One of the reasons that D and I really want to live a homestead lifestyle is to be more self-sufficient with our food (read more about that here: Why Homestead?). To me, growing our own food, taking care of it, and preserving it feels amazing; it feels natural! The work that goes into the garden is a welcome labor, drawing me back to the land and reminding me of my connection with everything else on this earth.
So when it came time to start preparing for the garden, D and I were excited and ready. We started our garden back in March, preparing the land and planting tiny seeds into cups. It always amazes me how those little tiny seeds can grow and produce so much harvest. We cared for our transplants daily as they grew under a grow light in a south facing window. Finally the weather started to get warm, and our little transplants were just about ready to get into the ground.
Our homestead right now is a fresh piece of land which is beautiful and full of potential. But that also leads to some problems. One, the soil isn't super great yet. That could potentially impact our yield this year by making growing conditions difficult. Also, we aren't living there yet, so that means there's not water. We worked hard to try to solve these problems before planting season came so that when the seedlings were ready the homestead garden would be too.
We designed our garden after watching some videos from Back to Reality, who work to implement natural gardening methods in order to produce food. In other words, these methods look at nature and try to mimic what's happening there to create ideal growing environments.
To try to improve our soil, we followed a method that they also used to create instant raised beds. To do this, we took one layer of sod from one row off and flipped it over on top of the ground next to it. Our hope is that the sod will decompose, feeding the soil all while allowing us to plant in the more rich soil and dirt that was underneath the sod.
We then went through and laid cardboard, newspaper, and old hay down between the rows in an effort to try to combat the weeds.
D and his dad next put up a deer fence, which is 100% necessary here on this piece of property! Once the fence was up and the weather had warmed, it was time to plant.
Our garden is a big experiment this year, as you can probably tell already, and the way we planted is no exception. Rather than plant in traditional isolated groups of plants, we decided to dabble with some companion planting. We started by planting corn, a heavy nitrogen feeder, with beans which give nitrogen back to the soil. Last time we were there, both were starting to make their appearance already.
We also planted tomatoes, peppers, and marigolds together. Planting marigolds can help prevent harmful soil nematodes from destroying the tomato plants (source). The smell of marigolds, too, is thought to help prevent some insects and pests from bothering the plants.
In the next row, we mixed the seeds of radishes and carrots. The goal here is that the radishes will be ready to harvest earlier, leaving the carrots to continue growing in their place. It also should help us with the thinning process as well. The radishes are up and starting to grow, and I was excited to see that they were fairly spaced apart!
Our garden also is the home to three blueberry bushes, a wide assortment of flowers for the pollinators, including bee balm, flocks, cone flowers, peonies, and hydrangeas, as well as 10-12 raspberry bushes. We will also be adding apple trees to the homestead, but we have to build another fence before we can ever think about doing that. Those deer are persistent!
That would be extremely disappointing....but it would provide us with an opportunity to learn that would only improve our future gardens and sustainability. Right now, we'll just continue to try out these different ways of gardening, hope for the best, and keep you updated as our homestead garden grow and produces.
Do you have a garden? What do you plant?
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