For many years I have had great aspirations a dreams of growing this amazing garden and harvesting all my own food and every year its goes a little something like this......till the garden, plant the seeds, water the seeds, marvel at the seedlings starting to grow, oh no... weeds, on no... more weeds, oh no... deer, oh no... drought, and then before you know it the weeds have taken over, the deer have eaten it all, or its is shriveled up to nothing in the drought and Georgia heat. So by the end of the summer maybe I have come out with a few cucumbers, tomatoes and a couple watermelons. Definitely not the beautiful vision I had in mind of lining my pantry shelves with canned homegrown foods and root vegetables. So this year I have made every attempt to finally dedicate the time it takes to plan and hopefully produce the garden of my dreams. I have identified the places where I always have my problems and found ways to implement strategies to make the garden easier to manage especially when the fierce Georgia summer strikes. I wanted to bring you in on the steps I have taken and the steps that you can take too. I have been reading several books and websites to glean more knowledge of when and how to start my seeds and plants. The first book I would recommend is The Family Garden Plan by Melissa K. Norris, it helps detail all the ins and outs of when and how to plan your vegetable garden and how much to plant of each item to grow enough food for your family for an entire year! I can't tell you how valuable this has been is my planning efforts. I also have been referencing The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere & Emily Gettle, who founded the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, this book has so much info on individual species and types of plants and how to grow each one which has been super helpful in determining what and when to grow in my region. So let's break down the main troubles I was running into and what steps I took to solve these problems.
Weed Control - Georgia weather is very unpredictable during the spring an summer months - sometimes drought, sometimes lots of rain, but one thing we can always count on are hot, hot, hot summers with humidity usually 90% or more on a daily basis. This makes the conditions for outside work almost unbearable. Work has to be done first thing in the morning or late in the evening and with all the farm things having to be done sometimes weed control isn't on the list for the day. This was becoming a problem because the garden can be easily taken over with weeds in just a matter of days if you don't stay on top of it. With that being said the new strategy for weed control would be two fold - raised beds and landscape fabric. Over the winter months we have been building a series of raised beds that will house many of our root vegetables this year. The raised beds are 4' x 14' and will assist with weed control by being easier to access and with the ability to control the soil within those beds more easily. We will also be placing wood chips between the raised beds to help keep the weeds under control there. In our market style row garden we will be investing in landscape fabric that we will place down to prevent some of the weeds from returning. My hope is that these two strategies together will control the bulk of our weed problem.
Deer - The county where we live is known officially as "The deer capital of Georgia" so we have hundreds of deer all around our property at any given time, (great for hunting season) not so great for gardening season! We have struggled in the past few years to find the best spot for our market style row garden. After several attempts we are trying another new location for that garden with better fencing and closer to our house so that the deer will be less tempted to turn our garden into their dinner buffet. I have also toyed around with the possibility of putting up some electric fencing as well so that I have a better chance of keeping them away. Its devastating when you have worked so hard to grow vegetables and the deer come along and eat everything in one night! That has happened more than once and it's heartbreaking every time. I will also probably use some old tried and true techniques to keep deer away like typing aluminum pie pans to strings and scattering out human hair to deter them with our scent. Maybe with all these things together we can come out fairly unscathed by the end of the growing season.
Drought - While some years we have so much rain we don't know what to do with it most years our summers are hot and dry with rain only coming in spurts every few weeks. So we have to supplement with watering ourselves and this can become a problem when the garden is far away from your water source. Water is heavy and cumbersome hauling water is not the way I want to go. So by moving our garden location closer to the house we have also made it closer to our water source. We are also installing a drip irrigation system to assist with supplemental watering. These types of infrastructure systems help make the job of farming a little bit easier. Instead of hand watering or moving a sprinkler head every hour we can turn on the drip system and walk away and do other things and come back when it's finished. It doesn't get any better than that!
