Learning and Growing

One of the things I started to really get into since lockdown is gardening. I have had a long lasting love affair of the idea of gardening since I knew growing plants was a thing someone could do, so…like from birth.

Over lockdown, I spent the time crocheting, watching Gardner’s World and This Farming Life. I ingested everything farming and gardening. I honestly felt like there was so much I didn’t know and still don’t know. The desire to grow and farm has been just enormous to my soul. So much so, I wrote down a 5 year plan for my own small working farm. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this strong desire to farm until my 50’s. Without a small commune of people, I really doubt I’ll be able to realize my plans, but I’m not gonna lie, I wouldn’t mind being the leader of a commune if it meant I could fulfill my dreams, I’d just try to avoid the pitfalls of cult living. I don’t need that kind of devotion given to me.

When I first moved to my little cottage in the mountains, I tried some raised bed gardening. I managed to grow potatoes and tomatoes and nothing else. Where I had set up my raised bed gets so little sun, nothing was able to get past sprouts. Then the deer would come in and sweep graze all my sprouts. It was disappointing, to say the least, and made me stop trying to garden.

So over lockdown, I learned a great deal about what was wrong, what I had done wrong, aside from the obvious poor placement of the boxes, and how I could improve my garden.

I learned the following:

· My soil is just sand and rocks with some clay, thanks to the mountain side

· The only full sun area on my property is the deck outside my front door, where there is no soil.

· If you like it, so do the deer

· Trees are lovely to look at, but horrible for gardening because they don’t allow sunlight to shine where you want it.

These were all disappointing. I have no space on my property that isn’t either all rock, shaded by trees, or up a slope that is impossible to cultivate without major terraforming. (Which, no joke…I might just do yet.) Because my home is almost built into the side of a mountain, all the soil is pretty much the rock and sand removed for the home to be built. If I want to have a dedicated space, I will need to chop down a ton of trees and do some massive improvements to the soil.

So yeah…Mountain cottage living isn’t country farming living, unless you have your own excavator, cherry picker and access to a ton of compost and manure. Things I don’t have. All I have is my very sunny deck.

So, in 2020, I started my deck garden. I had a bunch of pots that had to house all the vegetables I wanted to grow. I opted to grow the potatoes in the raised bed boxes since they grew so well there before. I got that year:

Tomatoes – lots of these
Potatoes – a handful. Enough to make a serving of mashed potatoes
Some very small melons, like…5″ in diameter at best
Some very sad and small beets

And that was it. Got lots of sprouts but nothing that was worth harvesting. And again, disappointing.

So, I tried again in 2021, with about the same results. I did learn from the previous year, however, that my growing seasons it extremely short. From Mother’s day till the second week of Oct. I realized that was why nothing was growing much. I was direct sowing my seeds and they just didn’t have enough warm sun time to do anything. So I started things inside. I had celery that year for the first time, tomatoes, potatoes and a few small melons. Again, nothing exciting, but certainly more than the previous year.

Determined not to give up, I tried again last year. I got a *ton* of peas, much to my delight! A good amount of beans, some kohlrabi, endive, potatoes (that honestly were the most amazing ones I had ever had and were more than just a serving of mashed), a few small cucumbers and that was it. Nothing else grew. But there were better results and I was happy. No tomatoes. It just never warmed up long enough for them to do anything. I had also decided to try my hand at some herbs and flowers. I had a great success at sage, thyme, italian oregano, cilantro, basil, job’s tears, balsam flowers, and safflowers and borage. The last two were meager, but they grew and I was happy to see them. The first time I had tried flowering plants. I also tried some nasturtium which, while they didn’t get large, they did flower and that was exciting.

I also managed to plant out my retaining wall, which is literally nothing but sand, rocks and not much else. I planted clover and phlox, then planted out my recurring herbs. The clover grew! I thought the phlox was a lost cause till I saw little flowers in July! I was so excited! They had grown!

All the rest of the things just didn’t get the chance to grow. Between the raccoons wreaking havoc for sprouts and grubs, and the temperate weather, nothing had an opportunity to thrive.

But I learned. I learned what worked and why. I learned how to discourage the raccoons. And I had grown something other than just tomatoes and potatoes. It was, to date, the most successful garden I have had. The squash and corn did grow, but not well enough to harvest, though the raccoons had caused part of that and the other part was my mismanagement of planting too many seeds in the pots. I also realized I probably don’t water my plants nearly as much water as they should get each watering, even with watering every day.

It was good learning! I have been happy to have this hands on education. I am a very rough gardener, so if a plant can survive my heavy handed gardening, I’m impressed.

My ultimate plans for my home is to have a witchy type space. A yard filled with plants essential to witches so that all that is required is to go outside and pluck what is wanted/needed.

So this year, I have decided to get some dedicated planters for vining and climbing plants. My peas, beans, cucumbers and squash will all take their turns in them. I plan to grow a bit more in the huge tubs I have, but that will be more for the 3 sister planting with fewer plants. I will start the squash off in the house, and move them out to their assigned places.

I already have tomatoes growing inside. My poor houseplants are feeling jealous having their space in the grow lights invaded by these young upstarts. When it starts getting a bit warmer, they will go out into the small greenhouse I purchased to see how they like that space till I can plant them into the pots. I also have garlic started, but it isn’t as happy as it could be, however, it is just the cloves from the grocery store that have gotten ambitious, so we will see how they actually do.

I am trying leeks again, but this time, growing them indoors. We’ll see. I don’t have high hopes.

The celery and celery root are growing, but they haven’t gotten their secondary leaves yet. When I grew them last time successfully, they were started indoors, and I remember they took forever to get their second leaves, so I’m not worried.

I also started some nasturtium, sweet peas and snail vines to be placed in the space I planted them last year. I laid mulch down in the fall and I’m hoping this will help the soil. I also plan to add compost to the holes and give them some oomph. I’m hoping my sweet blank snake has moved on since before the mulch went down, as I think she didn’t help the plants when she made her home there.

The raised bed planters have been moved. Four are along the walkway across from the nasturtium and they will have comfrey, the garlic and two types of onions that I’m growing from starters because seeds just aren’t working. The other two were placed along the walkways that follows the retaining wall. In there, I will plant lavender and borage. The lavender has already sprouted and are going very well! I’m looking forward to seeing them thrive.

I also managed to snag some acacia tree seeds and one out of the 6 sprouted, which is perfect because I only needed one. I’m looking forward to seeing it continue to thrive!

I am also planning to order some new table planters to hopefully discourage the raccoons. I have a pack of 3 that are siblings who live on the property. They come by every other month or so and dig through the dirt in the pots, so I’m hoping if they will determine it isn’t worth the effort if they have to work to get to the dirt. We’ll see. They are determined little snots.

Along with the vegetables, I will be trying some poppies, stock, gila, and a few other flowering plants to see what will happen. I do intend to grow the ones that worked last year, but provide them a better, less shared space.

I may be ambitious this year, but I’m really hoping to see what works and what doesn’t. I feel like I’m getting into my gardening feet and finding some stable ground to work with. I plan to post at things grown and bloom, so hopefully, you will learn with me!

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