EAT TO GET HIGH
-- Jeanie Walsh RPP
Although it may not seem quite like spring around Ann Arbor lately, it can't be too far away and some people are already working on their gardens to some degree or another. A lot of people however are not hip to just how easy it is to grow a garden. With a small amount of work each day almost anyone who has even a little bit of space can grow really good fresh vegetables to enjoy all summer. The most important thing about any garden is the overall plan that should be the first step in the growing of any garden. The plan should include a planting layout of the garden with areas for each vegetable clearly mapped out according to that plant's need for sunlight or shade and the amount of growing space necessary. Also if one plans out the garden then such pest control methods as companion planting can be put to use and there will be much less frustration at seeing your beautiful little vegetables being devoured by insects and other little monsters.
The drawing below is a sample garden layout for a garden 25 ft. x 30 ft. That' s not a really big garden but with careful planning it should yield plenty of vegetables for 4-6 people at least provided that the plants are healthy and get enough water etc. If you don't have any real garden space available just remember that you can use all the sunny spots surrounding the house. All these vegetables are really beautiful plants and people should get away from the idea that vegetable gardens always go in the back yard because they're too ugly or something wierd like that. I've tried to make the drawing as self-explanatory as possible because it's really hard to grasp the garden layout with words alone and it's also easier to adapt this drawing to fit your needs than trying to figure it out from the beginning if you've never grown a garden before. The important thing is to not use any poisonous chemical fertilizers or insect repellents etc. You can buy vegetables grown that way in the stores. Just to be sure to use fresh seeds because often times seeds that are several months old or left over from last year will not germinate and grow.
With this garden plan in mind the soil in the garden can be prepared for planting. You won't need a lot of fancy tools but you probably will want a couple of each so that more than one or two people can work at once. Hoes, spades, two sizes of trowels, garden rakes, a shovel and a pitchfork, and a good garden hose, some heavy string or twine, assorted sticks and poles and work gloves are about all the tools that you'll need. You'll find that the people in the smaller garden stores are more into gardening and will be much more helpful and willing to answer your questions. The hardest thing about starting the garden each year is finding a rotor tiller to use to plow up all the old weeds with and really get the ground turned over. It can be done by hand with hoes and spades but it's really HARD work and it takes a long time so if you get a late start it'll be hard to catch up to the planting schedule.
Once you get the garden plowed up it's important to rake the ground smooth and get rid of all the weeds and clods of dirt so that the soil will drain properly. While you're either plowing or raking it's good to add small amounts of bone meal and compost material and work these nutrients into the soil real well. Don't try to prepare the garden if the soil is overly damp or wet because the soil will dump up much more easily.
Composting for fertilizer to use in your garden can be a simple task or a very careful study of soil conditions and deficiencies depending on how deep you want to get into it, and how much time you have to spend with it. If you live here in the city it's important to keep your compost heap well covered so that a lot of rats and skunks and raccoons and dogs aren't drawn to it. It's worth the time spent to dig a small pit and build a frame to cover it onto which you can staple a solid sheet of black plastic, which helps the matter decay by keeping it hot inside. Then inside the pit, layer and occasionally turn over a number of the following organic materials; as many as you can find so that your compost isn't too much of one thing because that effects some plants in an adverse way: dried leaves and old grass clippings -- called green manure -- horse, cow or chicken manure, old vegetable peelings and all food waste from the kitchen, old straw or hay, rotting sawdust, wood ashes and peat moss. There are a lot more things to add to your compost heap, methods of preparing the heap etc. that you should know but since there isn't space here I do want to recommend The Basic Book of Organic Gardening put out in paperback at $1.25 by Ballantine Books. The book is edited by Robert Rodale and is a simpler, more basic edition of the same hardback book that sells for around $10. It's worth the money because there is enough information in it to carry you successfully through your first garden.
There are a lot of pesky little bugs that can come into your garden and totally do it in so it's important to do some studying about this and figure out the most comprehensive things that you can do to encourage them to go elsewhere. Also weeds can be a big problem if you don't keep on top of it and it's important to weed everyday because they multiply rapidly. Mulching is the method of covering all the garden except where the plants themselves are growing with some type of green manure such as old grass clippings or leaves. Any fresh green manure probably has weed spores and seeds still alive in it so watch for that. Mulching helps keep weeds in check and also keeps the ground from drying out too much. Encourage birds to hang out near your garden by feeding them there in the winter and by putting water pans and some bread crumbs there in the summer. They eat thousands of insects a day. Not all birds are helpful though so be sure to check into it a little more thoroughly. Bird houses, bits of string and other nest building materials are also good things to provide for birds. Toads and garter snakes also eat a lot of insects. Toads are especially attracted to small pools of shadey water that you can rig up with garbage can lids turned over and filled with water and placed in a shadey area in your garden -- the tomato patch for instance. In the garden plan pictured above the crops that are planted together or near each other are for insect control purposes. A lot of vegetables and flowers planted together help ward off some of their most persistent enemies. I've tried to make that clear in the drawing as much as possible. Plant your rows running north to south as often as possible and then you don't have to worry too much about plants shading each other and thus inhibiting growth. If it gets really dry and you feel that you want to water your garden then do it as it's getting dark or in really hot weather, before 8:30 in the morning. If you do work on the garden in the morning don't handle plants that still have dew on the leaves because often this results in making the plant more susceptible to disease. Two good books on organic pest and disease control are, The Organic Way to Plant Protection put out by Rodale Press -- a hardback that costs around $7, and Gardening Without Poisons by Beatrice Trim Hunter costs less than $2.
The important thing to remember is that gardens are not very complex jobs, unless, like anything else, you want it to be. The plants do most of the work by themselves and the gardener's job is to provide them with a healthy, pleasant place in which to grow. Gardens are really a lot of fun and being out in the air is healthy and gets you high which is what this whole column is about to begin with. We'd like to encourage everyone to not forget about our most beautiful sacred plant marijuana and to help keep our city beautiful, plant your seeds! HELP IT GROW! EAT TO STAY HIGH!
2 tomato plants
8 lima bean plants
8 pole bean plants
4 rows carrots & radishes
nasturniums & cucumbers
2 rows carrots
2 rows beets
8 broccoli plants
3 pumpkin plants
squash (winter & summer)