Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sun vs. the Cinder Block Garden

I love the sun.  I wake up to feel its warmth caressing my face through the window every morning.  It energizes me as I work in the gardens.  Walking to a given destination with the sun upon my skin causes every pore on my body to sing with delight.  There is absolutely no downside to having the sun beam onto you from above.

Not everything that I've planted agrees with these thoughts of mine, however.

My cinder block garden has been difficult to care for, as compared to most of my other plots.  Originally, I had planted basil, chives, poppies, and dill.  As an afterthought, I also tossed some seeds into a mostly closed off block that had only a very tiny opening to place some dirt into.

I expected things to go well.  I expected everything to be easy.  

Boy, was I wrong!  The cinder block garden turned out to be far more labor intensive than anything else in my yard.

The reason, strangely, was the sun.  

Specifically, it was the heat generated by the sun as it hit the cinder blocks.  As I'm sure you're aware, cement and concrete are phenomenal heat gatherers.  That's why we don't walk on a sidewalk with bare feet on a hot afternoon.  I've never heard anybody say something like, "It's hot enough to fry an egg on the grass!" because the idea is, quite obviously, absurd.  

There were days, however, when I did wonder if it would be possible to fry an egg on my cinder block garden!  As the sun hit the blocks throughout the day, a large amount of heat was gathered and retained by the cinder block garden.  As the dirt within the blocks warmed, it slowly dried out.  

The result was very unhappy sprouts.  I had to continually water my planters in order to combat this.

In the end, I wound up with fewer plants than I expected.  The poppies began to sprout, then died because I couldn't replenish the water fast enough.  The chives never had a chance.

The good news, though, is that the plants that did survive are actually quite strong.  I still have to water them very frequently, but their flavor is potent, and they look beautiful.

Both sections of dill are doing great.  

One of the sections has even begun to flower.  It's the seeds of the dill that I'm most interested in, because I love to make pickles, so this is very exciting!  The leaves can be eaten, as well, but I don't often use them.  

Look at that beautiful yellow!
Basil is the other herb that survived the heat during its seedling stage.  

Indeed, the sun's intensity ended up turning it into the most potent tasting basil I've ever come across!  After pruning the stem down a bit to encourage more growth, I used one leaf in a strawberry smoothie that I made for myself.



Ok, let me say that again, in case you missed it.

One leaf!!!

Normally, I use a full sprig, so this is a huge change for me.  Very, very intense flavor.

There was a nice surprise growth, as well!

I didn't expect anything to come of the thyme seeds that I had offhandedly sprinkled into the cinder block that was mostly closed off, yet if you look at the photo above, you'll notice that it is indeed growing.  As if that wasn't enough to make me happy, this particular variety of thyme is very drought resistant once you get it established.

Score!!!

As it turns out, the sun may have made my cinder block garden more difficult to tend, but it also gave me a more flavorful, stronger crop in the long run.  My extra labor on this tiny garden definitely paid off.

I can't argue with results like that.  Hooray for the sun!!!








2 comments:

  1. hmm, I'm not sure where you are located, but I garden in a cinderblock raised bed in Hades (er... I mean Phoenix Arizona, the valley of the sun). I have found no bad effects from using the cinderblocks, especially for growing Basil in the holes. Basil just loves the heat and my plants got three feet tall and incredibly robust. I had so much basil last year, I was giving it away by the armloads. Other things that loved the cinderblocks: Eggplants and Okra, love the heat, of course I coudn't put those in the blocks themselves, but they did great in the raised bed. 6 foot tall plants, I'm still eating okra that I saved in my freezer last summer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, my basil did great, as well as the dill. It was the chives that gave up the fight. I never had a problem with chives - they were a staple crop of mine when I lived in the southwest - but they couldn't handle the cinder block hole they were placed in. Water retention was extraordinarily difficult, and I couldn't keep the seedlings moist enough to survive. Everything else that *did* survive, however, thrived.

    Lesson learned: Transplant chives into the cinder blocks, rather than directly sowing them!

    Idea Taken From You: Try eggplant this year! That sounds like a spectacular idea!!!

    ReplyDelete