June 29, 2009

Garden Beginnings

1st garden at the new house.
This is absolutely the most haphazard garden I've ever had. For one thing, we started late. Fortunately we live in a part of the US that has a long growing season. Even so, I would ordinarily have started with a soil test after carefully considering all possible garden locations. We would have tilled deep and added one truckload of manure and another of any other organic matter we could get our hands onto. I would have planned the whole thing out and known exactly what I wanted and where. I would have calculated how much we need to plant for a year's supply, and bought heirloom seeds with the plan of saving my own for next year. I would have started careful records of planting dates, harvest dates, etc.

However, we got here later in the season than we hoped, and were so overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done (house, yard, garden, etc), that I threw all planning to the wind and said to Dan, "Something is better than nothing."

If you've ever started a garden in a place that was formerly lawn, then you know that grass is stubborn to give up its claim to the ground. That's why lots of folks build raised beds. Dan is not too keen on these, as he loves to get behind a tiller. I wasn't too keen on them this year either, as I knew it would take awhile before we could get them built. Dan ended up renting a tiller, a lightweight rear tine Toro. I'm sorry to report that it was no better than a toy tiller. With 4 inch tines it barely scratched the surface of the soil. I told him to never mind and reminded myself that Ruth Stout had done a whole lot more with a whole lot less.

As the seeds began to come up, the grass started to come back. To hopefully smother that, I first mulched with newspaper and leftover packing paper, covering that with a layer of wood chips and leaves.

Packing paper covered with mulch.We bought one load of wood chip mulch, but quickly abandoned that in favor of plain ol' leaves. Never mind that most people rake theirs out of their yard and we're hauling them in. At $21 a bobcat bucket scoop for chipped mulch, I prefer to use what's handy. And free. Besides, I didn't like the smell of the boughten commercial stuff.

As it is, the neighbors think we're nuts. The friendly couple across the street came over to introduce themselves while we were beavering away in the garden and stayed to chat awhile. As they left, I overheard him ask her, "Did you find out what the newspaper was for?"

Unfortunately for all our neighbors, we are not manicured lawn and ornamental type of folks. Ours will be an edible, medicinal, and dye plant landscape. We believe that the land should be allowed to be productive in a more realistic way, one that benefits us and helps meet our needs. We take our stewardship of it seriously, and plan to nurture and care for it in turn. Dan wants every square inch of this place to be productive in a self-sustaining way.

At first I wasn't too keen on having the garden so close to the road. But twice I've seen a deer in the back field, so perhaps for this year, this is a good place to start.

So far I've bought eight tomato plants from a local nursery, along with a bell pepper plant. I've planted okra, corn, pumpkins, butternut squash, cucumbers, straightneck summer squash, green beans, acorn squash, and some sunflowers.

I bought a lot of 25 cent seeds and was happy to discover that quite a few of them are heirloom varieties. Of these I can save seeds for next year. The pumpkins (on left), are "Small Sugar." I like to grow the small pie pumpkins rather than the big ones used for jack-o-lanterns. The small ones are much better flavored.

I still have a lot of mulching to do and of course some weeding. Dan just put up the bean poles for me, but I will need to run the string for the runners to grab on to. I need a few more tomato cages or stakes as well.

I also need to get a rain gauge and some soaker hoses. We've had a lot of rain, but I expect it will be dryer in July and August and I'll need to irrigate a bit. And I need to have a soil test done!

I'm not sure how much we'll harvest, but we plan to eat as much as we are able and can, freeze, dehydrate, or otherwise store the rest. I don't have a root cellar yet, but will find a way to store those pumpkins and winter squashes.

In the fall, I hope to plant cool weather vegetables: lettuce, radishes, peas, broccoli, etc, And maybe some root crops such as carrots, turnips and beets. We have clay soil, so it may take a few years to get it to the point where root crops will do well.

This winter we'll have more time to plan, and will have a better idea of the path of the sun. I have confidence that next year's garden will be better. And larger. I'm just thankful to have my hands in the soil again.


Renee Nefe said...

I have to have a garden too. I don't really understand the compulsion though. I suppose it is just the thrill of eating food that I "made". The sad part is DH & DD won't eat most of what I plant. But it does give me plenty to share with my friends...and that provides some joy too.

You're right, something is better than nothing and next year will be better. I love the pictures of your garden.

We have a very short growing season here, so buying tomatoe plants is a must. I would love to put up a greenhouse and start my own seeds...maybe one year. sigh!

