The idea of growing a garden had crossed my mind on and off for a quite few years. It was always something I would “get around to” someday. It was always, “maybe next year”. This year, I finally took the plunge. I didn’t get started until late in the season. It was almost the end of July when I finally got my seeds in the ground. I figured I would just get what I could out of it. Even with total failure, at least the hard work of prepping the land would be done for next year.
My late start ended up being a bit of a blessing. We got an impressive amount of rain early in the summer, and a lot of my friends lost their early plants as a result of drowning in puddles or being washed away. I picked a spot near the camper, but far enough away to avoid the shade of some tall spruce trees. My crop selection was as follows; corn, carrots, beans, romaine lettuce, basil, and cucumber. I decided it was too late to attempt tomatoes or peppers.
I thought about just tilling the grass into the soil, but decided I would have a cleaner, less weed riddled plot if I removed the sod. This was a back breaking process. You may notice a tractor in the background of the pictures, but this is not my tractor. It belongs to my aunt next door, and I certainly could have used it, but I guess I wanted the whole “frontier living” experience. At one point, my dad drove by on the tractor while I was lifting sod. “You know we have a tractor?”, he asked, as though it had slipped my mind. “Well, I have a shovel.” I answered. I felt like I might never get all that sod out, and I had to stop for a week when my back had had more than enough. I let him try to help with the tractor, but the attempt to lift the sod with the forks was making more of a mess than helping. This is not a farm tractor, and they own no farming attachments. So, back to lifting it out one square at a time.
Eventually, I was ready to move on, and my neighbor, Dale, came over with his tiller. I fixed his recoil in exchange for use of the machine. I had let the sod chunks dry out so I could shake the usable soil from them before carting them away to compost. I even sifted out an impressive rocks, crawling on my hands and knees with a screen. I figured this was worth doing right, as failure meant waiting until next year to try again. The planting was a fast and simple process, though the carrot seeds were so tiny and difficult to handle that I worried they were planted too dense.
Next was the waiting game. I have worked on my patience a lot, and this was proof that the work has paid off. But once I started to see life, it took off quickly. It was an impressive display of earths majesty to watch this unfold. The amount of growth from one day to the next was impressive. On days that I pulled out weeds and churned the earth a bit, the growth was just astonishing!
It wasn’t long before I was enjoying lettuce, with cucumbers shortly thereafter. The basil took quite a while to show up, and it was a small leaf variety that was difficult to work with in cooking. Eventually, the carrots were getting to an edible size, and I was impressed that the overcrowding wasn’t more of a problem. I’m sure they would have done better spaced out more, but I had a high percentage of good size carrots that grew deep into the soil. The beans were struggling, with no signs of flowering, and the few corn seed that took were having trouble standing in the winds I was getting. I’m pretty sure crows go to some of the corn seeds.
I did some pest control. We had a family of ground hogs next door, and raccoons are common. I set out a large live trap, eventually catching both groundhog parents and the child. All of them were driven away and reunited elsewhere. I got one raccoon as well.
I learned a lesson about beans. There are pole beans, and bush beans, and I did not know there was a difference. I figured the pole was a personal choice, allowing you to grow vertically and therefore tighter, much like a trellis for cucumbers. I eventually came to this realization, and installed poles. At the end of the season, the beans had climbed the poles and started to produce beans, but it was a bit too late.
So the beans were a wash, the basil was not a good variety for my purpose, the corn didn’t have enough time to grow, and only half of my cucumbers took. But, the cucumbers that took were EXCELLENT! The lettuce was a huge success, I was eating lettuce for weeks, even after a few frosts.
The true triumph was the carrots! I was picking a few here and there as they were ready. I brought quite a few into work to share with coworkers. Finally, at the end of the season, I pulled the rest up. The last harvest was 16 pounds worth. I canned 8 pounds. I would have done more, but I ran out of mason jars, as did the grocery store. The remaining 8 pounds I ate and shared. They lasted for weeks in the the fridge. And now I have jars of carrots that could last me for most of the winter, though I plan on giving many out for Christmas.
Now that there’s about 3 feet of snow on the ground, I’m shifting my attention to a new endeavor – an indoor hydroponic operation, that will eventually include a food computer. What is a food computer? Well, you’ll have to keep coming back here to find out…