosphorus and wood ash for potassium. I guess that explains why I’ve never been able to grow a hearty and healthy garden. I trusted the earth had everything it needed. Since I didn’t start composting until yesterday, I’ll be substituting rotted manure until I have some fresh compost.
So all week I’ve been out in the front yard, digging trenches, mixing sand with compost and manure, breaking the earth apart to a consistency my plants will hopefully like. And I’ve been chided by curious neighbors, stopping by to wonder what the patch of dirt I’m working so hard on will look like in the near future. Neighbors playfully tease that they hope to soon enjoy the surplus of vegetables I’m promised, with fresh lettuce salads, garden peas and home grown carrots. To add some pressure, it’s been mentioned that the neighbors have noticed that I took out a perfectly good shrub. “To do what?, my curious neighbors wonder, as I shovel away in my front yard.
If my garden works maybe I’ll start a front yard gardening trend. If it doesn’t, I suppose I’ll replant a nice neutral shrub, slink into the backyard and call it day!
What’s happening in your garden?