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Self-Fertilizing Garden – 2009

Sandbox Self-Fertilizing Garden - 2009
Humble beginnings for this year’s sandbox garden

Last year I wrote about a new raised bed garden I created from a sandbox that wasn’t getting much use in our yard. Of course, I wasn’t about to settle for making a run-of the-mill raised bed – mine needed to be a little different! At the time, I was starting to experiment with vermicomposting trenches (which you can learn all about on my Red Worm Composting site – check out the “Hot Topics” page), so I thought it might be fun to try running one of these trenches through the middle of the garden.

The crop plants I settled on for the original sandbox garden were giant pumpkins and potatoes. I figured the pumpkins would really benefit from the the water- and nutrient-rich food waste that was being added to the trench (and subsequently processed by a herd of Red Wiggler Worms), and that the potatoes might do well in the loose, sandy soil of the bed.

Despite the fact that the pumpkins didn’t get planted until mid-July, they still ended up doing quite well, We didn’t get a truly ‘giant’ pumpkin, but I was nevertheless very impressed with the sizable specimen that was ready in time for Halloween.

The potatoes, on the other hand, were a bit of a disappointment. Looking back, I can’t help but chuckle though, since I now realize how little I knew about growing spuds. As such, I don’t feel so bad about the poor show in that department (and have come back with potato guns a’ blazin this year to see if I can grow a better crop).

Speaking of which, while I certainly didn’t intend to grow any potatoes in the sandbox garden this year (I have other beds set aside for them), as it turns out, some leftover tubers have been making their presence know by growing into very healthy looking plants. I decided to just ‘go with the flow’ and see how well they end up doing among the other plants growing there.

My main intended crop this year is actually sweet corn. I thought the corn would appreciate the sandy, fertile soil – I should mention that the garden basically served as an overwintering bed for a sizable population of composting worms, so there was plenty of vermicompost left behind when I cleaned up the garden (transferring many of the worms to my main vermi-trenches) this spring. I also predicted that, if all went well, the corn garden would make for a pretty impressive show as part of my surburban mini-farm.

Sandbox Self-Fertilizing Garden - 2009
Sweet corn, pole beans, and renegade potato plants growing in this year’s ‘self-fertilizing’ garden

My dad (a retired professor of Anthropology) told me how native people used to grow climbing beans close to corn so as to provide the demanding corn plants with more nitrogen, while also providing the beans with natural supports (the corn stalks). I thought this sounded like a really cool idea, and ended up planting two rows of yellow pole beans between my four rows of corn.

The vermicomposting trench in the sandbox garden is pretty low-key this year. I don’t have access to the same (massive) supply of food waste as I did last year, and have switched to using mainly aged horse manure and grass clippings.

I’ve been pretty impressed with how well the plants have been growing thus far. It has been a really cool summer so the corn is definitely behind schedule, but we live in a very serious corn-growing region so I’m frequently reminded of the fact that my corn plants are actually quite similar in size to those growing in local fields – yet are not receiving any chemical fertilizers. They ARE receiving a little something extra however, but I’ll save that topic for another post.

I can’t wait to see how the pole beans do! I must admit that the plants were all in pretty rough shape by the time they finally made it into the ground, but they seem to have bounced back very nicely and are growing up the cornstalks as predicted.

Pole Bean Plant Winds Its Way Up Corn Stalk
Pole bean runner winds its way up a corn plant

I was a little worried about the big potato plants impacting (literally – haha) the growth of the corn, but everyone seems to be getting along famously!

Anyway – I will be sure to provide one or two more updates on the sandbox garden as the summer progresses!

Previous Sandbox Garden Posts (2008):
The Sandbox Self-Fertilizing Garden
Self-Fertilizing Garden Update

[tags] gardening, organic, compost, compost trench, composting, composting worms, worm composting, vermicomposting, vermicompost, worm castings, sweet corn, pole beans, potatoes, red worms[/tags]

Written by Compost Guy on July 22nd, 2009 with 2 comments.
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Get your own gravatar by visiting Cassandra
#1. July 30th, 2009, at 2:26 AM.

Your garden looks awesome! I’ve been avoiding corn for the last several years due to the fact that it is such a high-nitrogen crop. Maybe I’ll try a trench next year.
Thanks for the update.

Get your own gravatar by visiting Compost Guy
#2. August 1st, 2009, at 6:26 PM.

Thanks Cassandra – I too have resisted the (slight) temptation to try out corn in previous years, primarily due to the small ‘bang for your buck’ value – i.e. if I had a bunch of tomato plants growing in the same amount of garden real estate, I’d end up with a LOT more food biomass.
That being said, now that I’ve tried the corn I am really happy that I did. There is something fun and impressive about having a big ol’ stand of corn in a suburban backyard – and oh those few cobs of corn are going to be tasty!!
Aside from that, the corn stalks really seem to be working well as supports for the pole beans!

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