Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gardening Goals

When we moved to the country, one of our many goals was to try to grow more of our own food.  We enjoy having canned foods on hand throughout the year, and we try to purchase most of our fruits, vegetables, and meat locally.  The problem I have found over the years with canning is getting my hands on fresh, local food in large enough quantities to be beneficial to us throughout the year but also at a price we can afford.  I have found, over time, growers that I use every year, but sometimes that means paying more than I want to for produce, traveling an hour or so to get it, or not being able to put up as much of something as I would like.  The items I generally need in larger amounts are green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and corn.  Other items like beets, basil, and peppers, I preserve in smaller quantities.  

From right to left, potatoes, snow peas, arugula, beets, and green beans.  Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, etc. are in the background at the far end.  You can also see our bee yard behind the garden as well as the run of our chicken coop. 

Now that we are settled in our house, we decided to plant our first garden here this spring.  We were able to walk around our property (which is about 3 acres) and see where previous owners had had garden plots.  One of the areas we had in mind had actually been used as a garden in the past, and we will keep the other areas in mind if we choose to expand our gardening efforts next year.  

Close up of potatoes, peas, and onions with our water tank and chicken coop in background

My gardening experience is limited to 4 (4 x 8 foot) raised beds at our previous home in which we grew potatoes, green beans, squash/zucchini/cucumbers, some root vegetables like beets, and herbs.  We grew enough back then so that we had some to eat fresh, but we never really had enough to preserve.  

peas, kale, beets

My gardening efforts here are focused more on preservation.  While I do want to have fresh veggies and fruits, I still visit the farmer's market weekly.  What I would like to see is the garden produce enough to put up so that we aren't spending time and money sourcing items from farmers in the area.  

We are also raising four turkeys this year to freeze later, and we plan on adding meat chickens in the near future.  All that coupled with lots and lots of fresh eggs, and we feel that we are on our way to meeting (at least in part) some of those goals we had when we moved here.  

Two of the girls- these two live on one side of the coop alone since our rooster does not get along with them.  They love pecking around their side of the yard closest to the bees.  Our new, smallest hive is in the background.  It consists of bees we captured when ours swarmed recently.

The garden is approximately 75 feet by 40 feet and is divided mostly into rows running the length (75 ft) of the garden although we have some of our vining plants like pumpkin and melons planted close to the perimeter so that they can run out of the garden for more room.  Right now, from right to left, we have planted: 

  •  2 rows potatoes (1 row red, 1 row white potatoes)
  •  1 row snow peas (a bush variety)
  •  1 row divided into thirds with kale, onion, and arugula
  •  1 row beets
  •  2 1/2 rows green beans (a bush variety)
  •  1/2 row lima beans (I wanted more but ran out of seed)
  •  1/2 row zinnias
  •  approximately 20 cucumber plants (some vining, some bush varieties)
  •  5 yellow squash plants
  •  10 zucchini plants
  •  5 pumpkin plants
  •  18 tomato plants
  •  6 bell pepper plants
  •  a few melon plants (watermelon and canteloupe)
  • 1/2 row sunflowers
We also planted several additional fruit trees to supplement the ones already here in case we cannot get them to produce healthy fruit (they have some disease issues due to lack of maintenance from previous owners and age), and we planted blackberry vines and blueberry bushes early in the spring.  


So far, we are enjoying arugula and kale from the garden, and we ate our first snow peas (just a handful) the other day.  We are patiently waiting for more to mature so we can enjoy them with a meal.   

We have plenty to do in the garden this year and in the future to make it better.  When digging at the far end of the garden (the corner closest to you in the first picture) we uncovered the foundation of part of a barn that once stood on the property.  Due to the rocks and poor soil at that end, things aren't growing as well there.  We will need to amend the soil this year so that it is healthier and more productive next year.  We have also started a compost bin which we hope will help in these efforts.  In addition, we have bales of straw close to the garden that we had planned to put down in a thick layer to help hold in moisture and deter weeds, but we have never gotten around to distributing it.  Hopefully, that will happen soon.  We have started, thanks to my father-in-law, started collecting rain water from the roof of the chicken coop, though, so that we can water as needed.  

So, we'll keep working on it, and keep our fingers crossed that it will stay healthy and happy until we can harvest its bounty (or at least what we hope will be bounty).  I'll keep you posted on how things go as well as things we learn along the way. 



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