So now that we talked about the problems we were facing lets get to the good stuff! What are we going to grow and how are we going to do it? I have sourced seeds and bulbs from several places and I try to make sure to get organic & heirloom varieties whenever possible. So far this is what's on the agenda for this spring and summer season:
Beans - Old Homestead Kentucky (pole)- 30 plants
Basil - Mammolo, Thai Sweet, Genovese -15 plants (5 each)
Broccoli - Calabrese, Early Purple Sprouting -40 plants (20 each)
Beets - Chioggia, Beets Bull Blood -50 plants (25 each)
Cucumbers - Marketmore76, Muncher, Chicago pickling- 15 plants (5 each)
Cilantro - slo bolt- 10 plants
Chives - common - 100 plants
Carrots - Amarillo, Rainbow mix, Black nebula, Scarlet- 400 plants (100 each)
Cabbage - Early Jersey Wakefield, Brunswick, Red Express - 60 plants (20 each)
Cauliflower - Purple of Sicily, Green Macerata, Giant of Naples - 60 plants (20 each)
Celery - Utah, Tender Crisp - 50 plants (25 each)
Garlic - classic - 100 bulbs
Kholrabi - Delicacy white - 30 plants
Kale - Scarlet, Dwarf Siberian,Dinosaur, Ragged Jack - 40 plants (10 each)
Leek - autumn giant - 20 plants
Melons - Hales Best cantaloup , Crimson sweet watermelon, Kamari melon - 10 plants
Okra - Clemson Spineless, Jing Orange - 30 plants (20/10 each)
Onion - Yellow Stuttgarter, Purple, Green bunching - 300 bulbs (100 each)
Oregano - Vulgare - 5 plants
Pumpkin - Rouge Vif Detampes, Connecticut Field- 10 plants (5 each)
Peas - Green arrow bush, tetapeche cow pea - 20 plants (10 each)
Peppers - Lightning mix, Craigs Grande Jalepeno, California Wonder Bell, Red Macaroni - 20 plants (5 each)
Potatoes - Red Nordland, Yukon Gold, Adirondak Blue (2 lb seed potatoes each)
Radishes - Cherry Belle, Pink Beauty - 100 plants (50 each)
Rosemary - Rosy - 5 plants
Squash - Butternut waltham, Early Golden Crookneck, Zucchini, Buttercup - 20 plants (5 each)
Sage - broadleaf - 10 plants
Thyme - Wild, Common - 10 plants
Turnip - Purpletop - 200 plants
Tomatoes - Jujube Grape, Rutgers, San Marzano Lungo #2, Dads Sunset, Purple Bumble Bee, Brads Atomic Grape, Black Beauty- 50 plants
Strawberries - Temptation, Tresca - 30 plants
So my list is long and ambitious and I haven't even included the flowers I want to grow in there! That is the subject of a whole different blog post! I used my trusty "Family Garden Plan" book to show me the way. I set up a shelf in my kitchen with grow lights and have been slowly starting my seeds indoors like strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, tomatoes, onions, celery, and peppers. In a few more weeks some of those seedings will be ready for transplanting outside already! I have been spending time each week making sure to record when I plant and how much so that we can better track our results and make adjustments. Once we get past our last frost date, April 20, 2020, then we will direct sow all the other plants outside in the ground where they will grow best. Of course we will direct sow in either our raised beds or the market garden which will be prepped in the coming weeks with fresh compost from our cows and chickens.
A quick note on where I source my seeds, bulbs, and plant starts. I try to use heirloom and organic seed whenever possible and nowadays it is easy to find online with a little research. I like to use Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., Territorial Seed Co., Stark Bros. Nursery and Orchards, Seeds for Generations, & Wild Boar Farms. Those are just a few of the sources that I trust when making decisions about what to grow to feed my family. Check them out for yourself! (I am not affiliated with any of these companies they are just who I use and recommend.)
Maybe all the planning will show in our end results this year and we end up with a pantry full of homegrown goods! What do you think? What kinds of things are you growing this year? Do you have a plan for growing your own food? I want to hear about what varieties you are growing on your homestead. What problems have you faced with gardening and how have you overcome them? With a little preparation and problem solving I hope that your garden will turn into all you hoped it would be this season. Enjoy getting your hands dirty!