"Because you can't hug a tree if you can't find one."


The Growing Challenge

The other day I came across Elements in Time's Growing Challenge. The challenge is to become a little more self-sufficient, more aware of where food comes from and what is in it, by growing at least one more kind of fruit or vegetable than you did last year. This can be done at any scale, from garden to windowsill.
I don't usually do this kind of thing, because I think life is enough of a challenge. But for various reasons (see this post) this challenge fits in with my vague goals for the new year anyway, so I decided to participate.

Though we've been gardening since we moved to Bed-Stuy in 2001, we have issues. Previous owners of this house apparently used the yard as a dumping ground. That is not so unusual historically, but particle board and lead pipes are not the same as pottery shards. Since the lab that tested our soil wouldn't interpret the results, we are stuck not knowing how bad the contamination might be. (Maybe formaldehyde rinses out? Maybe those were not lead pipes after all?)
So for the past few years we've been growing herbs and a few vegetables in pots on the patio, and the big vegetable patch that we had dreamed of is instead a patch of grass surrounded by berry bushes (that I could not resist). There are some dead weed trees, and an oak nursery that the squirrels have planted. Our compost pile is very half-hearted, because I try to isolate it from the ground by mixing the kitchen scraps and leaves with store bought dirt. The flowers attract lots of bees so the veggies do pretty well, but not like they would in the ground.

I still have the soil test result in a stack of papers. The first thing I should do as part of the Growing Challenge is find it and make a renewed effort to get it interpreted. (Suggestions appreciated!) Then I'll know whether I can expand tomato production, and dig in to some tasty berries after all these years of leaving them for the birds.


Daniel said...

an informative article: http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc/ask/lead

especially the part on keeping your soil pH at 7+ to help keep lead 'bound' to the soil so that plants don't absorb it. and perhaps consider a small raised bed filled with compost and purchased soil (or take some trash bags, rent a car, drive to a farm outside the city and ask/pay for some soil - which appeals to me more than going to a store for all that dirt)

Rejin L said...

Thanks for the info, Daniel, I'll definitely check out that article. I've thought about raised beds, too, but have to look into how deep it should be to keep the plant roots above ground level.