It’s been a while since I last updated this blog. Enough time for me to attend the Delaware wedding shower of two of my dearest friends, to cull nearly 100 books off of the bookshelves in my childhood home, to share a round of Jägerbombs (totally gross) with cousins I haven’t seen in years, and to crush my finger in a pullout couch and spend 5 hours in a hospital emergency room in Rochester, N.Y., falling lower and lower on the triage list as victims of Memorial Day festivities gone horribly wrong were rushed in.
But after a little more than a week gallivanting around the mid-Atlantic, I got back to Vermont in plenty of time to bottle my dunkelweizen and to watch the plants grow larger and larger:
Of course, no garden story would be complete without a couple of mishaps along the way. We ran into an unexpected one while preparing our gravel-filled garden beds for the plants.
You see, to us, one cubic yard of MooDoo (which is made of composted…well, you can probably figure it out) seemed like it would be more than enough to fill two 4×16 beds. After all, we knew we were going to have to enlist the help of a friend with a truck, so we figured anything that would fill a pickup truck bed would also fill our garden beds.
But as it turns out, a pickup truckload of compost works out to very little, when all is said and done. And once we’d moved the dirt into the beds (in approximately seven wheelbarrow loads), there was that moment of truth where the quandary we were in dawned on us.
You see, we needed more dirt, and we figured we might kill the plants if we didn’t add in some non-nutrient dense material. The problem was that none of us has much experience with central Vermont farming, so we didn’t know where to get dirt.
Well, you might be saying, we should have just looked around us. Maybe taken some dirt from the backyard.
But if you’re saying that, you’ve probably never stuck a shovel into Addison County clay soils. Dense doesn’t even begin to describe it. And with the wet spring we’ve had, the root networks of the weeds go deep. Very deep. Two of us digging for an hour turned up about half a wheelbarrow load of root-riddled, clumpy clay.
So the next day, we did the next best thing and headed back to Agway, where it turned out there was a topsoil sale going on. Now, 10 bags for $12 is cheap, yes. Cheaper than we’d expected. But it wasn’t dirt cheap. It wasn’t what we wanted to pay.
That is, until we saw the broken bags piled onto shipping pallets at the front of the parking lot.
And if Agway wasn’t already one of the most awesome stores in Middlebury, it definitely earned that label as we stood outside, cutting a deal with the manager and then loading 12 broken bags of topsoil into Meghan’s Honda for a very, very sweet price.
“Tell all your friends about us,” he told us.
So, there you go. Now I’ve told you all.
We thanked him, paid up and were on our way back to the garden, where we began dumping soil into the garden. Only, we discovered that 12 more bags still wasn’t enough.
10 new, unbroken bags of topsoil later, we deemed the garden acceptably well-soiled and began the long process of planting: tomato and pepper seedlings, a cabbage plant, a slightly wilty green onion bunch, eggplant, and seeds for basil, sugar snap peas, snow peas, mesclun, spinach, swiss chard, beets.
Some were, without a doubt, late. After all, Vermont averages a 100-day growing season, and if you’re any kind of seasoned gardener you’re rushing to get seedlings started just as soon as there’s a hint of warmth in the air, nurturing tiny sprouts in egg cartons in a sunny corner of your kitchen.
But hey. We can’t lay claim to the title of “seasoned gardeners,” but if all goes well, and the weather stays dry, and September is warm, we’re going to have more tomatoes than we know what to do with. And honestly, I can’t think of many things in life that I value more than a good tomato.