Number One Reason My Plants Thrive (or don’t)

This year is my first year back to gardening after taking a few years off. Coming to the conclusion we might be move in 2016 I planted a simple garden with the intent to leave it for my neighbor to pick as she liked. In 2017 we were in a rental house, getting settled, having surgery, dealing with anxiety, and buying a house but not moved in till July. 2018 found me getting beds set up and learning about our yard as the seasons progressed. (Mulch is very much needed here if you want to keep any moisture in your soils come summer.) 2019 has found me planting beyond a handful of tomatoes and some green onions. It is great to get back into the ‘dirt under your nails’ stage.

This year has also found me being a bit perplexed and then laughing at myself when I began noticing a discrepancy between the same plants planted in different places. Let me show you.

The first picture is of determinate tomato plants in the raised bed. This particular bed has a foundation of many layers of cardboard, a mixture of soil similar to the one found in The Square Foot Garden, and then several inches of wood chips to act as a mulch. The second picture is of a plant from the same six-pack as the first, this time planted in a container with a soil mixture obtained from someone who lives in my growing zone, 7b, and topped with a handful of wood chips as a mulch. The difference is easily noticeable and amazing.

As our soil is very much on the clay end of things and lacking any nutrients at all, this neighborhood is only a handful of years old and used to be a farm or forest, so planting directly in the ground is not something I was planning on trying to accomplish. Raised beds have been kind to me in the past, though I had 8 years to get to the point in Small Town where I could put half dead flowers in the ground and expect them to look gorgeous without any added help from me. This little fact, lack of time to build up great raised bed soil, has been by biggest trial in accomplishing a great garden so far this year.