Our first year we experimented with starting seeds inside and transplanting them to the garden. This was relatively unsuccessful, as most of the seedlings didn't transplant well and we had to direct sow later in the Spring. Our efforts did yield a decent garden and the dogs provided us with pest control (rabbits and deer beware!). We tried a variety of veggies, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, edamame, green beans, zucchini, basil, and summer squash. This was our year of experimenting and learning...and lots of learning we did!
Our second year gardening we did direct sow of almost all of our seeds. The more fragile plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, we purchased from a local FFA plant sale. Also, we started our first crop of hot peppers, direct sowing them outdoors in pots when the last frost was over. We also staggered the planting of our beans to get a longer crop, mulched the garden to help with weeds and added compost from our compost bin.
Learning from our previous experiment, we planted several tomatoes, peppers and beans, 2-3 cantaloupe, 2-3 watermelon, one squash and one zucchini plant, edamame, and basil. What we didn't expect is an influx of slugs and insect pests (guess they found the garden) and good for nuthin' lazy dogs. As the slugs devoured all of our young seedlings and the rabbits realized the dogs couldn't (or wouldn't) see them until they were in the safety of the garden, we became extremely discouraged and the prospects of getting a good crop slowly slipped through our fingers!
At the end of the season we did get a decent harvest of basil, tomatoes, and peppers. We maybe got one batch of green beans and the rest were eaten by that wascally wabbit! Our zucchini would flower and not produce fruit, which we could only assume was because of lack of pollination (fixing this problem and that of all of our neighbors' gardens by adding a bee hive this Spring). We did get cherry tomatoes, salad cukes, and hot peppers that were grown in pots on the porch. Overall we harvested enough food to eat during the summer, but not nearly enough to store food for the winter.
So...this year is gonna be different! This is the year we conquer the slugs and the rabbits. This is the year we grow and store for winter. This is the year of the garden.
We started last Fall. Hubby expanded the garden space and we dumped leaves and chicken litter in the new plot. About a month ago the process of building a new fence around the garden begun. Previously we had just strung an electric wire around the garden to keep the dogs out, assuming the dogs would keep the rabbits and deer out (which we learned wasn't as effective as the rabbits are apparently smarter than the dogs). Now, our fence will be a 4ft Red Brand Livestock Fence to keep the critters out. Although the recent wet weather and snow has put a damper on our preparations for the garden, we expect to have it tilled under and fenced in by late March.
Our fence posts...hubby is waiting for the ground to dry to pull the fencing.
Our plan is to attack the slugs as they emerge from eggs by relocating the chickens to the garden for the month or two before the last frost. Now that we will have a fence around the garden, the chickens will be safe from our local prowess Kyra (wondering why she would eat a chicken in a heartbeat but wont chase the rabbits!). These daily romps in the garden will allow the chickens to eat weeds as they sprout and eat slugs as they emerge! Once we plant the seedlings, the chickens will be banned from the garden except under strict supervision until the plants are large enough to handle chicken beaks! I am sure there will be some time during the chicken banning that you could catch me out in the garden picking slugs off the plants, what a site that will be! Not exactly a spectator sport...but you are welcome to bring your lawn chairs and laugh at me as I get grossed out by slimy slugs!
Our garden plan this year includes a Spring, Summer, and Fall garden. The Spring garden will be carrots, lettuce, and spinach grown in pots on the porch. The Summer garden will consist of bell peppers, tomatoes, pole beans, bush beans, edamame, cantaloupe, one zucchini plant, and pickle cukes in the garden. In pots we will have cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, salad cukes, and baby watermelons. Come Fall you will find spinach, collards, me planting garlic, and possibly late crops of green beans and tomatoes.
This year our focus is to grow a lot of what we can store for winter foods and a little bit of things that we enjoy in the summer (watermelons, cantaloupes, and salad cukes). I have been reading a lot of inspiring books about homesteading and living off local home grown foods. We are not trailblazers by any means and I would not call myself righteous about these things, but I have found that growing our own food and supporting local agriculture makes me happy and gives me a sense of sustainability. Not to mention the healthy aspects of growing your own food or understanding where your food comes from. I can tell you that as a diabetic I see a marked improvement in my blood sugars when I eat fresh, unprocessed foods. Because of diabetes I have the benefit of seeing the direct effect foods have on our bodies, and fresh foods make the grade. This of course makes perfect sense to most of us, but I wonder why more folks haven't joined this Garden Party.