Summer is nearly upon us, and I am in full garden-mode right now. My mind obsesses over the garden and its many facets. I’d spend every waking minute in the garden–if only my body didn’t protest so!
I have ten garden beds–six raised beds in the main garden nearest the house, and four beds on the lower section of our large backyard (and also four tire-beds alongside the house). Last year, after we moved into town and into the house where we now live, I reluctantly had my husband till the gardens. As a firm believer in the no-till method, which preserves the soil’s microorganisms and the symbiotic relationship between them and the plants, it was hard for me to concede the use of the tiller. However, a girl has to accept her limitations, and if I were to dig the gardens I would have spent all summer at it last year.
However this year the gardens were ready to go; I covered them early in the season with black plastic, tarps, whatever I had that would prevent the weeds from taking over my beds before I was ready to plant in them. This strategy worked to my advantage; I’ve tackled one bed at a time–uncovering the soil to find warm, moist dirt, which, in some cases, needed very little digging to be readied for planting. All of my early-season crops are already in (I had a mishap with my pea-seeds, so no peas this spring–maybe I’ll try them again this fall), lettuces, greens, beets, chard, broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, etc. I put in carrots, rutabega, more beets (we love beet-greens!), herbs, and just last weekend–the cucumbers and pole beans. This weekend I managed to put in my tomatoes and peppers, with their marigold friends and basil allies, along with a number of annual friends dispersed throughout the garden.
I try to keep my garden kid-friendly, to promote gardening to the youths in my life. I teach all the children to respect the soil–“Stay on the paths!” And I explain why. I sometimes dole out simple garden chores; my nephew is an eager helper, curious and inquisitive–no one is shunned from my garden. I maintain a tee-pee made with saplings and hemp-twine, which we grow pole beans and morning glories and moon-flowers up to create a fun play-space (with it’s own built-in snack!). I let the kids poke seeds into the dirt, fetch a bucket-full of fertilizer, or try their hand with the spading fork. “It’s hard!” they sometimes say when using the spading fork or shovel, and I chuckle and tell them, “Gardening is hard work, my friend.” But it’s worth it.
And, of coarse, we have the recent arrival of our bee colony. Pollinators are an integral part of the garden, so it was a natural progression to include a colony in my yard. Already the bees are hard at work, scouting out new food sources, and returning with their bounty to the hive. They really are fascinating to watch.
Some of my organic methods include the no-till practice, lots of mulching (I use whatever I can afford, even if it’s only cardboard, which you can find free just about anywhere you look–I say: “Free’s for me!”), composting (obsessively) and soil-building practices, home-made organic weed-killer, home-made organic insect repellent, companion planting, plant-family grouping, square-foot gardening, and raised beds.
So–that’s how my garden grows…how does yours?