Location, location, location. Realtors know the value of this and so should gardeners. Better a modest home in a good location than a grander house in a bad location.
I find myself uttering those words as I look at my vegetable garden. Last October, I moved my raised bed garden from a sheltered sunny spot to a more open spot thinking it would do better. There was more space so the new bed could be bigger. My husband and I diligently shoveled multiple wheelbarrow loads of dirt and compost out of the old bed.
Then we dismantled the 75 bricks that formed the bed and one-by-one carried them to the new location and repositioned them with extra bricks into 3 levels to form the new bed. Since I didn't want the iguanas to attack my young seedlings, my husband built a four-foot chicken-wire fence around the bed, supported by aluminum poles hammered into the hard rocky, ground. The fence has two door openings to give me access to the plants. This was a grand-looking raised bed garden.
I added more homemade compost and organic soil to last year's dirt, fixed a trellis for my bush beans and in November was ready to plant my seedlings. The bush bean seedlings were home-raised, the bell peppers, collards and broccoli were store-bought. I perform deep-root watering once a week and the rest of the time I water with a hand-held hose.
So was it a good move? Not so much.
The bell peppers are producing, but not like last year. The bush beans have been a big disappointment. The collards and the broccoli look like they have been frozen in time and haven't increased in size in weeks. This is so different from two years ago in the previous location.
The old location received four to five hours of afternoon sun. The new location is less shaded and receives morning and full afternoon sun. I also discovered -- during the cold, windy spells we had in January and earlier in March -- the new location bore the full brunt of north and west winds, which battered the plants. And because of the proximity of a brackish lake, there was a slight salty spray over the plants.
Despite my best efforts and following all the suggestions I make to others, I admit it was a big mistake. At the end of this growing season, I shall beg my husband to help me move the garden back to its smaller but more productive location.
The Keys' vegetable-growing season ends once the heat of the summer kicks in, which will be around May. In the meantime, I will coax some life into the broccoli, but it's not looking hopeful. I see the peppers are still producing, so will help them as much I can.
I supplement with produce from an organic buying club, a health food store on Big Pine Key that stocks a small but varied selection of organic produce from the Redlands area and, supermarket purchases.
Shirley Gun is a member of the Keyswide nonprofit Green Living & Energy Education. She writes about green living and the four R's -- reducing, reusing, recycling and rot (composting). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.