Adventures in Gardening: This City Slicker Gets Serious
Adventures in Gardening is going to be a new series I am doing this spring and summer. I’ll let you follow along as I attempt to grow some food for the first time ever.
Having a garden this year is one of my Green and Crunchy Goals. However, I felt almost paralyzed about how to start a garden, what to grow, etc. I have never gardened before. It is an understatement to call me a complete novice. A lot of people I asked kept telling me its really hard to grow a garden here in south Georgia because it gets too hot. That may be the case, but people had to eat before the industrial food system came along, didn’t they? Surely I can grow something here. So I started researching.
I want an organic garden. I don’t want to put crazy chemicals on my food. What goes into the soil and onto the leaves will go into the produce of the garden, which will go into my body and into my kids body.
However, I don’t want to sugar coat this. I’m trying to be realistic about what to expect. I am guessing it is going to be way harder to do this organically than it is to spray for bugs and things.
1. I am scared of bugs. And lizards. And snakes. And caterpillars. And organic gardening encourages a good balance of such things. (Good bugs, at least. Not bad bugs.) I don’t like touching bugs and I don’t like being around them. Lord help me if I see a snake in my garden. You’ll probably be able to hear me scream from wherever you are.
2. There are lots of bugs here.
3. I want to use heirloom seeds and they have not been bred to resist some of this stuff. However, these particulars seeds have a long history, so something must be good about them.
Is a person who is scared of bugs crazy to try to grow a garden without pesticides?
So, one night last week I was experiencing huge doubt. I know its just a garden, but I really want this to work. Can I really do this? Am I wasting our money? Do I even know anything at all about gardening? I came to a conclusion, with my husband’s encouragement. I am going to do this garden how I think it should be done. I am not going to spend a lot of money on it. I am not going to use chemicals. I am going to use about 98% heirloom seeds.
However, this garden is not a gospel issue. I am not sinning if I need to go out and buy some starter tomato plants (that are hybirds, not heirloom (gasp!)) if I can’t get my seeds to grow properly. It is not the end of the world if I have to use some chemicals on my garden. I am going to try not to, but I’m not willing to let my whole investment go to waste when a little bit of pesticide could save it all. (Although, I will try every natural method first and I’ll tell you if I end up using crazy chemicals.) This whole thing is going to be a learning experience, and that is okay. I don’t have to do everything perfectly. Sometimes I need to remind myself of this and not make mountains out of mole hills. :)
After I got over my doubts, I started laying the ground work for my garden over the past few days. Here’s what I’ve done.
The Ground Work for The Garden
1. Get some trusted advisors. My grandpa has been gardening his whole life here, as did his dad, and his dad’s dad. That’s a lot of knowledge I can tap into there. My pastor has also gardened for nearly a decade here and gave me some good advice about what to grow. I called our local extension office and they gave me some helpful advice and sent me some literature about gardening specific to this area. I also have a couple friends from college, Laura and Becky, who have done organic gardening before. I think I’m covered from all angles here when I need advice.
2. Decide if you are going to get seeds and germinate them yourself or buy plants that have already been started. Since I am using heirloom plants and I don’t have much money to put into this, I decided to buy seeds and start them myself. I bought all of my seeds through Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I also went back and forth on this decision–which seed company is best to buy from? I finally settled on Baker because this is a family run business and they seem super passionate about it. They are also in their mid-twenties, which is just impressive. I’d rather put my dollars in a family run company than a huge corporation. (For example, Seeds of Change is part of Burpee.)
3. Decide what you are going to grow. What kinds of things do you want to eat this summer? Laura gave me some good advice when I posed my gardening question on the KCK Facebook page. She said, “I don’t like growing things that are a lot of work or take up a lot of space but only produce a little harvest. For instance, I’d much rather just go buy a bag of prepeeled baby carrots than plant all of those individual seeds that only produce one carrot each, and then you have to peel every single carrot. It’s not worth it to me. But if I can plant one tomato seed and get bucket after bucket full of tomatoes from one plant, that’s totally worth it!” Good advice. So, here’s what I am attempting to grow this summer.
- Green beans — Blue Lake Bush and Kentucky Wonder Pole
- Melons — Sweet Passion and Georgia Rattlesnake watermelon
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Bell Peppers — Jupiter and California Wonder Pepper, and Quadrato D’Asti Rosso
- Tomatoes — Brandywine, Riesentraube, and Homestead
- Zucchni Squash–yellow — Crookneck Early Golden Summer, Green — Zucchni Black Beauty,
- Other squash — Waltham Butternut, Candy Roaster North Georgia, and Jack Be Little Pumpkins
- Lots of herbs — dill, cilantro, rosemary, mint, basil (a couple different kinds), oregano, bee balm, borage, chives, garlic, feverfew, and tansy (if I can find some) I chose borage and tansy because they are supposed to be naturally good at repelling some of the bag bugs. Borage is evidently also very good for the soil. Bee balm attracts bees, which I want my garden so there is lots of fertilization going on!
- Flowers — lavendar and marigolds. Both are supposed to be another way to control bugs naturally. I also just like them both.
4. Decide where to put your garden. I decided to plant mine at my mother in law’s house. She has lots of land, a ready (and free) water source, all of the garden tools (rake, hoe, etc.) and can watch my kids for me while I garden. (Although I am going to try to involve them as much as I can.)
5. Get your ground ready. I mowed the area I am going to till up for the garden. I also decided to start composting, but I’ll go over all in another post. This week, the ground is going to get tilled up, I am going to muck out the stalls in the barn and put the horse poop in the garden as natural fertilizer. I’m also going to try to get my compost bin started. Don’t worry, there will be pictures of all of it. :) I know you’ve always wanted to see me scooping horse poop.
Here I am mowing and raking.
Now I just need to wait until my seeds arrive in the mail. Then I’ll go over some things I’ve learned in my research about how to start seeds frugally.