Earl Hall has been bringing samples from his garden to our club meetings for several years – samples include onion sets and turnips the size of softballs. I had the pleasure of visiting his garden recently to see how he does it. Earl manages to grow wonderful vegetables in spite of the rocky conditions west of Austin where he lives. He was raised on a farm in North Carolina where his parents were, as he said, “on the leading edge of self-sufficiency”.
Earl has a combination of 4×4 square foot beds as well as a sizeable area of native soil garden rows all enclosed inside a deer fence. He uses Mel’s mix in his raised beds referring to a soil recipe advocated by Mel Bartholomew founder of the square foot gardening method. He purchases components for his soil from local sources like Geo Growers, The Natural Gardener, and Callahan’s. With years of adding compost, the native soil is now fluffy and friable as well. Earl suggests using a variety of types of compost and generally mixes turkey and dairy.
At the time of my visit, Earl had a good crop of onions and spinach still going stong – both were started from seed. He has a good start on beans and tomatoes for spring and as you can see in the photos, he has considerable space between his tomatoes. He has empty boxes anchored next to each tomato plant to protect the young plants from the wind and mulches each with a 5 gallon bag of compost.
I’ll report back periodically as the season progresses and bring more of Earl’s tricks and tips.