Sunday, May 31, 2020

Learn By Doing: Gardening

Ok... I promise I will be better about updating more frequently on the blog. Everything going on in the world, home renovations, and the start of spring really had us running around like mad. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in one of her books "There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime." 

This is so very true. Last year, spring came in with repeated torrential rains, which meant we were unable to put in a garden until June. We cut the sod with a sod cutter in a torrential rain storm. When we finally heard thunder we went into the barn. I looked at my phone and saw that we had been under a tornado warning.... oops. 

Why yes we did do this in a tornado warning... oopsie
Why yes, we did do this in a tornado warning... oopsie
Muddy and taking shelter in the barn while we wait out the storm.

We then constructed a fence to keep the deer and groundhogs out. We used 7ft t-posts with 5 foot hardware cloth with 12-18 inches kicked out at the bottom to keep animals from digging their way into the garden. We put chicken wire above that another 2ft. We only attached the bottom half and left the top floppy so if an animal tries to climb it their weight will flop them back off of it. Finally, we ran a wire around the very top to discourage the deer from jumping in. 

Jeremy driving the fence posts
The garden fence going up. Stay out deer!

After all of that, we finally planted the garden. And then.... it rained. And it rained. We got 1.5 inches of rain immediately after we planted... Sigh. We lost 49/50 bean seeds. Only one survived and germinated. We dug drainage trenches to save the strawberries as we sunk into the muck. It killed all 9 cucumber plants and almost killed the watermelon. The carrots were washed away. Despite all of that, some of it survived. And we just went with it because we felt defeated. We battled weeds and grass all summer and fall.
2019 garden planted!

The devastation the next day after 1.5" of rain fell overnight and that day

So what did we do this year differently that we learned the hard way, but you don't have to.

As we harvested and at the end of the year we covered the garden in black plastic to smother the grass. It baked in the sun and helped clear out the grass.

We amended the soil with compost. We have soil with a high clay content. The root vegetables do not like this soil at all. We amended with compost in hopes of breaking up the clay a little. We put 3 yards (or 3 5 ft truck beds full) of compost in the garden. This was enough for a little over half an inch on the whole garden. We hope to add this again in the fall and spring to continue to amend the soil.

So much compost was shoveled.

Well we planted 2 weeks earlier Memorial Day weekend. And you'll never guess what it did after we planted.... it rained....again. We got .5 inches of rain this time. Not great, but no where near as much.  We mounded our cucumber plants this year to shed water and they survived the deluge. 

Garden planted 2020

We covered all of the ground where plants and mounds were with landscaping cloth to cut down on the weeding. 

Landscape cloth to cut down on weeds

Instead of planting bush beans we planted pole beans around a bean teepee. Each seed was planted in a hole in the landscape cloth to help with weeding and to keep the water from washing the seeds away. 

Bean teepee construction

The lessons were hard learned on our part, but if we can help someone else we will try. This year after taking the lessons to heart and rethinking our strategy all of the plants are growing and the seeds are sprouting and growing fast. We are much further ahead this year than where we were this time last year. 

We have strawberries!
The beginnings of butternut squash

Tiny turnips!

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