preparing the soil

Josey working the ground

Well I’ve finally done it. I’ve decided to try to plant a garden in my yard starting from scratch with seeds. I’ve always wanted to do it but it took my 3-year-old girl to motivate me to take action. It never ceases to amaze me what she can get me to do. Shes loves to be outside and she’s at that wonderful stage in life when she’s eager to help with everything. So, I decided to make the most of these years and get as much child labor out of her that I could muster.

Working at a hardware store for 18 years gives you a lot of knowledge in a whole bunch of different areas but the realty is that much of it is theoretical. I do my best to give people advice based on knowledge that I know as fact and until I can try something for myself I usually defer to people who know more. Fortunately, there is no shortage of opinions on how to do something here at our store. When it comes to a garden there was no better person with real life experience than John the former owner of our store who still works here in a semi-retired role. He is a farm boy from North Dakota who still dabbles in fruits and vegetables. Every fall we are the beneficiaries of his bountiful crop of squash, plums, apples, cucumbers, zucchini and more. I told him I was worried that nothing was going to grow and he told me this; “If the ground can grow grass it can grow vegetables. Just fertilize the hell out of it and you’ll grow something.”

With this profound advice in my back pocket I decide to give the garden a go. I chose carrots,  jalapenos, green peppers, green onion, chives, pole beans, peas, and sunflowers. I threw in the sunflowers because I knew that if everything else didn’t grow I could count on the sunflowers to do something. We rototilled up a corner of the yard that gets the most sunlight (I’d heard somewhere that plants like it). I knew the ground was sandy but I had no idea how sandy it really was until I started digging. It was if I was digging in fine sugar. I added some black dirt topsoil, a heavy dose of  organic garden fertilizer (which has copious amounts of turkey poop in it. Don’t believe me just smell my garden) and a few shovels full of fire pit ashes. I added the fire pit ash because I read that it could be beneficial to my specific garden. Since ash is so fine it actually slows down the drainage of water (which is good for really sandy soils but not good if you have clay). It also can raise the PH levels (acidity) of the soil. Sine we have a lot of pine trees in our yard and one that is seated directly next the garden our soil is highly acidic. You can also counter soil acidity with the use of hydrated lime (I’ve had to add lime to my lawn in areas just to get the grass to grow). I needed to dig out the fire pit anyhow so this was an easy way to re-use my ashes. Ashes also have small amounts of phosphorus and potassium in them as well both beneficial to plants. I’ve read both pros and cons of using ash in a garden but this whole process is really an experiment anyway so I gave it a try. If you are wondering what your soils acidity is you can purchase a soil testing kit for around $15-$20 from at the hardware store.

Josey planting the vegetable seeds

After throwing the black dirt, fertilizer, and ash on the garden bed I rototilled it again to mix it into the soil.  After my dirt cocktail was thoroughly mixed it was time to plant the seeds. I simply followed the directions on the backs of the packages and with the help of my very eager 3-year-old daughter we sowed the seeds to our very first vegetable garden. Josey went around with her little watering can and gave each seed a healthy drink. She could hardly wait for the seeds to start growing and I had to remind her a few times that the process is going to take some time. Hopefully SOMETHING grows and she can see the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor.

LeVahn Bros. Plumbing and Hardware  is located at 12700 Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove, MN 55369

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