Although I’ve had a tomato plant or two over the years, I’ve never been what anyone would call a “gardener.” In fact, when I buy a plant in the store, my husband lovingly suggests killing it in the car on the way home rather than watching it die slowly over time.
Yeah, he’s a funny guy. The sad thing is, he’s right. Haphazard gardener suits me to a t. I’ve not been a good plant steward. I’ve just never been interested in dirt and seeds. A dear friend told me she majored in soil and seeds and I think I wrinkled my nose before I could stop myself. I’m big on animals: we have backyard chickens for eggs. We raise and process our own broilers. As soon as I can get a fence around the 3 acre field across the driveway, I’m getting a dairy cow, a steer and a couple of pigs.
Until then, it’s time to see about growing food in dirt. If I can raise and kill my own chickens, surely I can grow a broccoli.
I mean, how hard can it be? (Such famous last words, right?) But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this real food journey, it’s that bodies heal and plants grow as long as we’re not poisoning the host. Add even a little bit of love and attention and both flourish!
Everywhere I look, there are gardens, all sizes and shapes: on the ground, in low and high raised beds, in big and small containers, in rows or in towers, in window boxes, in soil or water, in sunshine, under grow lights, in greenhouses, high and low tunnels, and in all four seasons. There are gardens in all different sized yards and homes, from mansions to mobile homes, tended by all colors, ages and sizes of gardeners.
Clearly anyone can grow food. Anyone. Even me and even you.
This year I decided to prove it. Here are my garden criteria:
- grow foods we like or that the chickens will eat
- must be easy to grow*
- plant as time allows, not get hung up on when the package says to plant
- full sun (because that’s where the garden is)
- starting from plants mostly, not seed (except for beans and corn)
- only heirloom and organic
*I guess most plants are easy to grow: put in the dirt, water as needed… I knew I wasn’t going to do anything extra: no fertilizer, no bug stuff, as little weeding as possible, no Farmer’s Almanac planting by the moon schedules to keep. Maybe next year. This year, we’re keeping it simple.
The hardest and most expensive part of gardening by far is the bed. We built a raised bed because I don’t want to bend over or spend all day on my knees pulling weeds. I love my raised bed! It was built with slabs and posts, so simple.
The soil around here is mostly clay, not so great for veggies. We needed dirt and lots of it. Last year, we lucked into 50 bags of organic soil conditioner on sale for $1 a bag and it took almost all of that to fill the 2′ tall by 4′ wide 6′ long bed. If I’d had to pay full price at $5/bag, it would have been really expensive. Even so, once the bed is full of dirt, you are good for years.
How did we get organic soil conditioner for $1 a bag? We asked! We asked a clerk at Lowe’s, “How much for 50 bags of that organic soil conditioner?” It was late in the season and she looked the 200 or so bags she had and said, “How about $1 each.” You never know unless you ask, right? Going to try that again next week. Not so late in the season yet but worth a shot!
In the raised bed, we have tomatoes, peppers, and an eggplant. These starter plants I bought from a guy in Lexington whose current life’s work is heirloom tomatoes. He starts the seeds in winter and sells the plants for $2.50 each. I have 7 tomato plants, 4 peppers and the one Fairy Tale eggplant. They are doing fantastic, as you can see.
Last December, I planted garlic in the two whiskey half-barrels by the front door. It was supposed to be planted in late Oct or early Nov but I didn’t get around to it. Haphazard… Fortunately, garlic could not be easier to grow: push the cloves in pointy side up 2″ deep and leave until the leaves above ground are almost dead. Remove the new garlic, hang to dry and boom, you’ve got garlic.
Garden Betty has great photos and very detailed instructions for growing garlic. Plus I just read about “green garlic” — planting some of that tomorrow!
This week, I’m building a trellis and planting beans and corn from seed — no germinating, just push those suckers into the ground. I bought the corn from High Mowing seeds a couple of years ago; a friend gave me the beans.
I finally planted the strawberries in a sunny spot at the end of the house, and a row of rosemary and lavender along the front. These organic starter plants I got from Azure Standard, around $2.50 each as well. Azure is out of them now, but in the spring, search Azure for “Sarah’s Starts.”
I say “finally” because I got them a month ago and let them sit in those plastic pots until this week. Nothing died, though, because I watered them almost every day. I’m learning.
There are a couple of (organic) blue and blackberry bushes lining the driveway picked up from Lowes. We’ll add more poco a poco (meaning when they are on sale!) The berries are mostly for the chickens and bees, although hopefully we’ll get to eat some, too.
The master plan (like we have a master plan, lol) is to have lots of low-maintenance plants around the property producing lots of food for us and the animals.
Is that gardening? It’s definitely haphazard! But at the end of the day, it’s all about real food and keeping it simple.
What are you all growing? What’s your favorite food to grow? Please share your tips and tricks to getting delicious real food from your garden!