We have one very big goal for this year: have a table at the Farmer’s Market in our little mountain town. The Farmer’s Market is every Saturday starting in June, through September. In order to achieve this goal, our garden needed to expand. Big time.
Last year we had 12 raised garden beds built, and had stuff growing in most of them, though we didn’t have a huge yield due to several factors: not an adequate deer fence or gate to the garden, started planting too late, and we didn’t devote all the time necessary to tend to the garden, due to our million other projects while we were getting settled out here. Well, this year we are a lot more settled, and while those million projects are still around, we have a better handle on things. This year, the garden expansion and tending project has taken priority.
R has been working tirelessly building garden beds. We now have 26 in place, with space to add more. The garden area will be around 50×50′, in addition to our greenhouse. A significant amount of space has been “set aside,” so to speak, in the garden for asparagus. Asparagus doesn’t necessarily need or do well in raised garden beds, instead you dig trenches to plant them in, as they are hardy perennials that need to get established for several years before they start to produce. We love asparagus and while it is a long-term project, we think it would be so cool to have a yearly asparagus bed.
We have chosen the raised garden bed plan because our natural soil up here is not ideal for growing. It’s clay and rock. Our dozen garden beds from last year all have dirt in them still, which we just added a bit to this year, but we now have 14 other beds to fill. So we found a place, a plant nursery, about an hour from us that sells dirt and compost by the truckload, and we have so far made 3 trips to and from said nursery with full loads of top soil. We also picked up 10 or so bags of compost while we were at it.
Let me tell you something. Shoveling an entire truckload of dirt by hand into buckets is a workout. That was an exhausting few truckloads. But totally worth it. We saved a ton of money by buying dirt in bulk as opposed to by-the-bag.
In our climate, average last frost date isn’t until June. But, if we want to eat out of our garden and sell anything at the Farmer’s Market, we need to start seeds sooner. R built a couple of cold frames (basically 1×1″ lumber frame with double-layered plastic attached to it), and we also have 100 feet of row cover material, which can keep your soil a few degrees warmer than outside temperature, plus save your plants in a downpour, hail storm, and from insects. And when the lows are between 27 and 32, those few degrees can really save your little seedlings.
We planted a row of dinosaur kale and a row of radishes; both extremely cold-hardy plants. At night we have the row cover doubled up, with the cold frame on top. It has been a little cold and rainy the past couple of days, with highs in the 40s, so during the day we’ve been taking the cold frame off and leaving the row cover on. So far, all the babies have sprouted! Radishes grow fast, and in just a few weeks we could have radishes to munch on straight from the garden. Tomorrow we might plant another row of both kale and radishes, so that a week or two after the first batch is harvested, we have another batch waiting, and so on. I’ll also be planting a couple of cold-hardy flowers tomorrow morning under a cold frame.
We have also started a handful of seeds indoors. We planted tomatoes and peppers (wax pepper and ornamental pepper), in cups last week. No sprouts yet. R also planted a “surprise plant” just for me. I have no idea what it is and he won’t tell me. They have all sprouted! I love surprises and he knows it 🙂
Today we traveled 2 hours from home to the nearest Lowe’s and dropped nearly $700 on supplies. We came home with a 7.5′ high, 330′ long, premium-strength deer fence, 15 8′ metal t-posts for the deer fencing, 8 bags of concrete mix, some plastic paneling and hardware cloth for my chicken coop, and some lumber. We went out for a couple of beers afterward.
So this is our garden adventure so far this year! We got home a few hours ago, started a fire in the woodstove because it apparently hailed while we were gone, checked on all the sprout babies, and have been chilling in our pajamas ever since. Tomorrow is back to work on the homestead.