Increasing soil microbial activity

blissv at blissv at
Wed Jan 7 22:27:33 EST 1998

At 11:52 PM 11/28/97 +-900, you wrote:
>Hi Vicki
>thanks for your inspiring tale of soil building in the high desert. It 
>sounds like you'll be growing a lot of your own food in the next year or 
>so. Have you tried growing any beans (tepari, pinto, etc.)? Which outdoor 
>plants have been the most successful for you?
>	I haven't seen many garden plants hardier than good ole daikon. Here in 
>central Japan the winters are relatively mild, and daikon grow right 
>through the worst of it. They're real troopers. As a matter of fact, I'm 
>going to eat some right now!
>happy digging
>Jonathan Bentley
>Dear Jonathan,
I am sorry for the delay in responding.  My computer has had a major
overhaul and I have been out of commission for weeks!

I am looking forward to a growing season resulting in more food production
than it has for these past 4 years, during which time I have been building
towards healthier growing conditions..I keep saying this..perhaps this year
it will be true! The problem here, of course, at this altitude, is that we
have wide fluctuations of temperature.  Daytime can be warm and sunny,
80-mid-90 degrees Farenheit with no humidity and night can dip almost to
freezing. This is quite a challenge for growing as is the baked, hard soil
that is amazingly difficult to work into a deep tilth AND the incessant,
drying winds AND grasshoppers AND frequent drought periods. The sun bakes
everything and the base material being an adobe-like clay makes great brick
and could definitely use some improvement when it comes to digging and growing!

After many years of growing in Oregon and western Washington State, I was
particularly accustomed to optimum conditions..except for the ongoing battle
with the slugs and occasional flooding.  What a change and so much new to
learn in an entirely new environment!

I'm ready to try tepary beans this season, heard from our local CSA growers
that they do well..I finally ate some last year and thought they were
wonderful. Favas have been the most reliable and productive bean for me so
far. (I love favas! Lovely flowers, pretty plants, hardy as can be, great
food both fresh and dried, and nitrogen-fixing to boot!) Bush bean were slow
to start (germination slow with cool nights..I will soak and sprout this
year) but good production once going.  Greens do well here. I have lots of
kales, chard, lots of varieties of oriental greens, lettuces and any other
unusual thing I can find to try. Broccoli and cauliflower grow well.
Interestingly enough, I had the best crop of basil this year I have ever
had. And dill..And flowers..Squash does great if it's put in already
sprouted and the season is long enough.

What doesn't do well is pretty predictable. Tomatoes, chilis, peppers in
general, melons.  Root crops (potatos included) actually do ok in certain
areas, the softer, deeper soil areas. I LOVE cucumbers and am going to do
whatever I can to have lots of them.  Last season they did produce late
and delicious sweet fruit..I think I will have covers for them and it will help.

I look forward to trying Daikon here..In Washington state they got gigantic.
You are fortunate to have a climate that supports year round growing even on
just  few things..I rely on my unheated greenhouse to supply some greens in
winter and trays of sprouts. 

It was fun to spend this time with you talking about growing food..on a cold
winter's night, it makes me warm to think of the sunny, crystalline blue
time outside in the gardens soon to come. What's it like where you are in

 Eat a big ole radish for me.  


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