Very well, thank you. The silver bells and cockleshells are doing just fine and the pretty maid (Ms. Flippers) just hand pollinated the corn last night.
I have learned lots and lots about vegetable gardening lately, my previous attempts at raising veggies being the type that occurr in pots on decks and patios. Some of those were wildly successful, some not so much - like when a local wild animal got onto the deck and overturned pots of herbs (turned out all he really wanted was the cat nip)...or when I tried the much advertised Topsy-Turvy...
What I have learned, in general, is that it is all just one grand experiment. I have been reading mini-farming books and following several Extension Services (did you know that there is one land grant college in each state that is required to maintain an Extension Service and that this is all part of the USDA's education program?). Here is a summary of the knowledge that I have gleaned:
- Don't start out big. That way lies disaster and/or insanity. We currently have about 5 rows of our total garden space under cultivation.
- Every individual environment is different from the acidity of the soil to the clay content to its water retention properties. This means that any given set of "soil additives" are not universal and although you can get information on what is known about "your general area" it won't apply to your own backyard. You need to TEST and EXPERIMENT and PRAY. I will be contacting my local extension service office (only about 5 miles away) to learn all about soil testing.
- A cucumber is not a cucumber is not a cucumber: As you can tell from the dizzying array of choices at Home Depot, there are many species of tomato from which you can choose. Guess What? Not all of them will do equally well in every yard. My reading instructed me to choose several varieties of each thing that I wanted to raise and plant them all to see which ones did best in my soil and which one(s) my family liked. With luck they will like at least one variety of each thing that grows.
- In my area I should be able to garden year round. We don't get hard frosts. Or maybe only one a year. On the plus side this means that I can use the garden space year round to raise broccoli. On the negative side it means that I can't grow my favorite apples that require over 100 days of freezing temperatures to blossom and produce fruit.
- Just because you can grow from heirloom seeds and save them and replant next year doesn't mean that they will be disease reisitant. Oh NO. Some of them will be very tasty but extremely delicate...
- Tell your husband NOT TO KILL THE LADYBUGS! Or the spiders.
The plan next year, after figuring out what went well and what didn't is to amend the soil as needed and to plant at least half of the available garden - starting in September with the cool weather root vegetables... in the spring around March/April we will start the melons and such...
Here's to my Mom, daughter of the soil (well, a dairy farmer), who always had fresh green beans in her garden - and tomatoes that we could just pick and eat whenever we felt like it. Here's to Mom, from whom I inherited my love of dirty fingernails and my inability to keep garden gloves on when I'm weeding. Here's to my Mom who would be as excited over my drip irrigation system as I am.
As the Bearded One said last weekend when we were changing out irrigation heads and replacing drip tubing and I was as filthy and muddy as a kid in a puddle and had a grin to match, "You really love this, don't you?"