Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Started

When gas prices spiked to $4.00 per gallon a couple of summers ago, I started to ramp up my garden. I didn't even feel like I could afford to drive to the local Walmart, no less pay the rising prices for food. I've been reading  both online and in print about the local-foods movement, and I've been increasingly concerned about the effects of GMOs, pesticide use, and factory-farming on human health and the environment. So, like many others, I have tried my hand at gardening, and I like it. As a vegetarian, it makes sense, too, since I can grow most of what I need close to home. I subscribe to Organic Gardening and Mother Earth News. I've read Fast Food Nation, the Omnivore's Dilemma, and watched Food, Inc. I've really started focusing on improving soil with organic inputs.

This past summer was pretty successful. Most of my tomatoes thrived, I had as many garlic bulbs and shallot bulbs as I cared to eat, the herbs like mint and oregano did great, as did my basil. In early spring I grew peas; I even grew carrots successfully for the first time. I grew some "Corno del Toro" peppers in planters, and they were prolific producers. In fact, as I write this on November 14, one of the plants is flowering and producing more little peppers. I don't know if it will survive the coming frosts. I put it up next to the house against a wall. Butternut squash started as a "volunteer" in one of my flower beds, and I had enough squash to eat for weeks after harvest, although I disliked squishing all the squash-bugs that arrived along with the plants. My bush beans didn't fare as well, but they were an experiment.  Radishes, another experiment, did MUCH better, especially the heritage variety I bought at Monticello. The special connection with Thomas Jefferson's mountaintop garden was exciting to me, too.

I started some new flower beds using the "lasagna layering" technique and was happy with the results. It was a learning process, too. I learned, for example, that seeds don't compost well and tend to sprout... this is where my volunteer squash started, to my pleasant surprise. I had intended those beds to be fallow until fall.

I am starting this blog because I want to be better about recording exactly what I am doing in my gardens and when. I am in the process of moving, and so I am starting over with building garden beds, etc., in a new location. Yesterday my fiance and I visited a friend's farm and cleaned out their chicken coops. That farmer is always happy to see us, lol! I have a ComposTumbler, but it's getting too cool in the evenings to hot compost, so we are storing the manure mixed with wood shavings and shredded leaves in a couple of plastic garbage containers and in a flower bed underneath a large oak tree in front of the house, waiting for spring. That, some garlic bulbs I tucked into a flower bed in front of my house, and my potted containers with mint, etc., are all that I have of my old gardens, which I miss already.

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