Garden and you may find a buried treasure…or not

A few weeks ago I wrote about how it is almost time to start gardening, since the first signs of Spring are here and we have not seen frost in New York State in weeks.  My husband and I have decided to take gardening to a whole new level in our backyard.  We grew tomatoes, herbs and flowers last year, but this year we have decided to give more of our backyard over to gardening and growing our own food.  It’s good for us, will save money, but it’s also a really fun thing to do with our kids.  We have a postage stamp sized backyard, but still, it seems like the garden could share some more of the space.

All of that sounds groovy, but in reality, it has not been so ideal.  As we started to dig up our backyard, well, let’s just say we found stuff.  My husband was digging in one area and hit upon a cinder block, and then another and another and realized there was a whole structure underneath the backyard.  I thought I was going to find some buried treasure but it looks like it might have been some kind of water system because we also found a huge rubber hose/pipe leading down into the underground room.  We ripped it all out, but what the heck was it and what is left?  I shudder to think.  Then we started digging in another area and found roots to some tree that are the size of giant ropes.  All of this is to say, that gardening and growing food is not as simple, at least in our case, as digging a little dirt and throwing in some seeds.

You have to dig away from the house or the garage, for one.  We’ve got an old house and who knows how much lead is in the paint that could be leaking into the ground.   You’ve also got to do exactly as we are doing-get in there and dig to see what you find.  At least that is my opinion. If nothing else, you are giving your ground some air and allowing it to breathe a little.

You may also consider, as we are considering, creating beds for your garden, that have their own, contained area of earth, almost like a giant potted garden.   They even make planters now that are self-watering, and some that even hang so you don’t even need a backyard at all.  See this hanging tomato planter from Gardener’s Supply Co.

We aren’t people who compost, although I think we might start.  But to get going this year with our garden, a friend of ours who is a New York city park ranger (it’s true) advised us to add a layer of compost.  Since we don’t have our own supply, we went out and bought compost and  mixed it in with our dirt.  We waited a week and now are thinking of adding more or a layer of new topsoil before we start planting.  It’s almost time to start seeding, but this stage is critical in making sure we grow plants that are healthy and good enough to eat.  Our friend also advised us to test our soil to see what else is going on in there.  This is to make sure the soil is safe-ie does not contain lead, but also to determine the pH level-how acidic it is and what other minerals are in the soil or missing.  Here are some places where you can send soil samples:

Soil Testing Labs

Woods End Soil Labs RFD 1, Box 4050

Old Rome Road

Mt. Vernon, ME 04352


A & L Agricultural Labs

7621 White Pine Road

Richmond, VA 23237


Green Gems

P.O. Box 6007

Healdsburg, CA 95448


 I’ll be back with more on gardening and my experiences after next weekend’s adventures.  Who knows what I’ll find!

Who likes to garden out there and what are your tips?

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