By Mark Barnes
I was once told that a good garden takes at least three years to get going from scratch. As I look out my front window, I think about this fourth year and I’m just now beginning to get to know the intimate areas of the yard where certain plants work well and where they don’t. The garden has definitely evolved over the years, as has my skill as a gardener. I know I’ll need a lifetime to get my garden where I want it to be. Perhaps it will be those that inherit my dirt who will do it.
When my partner and I, along with her and my genetic offspring, removed 3,600 square feet of sod in the front yard a few years ago the neighbors were concerned. I was embarking on an urban gardening career planning to sell vegetables at the local farmer’s market. The front yard, once an expanse of green dotted with yellow dandelions and blue green spiked leaves of Canada thistle, was to be my flagship plot. I trucked in 20 yards of organic dairy manure compost and used the cut sod pieces to form berms along the front edge of the yard near the street.
That year I used the gravity irrigation pumped from the access ditch in the back of the property to water everything. The produce was abundant and tasty. My customers were happy. I constantly flashed back to the times on the family farm hoeing and planting vegetables on my parent’s seven acres of tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and corn. I hated it then. I love it now.
For two years I managed several lots around the city, collecting the produce from each to supply a small vegetable booth at the farmer’s market, have vegetables for my small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription program, supplying a few local restaurants with specialty vegetables and having a little bit left over for my family.
Now, several years later, as I have returned to somewhat of a desk job being the editor for a small paper once again, I only manage the plants in my own yard. These years, however, I have many more flowers, shrubs and trees as opposed to vegetables. I think I’m also ready to talk about gardening in the medium I love so well… newsprint.
During my “growing” years I managed to fulfill the requirements for the University of Idaho Extension Service Master Gardener program. Becoming a Master Gardener was one of my life’s bucket list items. While I was one of the younger folk in the classes, I felt I had an advantage. I had the opportunity to learn from all of the older gardeners who had decided to pursue the MG program in retirement. I was going to put what I was learning to use on a business level. I’d recommend the program to anyone with a passion in gardening.
While according to the rules, since I am not actively in the program I am not allowed to call myself a Master Gardener anymore, the skills I learned through the program allow me to advise others. This is what I hope to do with this new gardening column.
Mark Barnes is a former University of Idaho Extension Service Master Gardener.
If you have topics or suggestions about what to cover in this new column, please contact editor@KunaMelba.com.