Digging in the Dirt

I got a good workout on Monday. I found myself telling Stanley that I just had to "get the corn in" this weekend, and he laughed to hear me talking like just another Wisconsin farmer.

The corn is Cherokee white flour corn - an heirloom variety bred specifically for making corn meal. It's going to be the base for the cornbread that we'll serve at our wedding in October. My task on Monday was to finish preparing the soil and get it planted at our community garden space, which just two years ago was a highway on ramp to US30.

Even after one year of work, the ground at our plot is heavily compacted and the soil is very low quality. It resembles cement more than anything else.... but there's lots of sun, and if we can build it up it will be a wonderful spot in years to come. There's a part of me that loves the fact that I'm turning a little patch of Earth that would barely grow weeds into a lush garden using just my own (and Stanley's) manpower.

The ground is so hard here that last year we ended up working it a little, but mostly just growing in compost spread on top. This worked wonderfully for a month or so, until the roots hit the hard soil - they plants did miserably after that and we barely got anything at all from it. This year we took a different tact. Stanley did the bulk of the hardest work, turning the soil and loosening it up about a a foot down.

I then trucked about 14 large wheelbarrows full of compost (the city drops is off for free) and worked it in, leveling and breaking up the clods as I went. This was hard work, but quire rewarding in the end. This is actually starting to resemble something that might be called a growing medium!

My plan for this garden is a traditional "three sisters" garden, with corn, beans, and squash. All of it is for the wedding: dry beans for baked beans and pie pumpkins for our cake. Renee's Garden has a nice description of how to do the Three Sisters planting which I followed almost exactly.

The plot is 16' x 25', so I used twine and a measuring tape to measure 3 long rows. It's hard to see in this picture, but I used rocks to mark every 5 feet staggered along the rows. This is where the corn and bean mounds will go.

Here are the completed mounds, with the fence that Stanley built to keep the critters out. I loosened the soil underneath the mounds really well and used a little more compost to build them up. I was careful to incorporate some of the existing soil as well so that the plants aren't shocked when they find out what this garden plot is really made of. Each mound has four corn seeds planted in a square. Once the corn is up, the beans will get planted in the same mounds (they'll grow up the corn), and the pumpkins will be planted in mounds between the corn/bean mounds. Cool, huh?

I realized that I have way more space than I need for the few pie pumpkins we'll use for the wedding, so I ordered four different varieties of pumpkins to use as decoration at the wedding: Cinderella, Velenciano (a white variety), Black Futsu, and Musque de Provence. How fun!

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