I'm going to treat you to some pictures of dirt. There are newly planted seeds hiding under all that dirt, so you will have to use your imagination for now. This is the beginning of the transformation of bare ground to overcrowded, abundantly (we hope) producing vegetables. Our friend Grace recently sent me an email that described her garden as an empty blank slate. That's what most of ours looks like as well. But her comment got me to thinking, and my response to her was, "It's waiting to become a master piece." You know, that is what gardening is. Through the miracle of germination, photosynthesis and the blessing of rain, millions of tiny little seeds each year turn into an amazing abundance of food. I am always in awe of this yearly miracle.
Here is the garden tour for now. Since we increased the size of the garden by almost a third, I changed the garden plan quite a bit. The original plan is now quite scribbled on, but I know what it says, even if no one else can decipher it.
Remember when we told you that one end of the new garden piece kept breaking the tiller shear pin on the tractor? Well, Frank broke out the disc for the first time ever and broke new ground in one of our pastures, that we have called the garden pasture for many years. We have amended part of this pasture many times with gifts from the chicken house and the barn, so it is very fertile. This year is the year. We are going to plant this area with animal feed. It can also be people feed, but our goal is to decrease the amount of feed we purchase for our animals dramatically. Yea! Another dream come true, almost. Of course, we will have to fight some very vigorous weeds and briars, but I think we are up for the battle.
While Frank had the disc on, he also worked over the new part of the garden that the tiller couldn't handle. There are some tremendous rocks down on one end of this area. It was so rocky, we couldn't get the last t-post in for a trellis, so we pounded it in with the bucket on the tractor. But, this is what happened to the first one we tried. Now it looks like a boomerang and is useless as a t-post. After we moved down the row three times, we finally got the last one in.
Now for the dirt tour. Here is the trellis with the stubborn t-posts in the new area of the garden. We have planted pinto beans on both sides of the trellis. If the weather wasn't trying to fire up with severe thunderstorms, we would also have planted two rows of cowpeas on each side of this trellis. We chose these crops for their ability to help enrich the soil, and for the food they can provide both us and the animals.
Next up is one of the turnip patches that has been planted for a while. The seedlings are coming up, along with plenty of grass. As soon as the turnips are big enough, this will be one of the first places that needs weeding.
This next beautiful patch of dirt is planted with alternating rows of spinach, carrots, collards and beets. The blank area of dirt to the right is still empty. The pepper plants will go there, but for now, they are too small to set out. It will be a week or so before they are ready.
The trellis behind this patch in the middle of the row, is planted with cucumber seeds we saved year before last, and zinnias. And speaking of zinnias, they are liberally planted all over the garden, to discourage pest insects, and encourage predator insects.
The new strawberry bed is behind the cucumber trellis. These are the extra strawberries that had escaped the original bed and moved into the garden. They just got planted today and are ready for a drink. I am hoping the rain that is coming will do that for me. (It did.)
The permanent trellis against this building has hops and clematis growing on it. They are both doing very well this year.
If you use your imagination, you will be able to see some small hills in this area. This is where the Buttercup winter squash is planted. For the past two years we have planted our winter squash in July or so. This has not worked out at all, so I am planting it at the beginning of summer, just like our yellow squash. Not only will these be stored for our use, but they make great animal feed. We will be planting them up in the garden pasture as well. The small trellis to the right, by the building, is planted with pickling cucumbers. I plan to try my hand at fermented pickles this summer. If I understand it right, this will give us crunchy pickles, which we like, along with the benefits of fermentation.
The next trellis will support our Rutgers and Arkansas Traveler tomatoes we grew from seed. Down both sides of the trellis carrot seedlings or seeds have been planted. It really is true that carrots love tomatoes. I have tried this for several years and they grow very well together.
On the other side of this trellis you may be able to see some more squash hills. This is where the straight neck yellow squash will grow. I have tried to separate the squashes simply to confuse the bugs. We are growing quite a bit of squash this year, but instead of putting them all together, I'm experimenting with alternating them with other crops. We'll see how it goes.
Next is another trellis with pinto beans planted on both sides, with carrots planted down each side about 10 inches out from the beans. We are going to use immature pinto beans for green beans this year. A friend of ours told us about this practice. We can pick them young and can them as green beans, then when we have enough canned for the year, we will let the beans mature into pinto beans and can them as well. Kind of like a dual purpose bean. I will be very interested to see how this works out.
Our last type of squash is planted next to this bean trellis, which is a Cushaw winter squash. I planted the seeds we saved from one of our few mature squash from last summer. We hope they are viable and will produce a good crop.
The next area is another experimental area. I planted two rows of okra with a row of cow peas on either side. Last summer I was surprised at how long and vine like the cowpeas grew. This year we are going to see if the cow peas will grow up the okra plants.
The other end of the new portion of the garden is planted in a similar fashion. We put one row of okra down the center with cowpeas on either side. Then we filled up the rest of the bed with three rows of peanuts on either side. The okra will not improve the soil, but the cowpeas and peanuts will.
Next to the okra/cowpea area in the garden is the portion that was planted previously and we have already shown you. The onions are starting to grow, kind of. The broccoli, green cabbage, Chinese cabbage and beets are growing well.
I planted the new comfrey roots over in this corner. I originally planned to spread them into a larger space, but they were outgrowing their tubs and it will still be a while before the rest of the area is ready to plant.
The salad fixings I planted in front of the herb bed are doing okay. I will be giving them some of the manure tea and whey sometime in the next few days.
The turnip patch by the herb bed is doing very well. It will be time to thin the plants and pull some weeds before long.
So there you have it, our garden of mostly dirt, for this year. I still need to plant the peppers when they are big enough, put the cowpeas into the stubborn end of the new bed, plant a few more onions, and figure out what I want to put in an empty portion of the new bed in front of the herb bed. And then there is the new garden in the pasture to play with. This is our blank slate awaiting to become a master piece.
I hope spring is treating you well, and you are able to make a dream or two come true in your life. It usually takes a lot of work to realize a dream, but it is well worth the effort.
Until next time - Fern