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Science of Gardening

For years, I dreamed of having a garden. Vegetables, mostly, because I couldn’t quite see the appeal of working so hard unless you were going to get something delicious to eat as a result of all of your efforts. My father had a small vegetable garden for several years while I was growing up, my grandfather had a much larger vegetable garden that I still remember fondly, and my uncle now has a vegetable garden and several fruit trees.

So I thought about it for the past six years, ever since we bought our current house and with it, ample space to set up as large of a vegetable garden as our hearts desire. (I guess that’s not strictly true. We couldn’t quite set up a commercial farm on our property, if that was our desire.) But still, I thought it would be too much work to prep the soil (what does that even mean?), fertilize the soil (with what?), protect the vegetables from animal consumption (what animals? how?), and figure out the timing of when to plant and harvest everything.

This year, though, we took the plunge and decided to plant a blueberry bush, several tomato plants, and sugar snap peas. Of the three, our most successful by far has been our tomato plants, which have yielded delicious tomatoes of several varieties! We have also harvested some blueberries, too, although not nearly as many. As for the sugar snap peas? Well, we thought our sugar snap pea plants were growing great, until we realized that we were actually just growing weeds, and we had to pull them all out. That was an unfortunate day.

But what about the science? The science of soil preparation is actually very interesting (and quite complex), because the composition of the soil will go a long way to figuring out if your plants have a healthy environment to grow. Before you do anything to your soil, test it using a commercially available soil testing kit (check out these links HERE and HERE, which will give you important information about the pH of the soil as well as the presence of some nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, which the plants need to grow. You can buy fertilizer (either “organic” like THIS OR conventional like THIS, which will add additional nutrients to the soil. An additional option for adding nutrients is through compost (stay tuned for a post on the science of composting), but again, you may want to check the nutrient content of your compost to make sure you are adding the appropriate nutrients at the right pH for optimal plant growth).

Protection from animal consumption is going to vary quite a bit depending on where you live. In suburban Boston, where we are, our most common animals are rabbits, deer, and birds. A large fence that goes deep into the group will protect the vegetables from rabbits that dig underneath and from deer that jump over the top. Netting on top of blueberry plants will protect them from the birds.

Sounds like a lot of work? More work than going to the supermarket and buying blueberries and tomatoes and all kinds of vegetables there, for sure, but the results are delicious and well-worth it! If you have any gardening tips of your own, share them in the comments. We are very new at this and welcome all suggestions.

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