Accidental Vegetable Gardening

You are probably a bit confused or dumfounded by the title of my new post.  I thought about what title to give this article and I thought “Accidental Vegetable Gardening” was appropriate.  This past gardening season started out a little slow due to cooler than normal weather in May, but took off once it started to warm up.  I was anxious to get going so I set about planting by vegetable transplants in particular my onion transplants.

Everything was growing great when I noticed something else growing in my onion bed.  Low and behold I had potatoes growing in between my onion transplants.  My only reason for potatoes growing in my onion bed was I accidentally did not remove all the potatoes from last year’s harvest.  So I made a decision to let them grow as long as they did not interfere with the onions.  As time went by I had ten potato plants growing alongside the onions.  Eventually, I had to remove four of the plants because they were crowding out my onions.  I regret now not taking any pictures of them growing together.

The summer was a hot one with both the onions and potatoes growing great side by side.  Here and there I removed some onions that were being crowded out, but they were a nice welcome in the kitchen.  Both the onions and the potatoes performed amazingly together sharing that one bed.  After awhile I began to wonder what the main ingredient that allowed both the potatoes and the onions to perform so well.  It dawned on me it was my soil preparation.

Proper soil preparation when you are growing any type of plant is important, but I feel it is extremely important when growing vegetables.  Vegetables need a good loose soil, that retains water, but also allows it to drain well.  The ultimate goal is for your garden area to have 5% of organic material.

Here in Colorado our soil is so poor that you will have to amend your garden area to reach that 5% organic material goal.  There are a number of ways to improve your soil.  You can add manure, whether it be cow, horse, sheep or alpaca.  Just make sure if it is fresh that you add it into your garden in the fall.  Adding fresh manure in the spring you run into the possibility of the manure burning your plants.

There are a number of other organic material you can add to improve your soil such as cotton burr mulch, compost and peat moss.  If you buy bags of compost from one of the big chain stores make sure you read what ingredients are in the bag.  Sometimes it is made up of more wood byproducts and other trace ingredients that you don’t want it your garden.  If you don’t have a compost pile of your own start one.  This way you know what is in your compost.

Not only does adding amendments help your vegetables grow better, it encourages more worms into your garden.  I love seeing worms in my garden.  The more worms the better.  Worms help break up your soil by tunneling through your garden and eating the organic material you have added.  In return they leave behind valuable worm castings and nice aerated soil.  You can see by my picture that I have plenty of worms in my garden.

So in conclusion, even though the potatoes that grew amongst my onion last year where there by mistake.  Good soil preparation on my part allowed both the onions and potatoes to flourish side by side.  To see what percent organic matter is in your soil you should have your soil tested.  Here in Colorado Springs contact the El Paso County Extension Office (719-520-7675) about obtaining a soil testing kit.  I had my soil tested last year and my organic matter percentage was 5.5%.  A little over the mark, but I am very happy with the results.