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All summer long, I kept asking myself, “What’s with this place?” The soil here just wants to grow things. Everything I plant takes off in amazing ways.

Those eight zucchini plants — planted more than a month late? Every time I turned my back, there were piles of zucchini waiting for me the next time I wandered through my garden. I’ve frozen 24 cups of grated zucchini and fed relatives in two states. And, even now, there are another half dozen growing away in late September. Eight zucchini plants are more than enough.

Those strawberries that I transplanted? They’ve all taken root, and I expect great things from them come June. In the meantime, growing in their midst is a plot of spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy and arugula — thrown in as an after thought, an effort to start cleaning out my stash of old seed. Planted about a month ago, all are ready to eat right now. I’m eating as fast as I can, and the relatives are doing their part, but let’s just say our little pet rabbit is dining like royalty as well.

But the real proof that this soil is rich, rich, rich? It’s the sunflowers growing outside my bedroom window. Huge! Leaves like sheets of newspaper and heads the size of serving platters. One stormy night a few weeks ago, the wind was slamming these things against the side of the house and it sounded like bodies hitting the walls in the dark of the night. Very, very creepy.

I'm not exaggerating.  Here's one that fell to the ground yesterday, drying out for the before-mentioned rabbit's winter fare.  (That's a standard-sized dinner plate on the table next to it.)

I’m not exaggerating. Here’s one that fell to the ground yesterday, drying out for the before-mentioned rabbit’s winter fare. (That’s a standard-sized dinner plate on the table next to it.)

With a little investigation, I may have learned this land’s productivity secret. My dad tells me that some time ago one of the tenants kept horses for several years on this side of the house, right where I’ve planted my garden. Years of manure curing in the prairie grass. I can’t wait to see what this ground yields next year.


Remember the bok choy seeds that I started back in March? Here’s what they looked like yesterday, right before I planted them in my garden bed.

I started planting my rows of brassicas — broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, and now the bok choy — once our April night time temperatures were pretty reliably above thirty-five degrees. Now, these cabbage relatives, also sometimes called crucifers, are pretty tolerant of cool temperatures, and even hold their own well against light frosts, especially when planted, as I have done, in a somewhat protected plot of soil (I have them on the south side of my garage).

Additionally, I have covered each seedling with one of my improvised two-liter bottle cloches, which not only gives them cover from the frost, but also insects, such as the dreaded cabbage worm. As they outgrow the cloches, I will put them under floating row covers for the rest of their growing season.

Another enemy of my garden seedlings are cutworms, which gave my poor peas duress last year. As I’ve been readying the soil (I work a double row at a time), moving from east to west, I found no evidence of cutworms in that the section of the garden where my fall leaves had covered the soil. However, the section with little leaf cover seemed to have many cutworms buried in the soil. So I have begun to use additional protective measures in this area of the garden. All winter long I have been saving my empty oatmeal boxes for this very purpose. I cut each box in half, and when I use the smaller, 18-ounce boxes, the two-liter bottle cloches fit nicely over them.

I planted each seedling inside the protective collars offered by the oatmeal boxes, and then, covering them with the bottle-cloches, I anchored the cloches in place by submersing about an inch of the plastic beneath the soil and piling up additional soil around the outside of the bottle. There was room for all twelve of my bok choy seedlings in the double row that I prepared for them. I normally have back up seedlings, in case of some gardening disaster (such as an unexpected hard freeze), but in the case of my bok choy, I have none, which is why I saved them for planting outside last.

We had heavy rains last night, and the forecast is for rain all day today as well. My little bok choy seedlings appear quite content in their new location. And I’m grateful for a rainy day, because it means I can rest up a bit from all of the binge-gardening I’ve been doing this week.

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