24 April 2013

Garden of Wynne 2013

You know it's spring at our house when we bring
our station wagon home full of seedlings.

This year's vegetable garden is (mostly) planted, and I have the itch to write about our gardening experience as the season unfolds. And with many of our friends having started their own gardens, calling us up for suggestions for anything from fertilizing to plant placement, I figured I could write a few posts about what is working/has worked for us.

Even when the husband and I had a humble apartment together, we were planting veggies. We weren't exactly replacing the pounds of tomatoes we were buying at Kroger, but we had to start somewhere. We utilized our concrete slab of a patio to raise 6 planters of the red fruit.

Things have changed a lot since then. Now we have 8 raised beds in the front yard, an herb bed in the back, and a wide variety of ornamental plants, including a crapload of bulb flowers (my favorite) and hostas that look like they're on steroids. We raise enough tomatoes and peppers to can sauces, salsa, and jelly to last through the next growing season.

(Which canning, by the way, isn't just for old Southern ladies who want to preserve peaches or pickle okra. Try it, and you'll never want to buy spaghetti sauce from the store ever again.)

And herbs? Some grow so prolifically (oregano, mint, lemon balm, chives), we have to give them away in bunches. Mint is delectable herb to add to tea or lemonade in the summer.

First tomato we ever grew. (2008)

Garden of Wynne today.
Space for turning cartwheels between the squash and peas. (2013)

It's been several weeks since I even sat down to write on the blog (stupid virus), but now it's time to get back into the habit and use my little blog to share what we do, know, and grow. Be warned: unrelated posts will undoubtedly pop up. Just be on the lookout for those related to gardening.

With all that said, this post will focus on the changes that we've made for this year's veggie patch in attempt to make up for the apathy we had in last summer's garden. Sure, we had success last year. I obviously had to have enough produce to make my garlicky tomato sauce. We just had an infant who took front and center, so we let some things slide (or die) when Nerd was busy entertaining us.

Here's what we're working on this year. Changes tend to be time- and money-savers. And with me being a tree-hugger, they're also green.

1. Make-shift deep ground irrigation. Summers here in the foothills of north Georgia are hot and very dry. This takes a toll on any plant. After doing some research, we found that funneling water to the roots was the answer. Other blogging farmers suggested using PVC pipe to do this, but we weren't interested in buying supplies. So we started saving milk jugs and soda bottles. Cut off the bottom, poke a bunch of small holes in the sides with a tiny screwdriver, and invert into the soil between plants (caps removed). Whether you fill them up with the hose or they fill with rain water, they are meant to be a direct line to those roots.

Recycle those plastic jugs--in the dirt.
2. Move the 'taters. We used to plant them in 2 full beds. This year, they are in a clearing beside the beds. It may have taken time to clear out the weeds, but it would have taken more time (and money) to build new beds. They get great filtered sunlight as they slowly mound. The path that cuts through is lined by fallen branches from our woods and covered in wheat straw we were already using for mulching in the beds. I wrote a post about growing potatoes 2 years ago that you can find here if you'd like to check it out.

Roughly 8 weeks of growth (weeds included).
I can already taste the hash browns.
Potato patch right after planting in early March 2013.

3. Netted trellis. I don't have a photo of this, but we are using grid-style nylon netting for training peas and climbing cucumbers. They were cheap at Home Depot, and I'm assuming with them being made of nylon, we will be able to use them again.

4. Soil conditioning with homemade compost. We've always had a compost pile, but we haven't really put it to use until this growing season. It has its pros (rich in nutrients) and cons (will grow anything, including lots of weeds!), but it saves the budget from having to condition with store-bought supplements. This is a topic on which I can write a separate post.

5.  Gardening with a toddler. We load up her wagon and spend quality time in the yard. She already knows what the watering can is for and insists on wearing her cap every time we go out. It's not always easy, but it's worth it. I just can't wait for harvest days. Nerd is sure to point and shout "BALL!" for every tomato on the vine she helps pick. I'll write a separate post about gardening with children. 


Nerd helping her momma.
6. Growing tomatoes with really cool names. I get it. It's not really "new" thing for the garden. But c'mon. Mortgage Lifter? Black Prince? Sun Sugar? Give me colors and sizes (seriously--who wouldn't want to see how big the Mortgage Lifter will get?), not the same ol' red orbs time and time again.

Happy gardening!


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