Michelle said...

Wow, for a quick, unplanned garden that's looking really good! Hopefully the deer will leave it alone; we have to put an 8' fence around ours to keep the deer from ravaging it.

bspinner said...

Your garden is wonderful!!! I am so impressed that you found the time to get the ground ready and planted a garden!!!

We've scaled down to one bed of vegetables that we can eat when they are ready. There is nothing better than fresh vegetables from the garden or fruit from the vine or tree.

Geodyne said...

Leigh, I'm so pleased I've found this blog. I, too, do the self-sufficiency thing and I'm somewhat envious and delighted that you have all that space!

Good luck getting the garden settled in.

Leigh said...

Renee, that is too funny about DH and DD. It reminds me of some friends I used to have in Tennessee. They bought a farm but the kids didn't like it there. She made wonderful butter and cheese from their Jersey cow, but the kids refused to eat "cow butter" and "cow cheese." It was "store butter" (margarine) and "store cheese" only for them!

I like your idea of a greenhouse. My DH wants to build one of those too someday.

An 8 foot fence!!! Oh Michelle, and to think I was worried about fencing for goats. The place Ive seen the deer is one of the spots I considered for the garden. Obviously I'm glad now to not have put it there. Still, we will be needing to expand it next year. I'm just not sure where yet.

Barb, thanks! We made the garden a priority. The grass has pretty much re-established itself in some spots, which points out my slowness in getting everything planted and mulched. I admit that I don't work in the sun out there however, which starts to shine on the garden around 8 AM. I don't "do" sun.

Geodyne, I'm pleased you're pleased! We are very thankful for the space, but would work toward the same goal anywhere. Well, I take that back, it was hard to work toward any level of self-sufficiency in that 2nd story apartment we came from!

Mim said...

I love Ruth Stout from way back. When you get goats and sheep you'll have plenty of mulch. We use all our grass clippings too. I have few trees but would love more for the mulch they create.

Heather said...

I'm a fan of Ruth Stout's methods too. I've just left my garden of 10 years and am starting one in our temporary home, yesterday I was putting down flattened cardboard boxes as a bottom mulch layer. Good thing there are no neighbours close by to see. Love that "did you find out what the newspaper is for" bit. ;-)

Your plants are looking very healthy and your garden looks great.

Dorothy said...

We've made a garden out of a lawn, we lifted the turf and stacked it upside down under a tarpaulin. It breaks down into first class top soil.

Like you, we used lots of woodchip too. We can buy it in a small truck load which works out well. However, now we've got more stuff growing we're producing a lot of our own chip with a small munching machine. There's a proper name for these machines but I forget it, they chew twigs and branches into little bits, we just call it the Muncher.

I love your photos of things growing.

Sharon said...

You done good - that garden is going to feed you with tastes and flavors and that alone could be your reward. I cannot believe you're not worried about deer. I bet they're hanging around, licking their lips and pre-shopping. How do you feel about eating deer? Just kidding - I for one can't eat Bambi.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Having lived two places with deer problems, I would bet my life that it won't be long before the deer find it to the front of the property. The only thing that will stop deer is a tall enough fence, some would say electrified. I am an ornamental gardener so used various sprays with some degree of success. I don't know whether you can use them on vegetables and fruits. As for grass, all I can see is that I continually dig out the grass to enlarge the room for ornamentals. And leaves---in Ohio, you left your leaves bagged in the street. I would take my large garden cart and gather them up. Our son was most embarrassed............. Then I shredded them. And good for you throwing planning to the winds and just getting started.

Leigh said...

Mim, another good reason to get animals!

Heather, what a great idea about mulcing with cardboard boxes! I hadn't thought about that. I've been freecycling mine, but could put them to good use that way too.

Dorothy, lifting the grass never occurred to me! Was it a lot of work. Seems like it would be the best way to not be in a constant battle for the next umpteen years. I like that you have your own "munching" machine too. We need to see if we can find one of these 2nd hand.

Sharon and Peg, I don't trust the deer. My garden is right on the road (which is fairly busy at times) but then deer don't worry about roads.

Peg, I love that about the bagged leaves. Way to go!

Tina T-P said...

What a great garden you'll have - it is always so rewarding to have grown your own food. I'll have to send you some seeds from our Amish Pie pumpkins - they are yummy and sweet AND they grow BIG -

Hope the kitties are having as good a time as you are! T.