Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Perils of Using Local Resources in your Garden


Spring is here and planting has begun here at the Bioshelter.  I’m boycotting all Miracle Grow Potting Soils and fertilzer easily available at Walmart, Fred Meyers and other big box stores.  If we are serious about cutting our addiction to oil, we have to learn how to grow without it, right?

The first thing I did was to search for an Alaskan Product.  My friend recommended the Fish emulsion soil from Nunilchik.  Well, I could just see it.  I would just get everything planted and then all the bears in the neighborhood would come over and dig it all up thinking they might find something yummy to eat.  So I wasn’t happy with that choice. 

My skepticism was definitely founded on reality.  Back when I was first married with 2 little kids and poor, I started my first garden.  I dug up a tiny little plot outside of the front door of our home in Wrangell, Alaska.  I didn’t know what kind of soil that was or if it would grow anything, so I wondered about fertilizer.

We happened to have over calculated on our winter’s supply of halibut.  It just didn’t taste very good after being in the freezer all winter in Ziploc bags filled with milk---a popular recipe to avoid freezer burn.  Because I didn’t want to waste anything, I saw a solution to my problem.  The freezer-burned halibut in our freezer could become my natural fertilizer. 

I had studied the seed catalogs and got just a few seeds of things which I knew would grow --even with all the rain we got-- in the Tongass Rainforest.  I had started them in the house and then one sunny day---and those were rare---I planted halibut pieces under each little seedling.  I was so proud of my first garden in my first home!  I placed big rocks around it for a border and finally went inside after it was too dark to admire the garden from the porch stairs.

The next morning I got up early to go out and water before the sun came out.  I came down the porch stairs and saw dirt strewn all over the path below me.  As I turned the corner and saw the garden, my shoulders sank…..all the air left my lungs.  I started getting teary.  Every single plant----gone.   The garden appeared freshly, but sloppily tilled.  I looked more closely.  Dog prints.  It was then I learned why the town was arguing about whether they should hire a dog catcher.  We knew all the dogs by name and enjoyed meeting them on the street.  Suddenly I didn’t enjoy it anymore.  I was so mad.  I remember sitting down on the steps and just crying.

So all these 30 years later the memory of that garden debacle was still fresh. I really didn’t want fish dirt. I drove in to Alaska Mill and Feed to talk to the experts. They assured me that if I smelled fish at all, I could bring the fish soil back.  So my planting began.  It smelled just like fresh soil, so I went forward.  For seedlings they suggested I get perlite to lighten the soil and allow for the seedlings to grow.  The perlite was from Bellvue Washington, but I took it anyway. 

So far, so good.  I’ll keep you posted when I transplant all my little seedlings outside in a couple of weeks.  J
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