Saturday, April 25, 2009

farmer wannabe

I love my garden. Its a good thing, because when it gets this hot, you have to love it or you would never venture out in the muggy mornings to see what's there. I have a small garden in the scope of farms. I like to use the Square Foot Gardening method because it is easier on me and my back to keep it weeded and grow enough for my family to eat. The 4' wide blocks are easy to manage and I have 2' paths between each bed to provide access to the entire area. Several years ago we have added chickens to our life, so they are now aiding in the entire process. They are allowed into the area whenever I have finished harvesting and they are let in on occasion to scratch up the paths, weeding and ridding the area of bugs. They leave behind fertilizer and I regularly clean out their coop so I can add it to my compost pile. When they are not in my garden they are foraging for food in their own yard. We have Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Australorps, an Aracauna and a Silver Dorking. We also have two Bourbon Red Turkeys.

I let the ladies in to "garden" quite a bit. I can block off areas I don't want them to eat in and send them back to their plot of land when they start causing trouble or I want to close the area off for the evening. This summer we got an early start with two liter bottles as mini-greenhouses. I had squash and tomatoes flowering long before I have before and it was much easier to transition them to the garden because I never had them inside in the first place. Most of the seeds I had from previous years, but I always order from Pinetree or Fedco seeds in the winter to try new plants. Pinetree offers seed packets in sizes I can use. I have never found a need to plant 50 zucchini plants and I don't see much point in purchasing that many seeds when I will only plant about 6 of them. This year we have a nice selection of tomatoes. I try to plant a variety of open-pollinated varieties and then save some seeds each year from the plants that we like the most. When we moved to the mountains, I had to reassess what I was growing since the climate is so different. This year we have some new squash and pumpkins that are more naturally resistant to powdery mildew since that decimated my squash plants last year. Outside my "garden" I also have various fruit vines and bushes and several varieties of herbs that I can harvest almost year around. This didn't all happen overnight. Some of the cuttings were started from plants at our previous home. Some were purchased over the past year. The land here needs a lot of attention. While the woods are healthy, the areas where plantings and grass were added are suffering from too much round up, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This will take years to undo. The deadly combination not only kills unwanted pests, but the good ones too. It destroys the helpful, disease-preventing microbes that survive in the soil and the natural process of rebuilding its nutrients is lost. So, we must improve the soil by NOT using pesticides and chemical fertilizers and then continually compost, plant cover crops and use other sustainable gardening methods to make the earth rich with nutrients and good to our plants. The results are where we are today. We still battle bugs, but I have found that with diligence it is manageable and we have a wonderful garden that feeds us well. My hope is to work toward not just feeding ourselves, but selling, trading and bartering our wares with others as well.

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