I'm reading Eliot Coleman's "The New Organic Grower." I feel like I can only read a few pages at a time because my head gets so filled with ideas that I need to digest. Between that and re-reading John Jeavon's "How to Grow More Vegetables...", my head is exploding. Of course, both books don't deal with the urban, very small plot gardener and are geared more toward market gardeners and larger plots of land.
I am learning that gardening theory likes to cancel each other out. Just look at Jeavons vs. Coleman on green manure. I don't find that part frustrating because I'm not trying to find a guru, but it is fascinating to read the pros and cons of both.
And then? Then there is Seattle Tilth.
Today I had my first Saturday 5 hour class and Wednesday was the very first classroom class for the COG. Thus far, I haven't learned a TON, but I have learned. Today I learned what it meant to "chop in" green manure. Since I'm (god willing) going to have the new beds built in the next couple weeks and (even more god willing) get cover crops in, I knew how to plant the crops, but not how or when to chop in the green manure in the spring. I've done it now so I got it. It is much easier than I expected.
My entire thinking is once again getting radically altered. I still have 3 more classroom classes and 2 more Saturdays, but there is a mini-revolution in my brain: How to Close the System.
Of course, I'm still dealing with mega-failures in my own garden and it all has now to do with pest control. I don't have a good grip on understanding bugs vs. fungal vs. bacterial. Knowing what things look like and what I need to do about them is a total mystery to me. Fortunately, it has been really pounded into my head to use the Titlh Garden Hotline (you can send photos of your problems as well! And also if you are in the area, you can physically stop by!! You can call nationally or email if you want!) the last couple of weeks that I have a resource. I'm starting to get to know at least 1 person who works the hotline, so that helps me feel better about using the resouce as well. (I have no idea why I'm so adverse to getting help vs. figuring it ou myself, but that is a seperate post).
Anyway, talking to and listening to the instructors today (as well as reading more of Coleman's book), I'm realizing that I'm spending too much money on this right now. Sure, it makes sense because I don't know what I'm doing, but I'm starting to have a much bigger vision: A totally closed loop. I put back in what I take out. I harvest seed for next year crop. The only thing I might add is a bit of extra fertilizer and/or minerals and extra water in the summer.
But, I'm into it. I found out that I can make a passive leaf mold pile for creating my own potting soil . Yes, I have my worm bin but it might not be big enough. It makes sense for me to use our coffee grounds and grass clippings as mulch. I can start scavenging my neighborhood, friends, family, and local businesses for what I need (burlap and coffee hulls from local roasters, brown material if I let friends/family/neighbors know I'll remove it.
I am finally realizing that I can make my own potting soil, my own germinating soil, all the humus I need, most of the fertilizer I need, and most of the plants I need...by myself. I plant, grow, harvest, feed, in a totally closed system where there is minimal waste and that which I cannot get, I learn how to get for as cheap as possible, if not free (except for my own time and effort).
Being able to execute this successfully is pretty much the porn jackpot of self-sufficiency.
I am impatiently looking forward to really understanding how to harvest seeds for next year crops.
I think I can do this. Eventually.