Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Garden (a work in progress)

One of the reasons we wanted to move was our desire to have a huge garden, enabling us to grow as much as our own produce as possible.  At our old house, I had about a 200 sq feet of garden space and it never failed to amaze me how much food I could grow in a small space. 

Last summer, we staked out where we wanted the future garden to be and laid huge tarps over the pasture grass.  They stayed there from about June until November.  When we removed them, the grass was deader than a doornail. Worked like a charm.  I know you can just spray the area with Round-up, but I wasn't keen on that.  One, I loath Monsanto and do everything in my power to avoid supporting that terrible company.  Two, I intend to have an organic garden and hopefully sell the produce, so I want to make sure I avoid chemicals coming into contact with my soil.   My husband borrowed a tiller and was able to easily till all the dead grass into the soil.

When spring rolled around this year (80 degree days in March!  Unheard of!), we scrambled to get the garden beds set up.  My gardening philosophy has been influenced by several sources, but to put it in a nutshell, I prefer raised or mounded beds with compost added, companion planting (planting lots of different plants in the same bed to confuse pests), minimal tilling (we hope to never have to till again after the initial turning over of the bed), straw pathways between the beds and organic growing practices (no chemical fertilizers or pesticides).  My favorite book has been "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible" by Edward C. Smith".  Full of great ideas and knowledge for more advanced gardeners, yet not overwhelming for the beginner.  Currently, I've been researching the French Intensive/Biodynamic gardening methods.  The methods are, well, intensive.  I don't have the time to pursue that method right now as a busy mom with small children, but perhaps in a different season of my life.  Using this method, it takes about 8 hours to prepare each garden bed.... and I have 26 beds.  Yikes.  I'd like to start gradually converting to this method,  doing a few beds each year. 

The garden in progress - this view shows about half of the garden.

We're not completely finished setting up the garden, but when it is done, we will have 26 garden beds, each one about 4'x16'. The beds are lined on the long sides with trees we cut down from the back tree line.  For the pathways, we first shoveled out about 3-4 inches of soils and added that to the adjacent beds.  Then we laid down a thick layer of newspapers (to prevent weeds) and a topping of straw, so we have nice clean pathways to kneel on.   The total square footage of the garden is over 4,000 sq. feet, including pathways.  Not going to lie.  I'm a little nervous about how I'm going to maintain it all.  In my basement, I have over 75 tomato plants started under grow lights, along with dozens of peppers and other assorted veggie plants.  This all sounds fun and great, until the day comes when I'll have to DO something with all those tomatoes.  My canner may become my new best friend... or enemy, depending on my state of fatigue come August/September.   We shall see...

I'm still working on constructing beds, digging/lining pathways and adding goat compost to each bed, but I was able to plant some peas and spinach in some of the finished beds.  The peas are coming up nicely and I was able to eat my first bite of spinach a few days ago.


I spent hours this winter planning the garden on graph paper, arranging the crops in a way that I can rotate them easily over the years (it's not good to plant the same thing in a bed year after year - pest and diseases problems arise).   This piece of paper will be my guide as I start planing the garden.  I also keep a gardening journal, which I HIGHLY recommend, for even a first time gardener.  In my journal, I keep track of what I planted, on what day, what the weather is like, problems that arise and how I tried to solve it, etc.  It has been incredibly valuable to look back at entries so that I avoid making the same mistake twice (and believe me, I've made LOTS of mistakes). 

So, here are the plants I intend to put in the garden this year.  95% of my seeds are certified organic, as I hope to sell some of my extra produce:

-Tomatoes (several varieties)
-Sweet bell peppers (several varieties)
-Hot peppers  (2 varieties)
-Cucumbers (slicers and pickling)
-Pole Beans
-Bush Beans
- Sugar Snap Peas
-Shelling Peas
-Carrots (3 varieties, including red!)
-Onion (2 varieties)
-Swiss Chard
-Brussel Sprouts
-Lettuce (3 varieties)
-Sweet Corn
-Pumpkins (several variates)
-Butternut Squash
-Spaghetti Squash

One thing you may note I am NOT growing - Zucchini.  Ha!  There's no need to grow it - people are always desperate to give it away!  I'm sure I can get some if I really want it.

My husband had grand plans to build me a greenhouse this spring, but we've been overwhelmed with more pressing matters (like fencing pasture for pigs!), so the greenhouse will have to wait.  He already bought some old school house windows on Craigslist, so perhaps it can be constructed later this summer when we're not as busy (HA!).  Hopefully, it will be ready by fall so I can try my hand at growing lettuces and greens in the greenhouse over the winter.

Future Greenhouse windows - they're 8'x4'

Well, that's about it for now.  I'll keep updating the blog as things get exciting in the garden.  Until then, I better get my butt outside and shovel some goat poop.

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