Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lessons from the Garden

Having a garden in your backyard is a beautiful, miracle of an experience. We continue to be inspired and awed by the gifts of the Earth that we receive daily during this sweet summer season. 

This is our second summer with a backyard garden and we have already learned so much about maintaining and caring for such an incredible creature. While there are many, many, many fruits and gifts to be had from these efforts and the Creator's blessing, we still have been able to glean some lessons to help us become better gardeners next summer too.

Here are some of the lessons the garden has taught us:

Basil and Thai Basil are much happier growing out of a pot that can be moved if they get too much of any particular element. These two have been quite prolific just sitting on our steps throughout the day. Putting them in the herb garden last year was a bad idea. We lost them both within weeks. So far, they have lasted the summer and we have enjoyed their delicious flavors over and over again. 

While this has been a "no-no" to some, we let our collards, kale and swisschard go to seed and then regrow at the beginning of the summer. We are still enjoying these hardy green leaves and believe that second-season kale and collards are more tender and easier to enjoy in a salad than their first-season selves. They have been very tasty, even with smaller leaves. Plus, their flowers have really attracted a lot of bees to the garden which is always a good thing.

Our carrots are finally starting to get bigger and we are pleased with how they are growing (their harvest time has not come yet). However, we have learned recently that if you'd like your root crops (carrots, potatoes, etc) to grow long and wide, you have to provide them with up to 18 inches of loose soil so that they can freely develop. Note to self...

We have a bed with tomatoes and purple bell peppers in it that is struggling. Fortunately, we have planted enough tomatoes that loosing a few plants has not been a issue even if we have been sorry to see them fight for life like they have. This bed was used for tomatoes last summer and while we did fertilize it, we did not add extra soil or compost to it this spring when we were planting. Tomatoes use a lot of nutrients and this bed really needed a good hearty dose of love to bring it back to the level of life-giving it needed to be to support these hungry plants. 

This is a wonderful jalapeno plant. This would be great and I do love jalapenos except that I planted the seeds for this plant from a seed bag labeled "green bell pepper". I am happy to add some spicy goodness to my life, but I am a little sorry to know that I will be having a A LOT of jalapenos this summer instead of the green bell peppers that I planned for. Sometimes seed labels or seeds given to you from friends are not accurate. 

Our ladies are not laying yet (won't get our first eggs until the end of August) but we are keeping them happy and well fed. We have learned that no matter what you cannot keep chicken water dishes clean. They will find a way to poop in their water no matter what you do. So we devised a water system using "chicken nipples" so that they have to tap for their water up high rather than the puddle system we were using down low. They certainly prefer the puddle system because it is easier for them, but until they learn that drinking water is not their potty, they are using the nipples. 

We have continued to have an amazing harvest from our cucumbers, squash and zucchini, which has been made possible because we have given continual effort to fighting off the vine-bores that will destroy these plants. We have been keeping their leaves fresh and clean and bug-free. We also have had been periodically dusting the base of these plants with pesticide to keep the vine-bores away so that we can continue to enjoy such a rich harvest. We have used both organic and non-organic dusts to see which one is works more effectively. The jury is still out on that...

Eggplants are always a good idea! That is really all I have to say on the subject. They have grown well, they have few pests, and could not be more lovely to look at. The same goes for our okra. 

Tomatoes with the right nutrients in the soil are happy and prolific! Look at these beauties!

Sadly, we have learned that quail can turn to cannibalism if the conditions are right. We have had a very hot summer and during a week where every single day reached over 100 degrees F the birds starting pecking at one another. They start with pulling out some feathers and end with full on zombie-fest. We lost 4 birds to this horrifying response to high temperatures. We are down to three now and continue to get eggs from the hens. Though,I have to admit, I think of these guys a little differently since that experience. It has been a cannibalism-free month so far and for that, I am grateful. 

Cantaloupes are a great idea! We have had such a nice harvest of cantaloupes. They don't need much and make nice big fruit that we can enjoy raw or for juice. The only issue we have had with them is that there is a opossum in the yard who likes to take one bite out of them and then wander off. 

These are some of the little lessons (sometimes big lessons) that we have learned from our little Eden this summer. Even with the learning curve, we are still being blessed with a colander of goodies a day! We could not hope for better and honestly, I hold that colander everyday totally in awe of God's provision. What a gift!

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