Beginning of an Organic Heirloom Vegetable Garden {Part 2} – Bad News On the Garden Front

Remember this post about my wonderful organic heirloom garden? It’s just not going to happen this year, and I’m completely heartbroken. Sigh. I had visions of spending tranquil mornings with Katie puttering around the garden and earnestly beginning our homeschooling lessons there. We’ll be working with the decorative plants and herbs instead for this year. Why no vegetable garden you ask? We’re starting all of our plants from seed; it’s June 5th and the weather has gone from the scorching 90’s to the cool 60’s and overcast; and my soil is not yet ready. I finally let the axe fall last week when I noticed the lack of drainage that creates bird-sized swimming pools in the beds. There is peat moss in abundance sitting on top of the dirt – that should have already been mixed in – and compost that lies in wait a few too many dozen yards away. Gardening 101 calls it a soil mix for a reason. There is no Cliffs Notes version that lets you skip steps. I am notorious for wanting to jump ahead. I also should have more dirt, but I’m not willing to risk what’s in commercially available deliverable topsoil, and I have a really hard time spending money on dirt. It’s dirt. It shouldn’t put a dent in my pocketbook or add to my debt. There’s enough things to do that without me buying free stuff. Also, if I’m being oh-so-careful about what goes into our bodies and my food, I’m not about to grow our food with pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic sludge that could be in the soil.

I think most people should plan on setting up their garden the year prior to planting to prepare the soil and complete all of the tasks that take more time than we think they will. I am almost incompetent at budgeting my time  – no, really – and think everything will take no more than a couple of hours or two days if it’s a big job. I think I’m the time management equivalent of “it was only 2 beers officer.”

Here’s where we go from here.

  • The seeds all go into the freezer to extend their life by leaps and bounds according to my friend Dorothy over at Life With Boys. She just pulled out some 10-year-old seeds and they sprouted with an over 90% germination rate. That’s a success story I’m willing to model!
  • Start a rotated compost system instead of one gigantic pile.
  • Add 2 rain barrels.
  • Continue to work the soil during the warmer months to further mix it and keep it aerated. Katie is darn cute when she’s working industriously with her pink gardening tools, so I’ll try to snap some pictures to share.
  • Katie and I will pull out enough soil from the beds in the fall to fill containers (probably toilet paper rolls) for starting the seeds in the early spring, and then get them all set up in the basement so they just need a seed and a squirt of water to get started.
  • When the cold weather is about to hit, I’ll put the beds to rest for the winter by covering them with burlap. If the soil looks ready, I may plant some things like garlic and onions that will winter over well.
  • In the spring, I will till, add some new compost, mark out the square foot spaces, and PLANT!

I’ll continue to utilize my local farmers’ markets over grocery stores as much as possible and stock up a bit for winter. I’m new to preserving food for winter, so this is a practice year while I learn the ropes. This wonderful post from Jenny at Nourished Kitchen made me aware of some wonderful opportunities that I will try to take advantage of. I will be talking to my favorite farmers about what my options are to buy thriftily this season, and now I know to ask them about buying produce in larger quantities. I already buy my pastured meat in bulk through The Garden Gate Farm and currently have an order in for a 1/4 cow and my first 1/2 hog to get us through the summer months. I would prefer to receive my meat for the year at the traditional fall butchering time, and I ordered just enough so we can finally do that this year.

So there’s my sad tale. I know that many of you can sympathize with my new gardening obsession and others can offer this floundering mama advice. Please share your thoughts and maybe your funniest garden story to cheer this post up a bit!

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