It is late March and spring tempts me with warm & breezy days. They are calling for snow showers this evening… but the sunshine of the past two days has revived my spirit. I know that warm sunny days are once again forthcoming and I feel ready to begin preparations for another growing season. Cool weather and yes snow, will be the exception not the rule.
Our greenhouse was damaged by strong winds over the winter and is in need of repair. My husband and son have been combining their expertise; redesigning structural flaws and repairing what was damaged. In a few days I will be able to get into the greenhouse for its designed purpose, and start the seeds for my garden plants. I went through the seeds I saved from last year to determine what I need for this growing season. I have been scouring Harris Seed catalog and making final selections of seed. I will order today and by the time they arrive, my greenhouse will be ready and waiting! I have a large garden and I grow a wide variety of vegetables: Green beans, sugar snap peas, beets, kale, turnips, cucumbers, swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, lots of tomatoes (last year I had 75 plants), sweet peppers, a few hot peppers (I grew so many last year I only need some for table use) winter squash, summer squash, watermelon, cantalope, pumpkins and of course lots of flowers! I love zinnias and sunflowers as they lend beauty and definition when planted strategically. I also make use of marigolds for their beauty and because they detour insects. I grew broom corn last year to use as the backdrop for zinnia flower bouquets used as decoration at my daughter’s wedding. I loved it so much I want to grow the corn again this year. It’s tall and graceful and the flower heads produce an attractive sweep of autumnal color.
I love my garden because I am in control of what goes into it, and consequently what is in the food we eat. I plant enough to share with the flora and fauna and limit my use of chemicals to those I feel safe consuming. I don’t believe in the “organic” hype because being the wife of a horticulturist, I am well versed academically with what the “organic” farmers utilize and I can honestly say their “natural” chemicals are generally more harsh than the select chemicals I choose to use if necessary. We implement integrated management practices, as my husband has his entire life, to work with nature to produce a healthy crop. In all things I find it advantageous to work with nature. All of my garden produce is eaten fresh, or preserved by canning, freezing, or drying. I have multiple freezers in my basement, along with a pantry of canned goods made by my own two hands. I have whole tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, hot and mild salsa, tomato soup, tomato juice, chili, spaghetti and pizza sauce, applesauce, green beans, beets, peaches, pears, plums, cherries, dried herbs, jams and jellies of every kind and canned chicken and beef vegetable soups. The freezer holds corn, fruits, fruit jams, greens, & sweet peppers. Needless to say most of my summer is spent growing and preserving food for the next year. I love the satisfaction and security of growing and preserving the majority of what we eat.
We plan to start blackberries, raspberries and strawberries this year. This will be my husband’s project. He suffered a heart attack 18 months ago and realized, after a lifetime of working on the family orchard, that he can no longer withstand the lifestyle of a top-notch commercial orchard. This is a perk for me because now I can make great use of his horticulture/agriculture degree, networking, and expansive expertise to diversify what we grow on our little farm. The trick will be to keep the goats in their pen and out of the bramble patch!!!
After 25 years it’s also time to start a new asparagus patch. We have researched the varieties available today and plan to grow “purple passion.” My husband chose this one because it grows purple, can be grown blanched under plastic to produce a white and tender plant, and when cooked turns green. We will build two raised beds along side the greenhouse; one for strawberries and one for asparagus. The advantage of raised beds is that they make much easier work of planting, growing, caring for, and harvesting the beds.
Another project on the back burner is to plant bamboo. We love the idea of a “green” screen and I want to harvest the plants to use as stakes or trellises for garden use. I’m sure I will find other uses of the sturdy stalks once I have it available.
I have chosen to live life as self-sufficient as I can manage. It is, in part, a decision based upon my heritage growing up as a farmer’s daughter. My father lived through the Great Depression and Daddy made it perfectly clear each day I lived at home that hard work, planning, creativity, risk taking, physical labor, doing for oneself, and always being good to others were the keys to security. It requires most of my free time taking care of my farm and feeding my family, but all of this work proves to be therapy to combat the stresses of my day job!
You don’t have to sacrifice all your free time to enjoy the benefits of growing food you can eat. Container gardening takes up a limited amount of space and investment. All you need is a sunny location, regular watering, and occasional feeding to produce tomatoes, lettuce, greens, flowers, herbs, cucumbers….or whatever strikes your fancy. If you have some space try a raised bed instead. Feel free to ask how to make a raised bed if you are unsure, as my husband would be glad to share the information. Eating vegetables you grow yourself is so rewarding and a great way to introduce children to both gardening habits and the joys of eating fresh.
As March fades into the past and April comes to life, consider what you can grow this growing season, make some plans, and take action to enrich your life and bring simple pleasures to the table.