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Monday, June 1, 2015

Growing the Gardens: Summer Project #1

We filled our SUV with flowers, herbs, and pepper plants.

In order to offset the costs of feeding a large family organic food from the supermarket, and as a learning experience for our children, we grow some of our own fruits and vegetables in the summer.  In years past, we have had as many as six different gardens filled simultaneously along with some berry patches and grapevines.  However, just as we have reduced the number of animals we keep, we have also reduced the number of gardens, at least temporarily until we can keep ahead of the relentless weeds that always get the best of us by August or September.

Right now we have one garden below our pool containing comfrey, sugar peas, radishes, green onions, and some surviving flowers.  My husband is responsible for the edible plants; my 13 year old daughter and I planted the flowers.  Even though the spinach and Swiss chard did not come up, the rest of his plants look much better than mine, and we have already had the privilege of sampling the first peas and radishes.  The comfrey is for our goats and sheep and is a perennial, so it requires no work from us.  The sunflowers, zinnias, gerber daisies, cosmos, and marigolds, on the other hand, have required much effort to keep alive in our suddenly summer-like heat.  Even with daily watering and weeding, we probably lost half of what we planted, which is very disappointing.  I had high hopes that we would have rows of lush, beautiful flowers visible from the pool that would hide from view the less attractive vegetable plants that my husband always plants.  For most of the years we have lived here, I left all of the planting up to my husband because I was too busy caring for babies and toddlers to help much.  This year, I decided I would take a more active role, and I wanted vegetation that was beautiful, not just edible.  Instead, I have to admit that he is a better gardener than I, and there is much more involved than a morning shopping at the local nursery and dropping some seedlings into the ground..

This was our garden 3 weeks ago right after the flowers were planted.

All is not lost, however, and I have learned some valuable lessons from this experience:
●No matter how perfect the plants look at the greenhouse, without proper care, they will be brown, withered, pathetic skeletons within a week.
●Well water does not compare to rain water.  Although I have no control over that one, I was guilty of not always watering in the morning or watering enough.
●I mistakenly thought I would not need to add any fertilizer since this garden spot temporarily housed our chickens a couple of winters ago.  We also threw our scraps there for the chickens, so it was essentially a composting bed for awhile.  Right now, though, it is dry, brown, and rocky with barely an earthworm in site.  My husband took composting straw bedding from the barn to put around his vegetable seedlings, but I did not want to take this step, partially because it was more work and partly because I did not want straw with bits of decomposing sheep and goat droppings around my colorful flowers that were for everyone to look at and admire.
●Finally, I planted about two weeks before we had a huge pile of mulch to put down.  Within an hour or two of watering, the ground around my flowers looked bone dry again.  Additionally, even though my flowers were shrinking in size, the weeds growing up around them seemed to multiply and spread every time I glanced down there.  I would pull them up,  but the next day there would be more.  With all of my other responsibilities, I did not have time to spend hours in that small garden each day.  Mulching immediately would have definitely helped.

At this point, I admit that my husband's section of the garden does look ten times more aesthetically pleasing than mine.  I never would have imagined that would be the case when I informed him a month ago that I was taking over the front, visible part.  I have not given up hope completely, however, because most of my herbs in the herb beds have survived, as have some flowers planted in another flowerbed next to the house.  I figure if all else fails, I will put in a picket fence around the front and sides of the garden.  At least I know I will not kill that.

The garden now with my pitiful flowers in the foreground, and my husband's  green onions, radishes, peas, and comfrey behind.

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