I started a little hype toward our garden back in March when I was so beyond excited and hopeful about what we’d accomplish with it. After hours and weekends and evenings full of ground breaking, weed pulling, seed planting, fence building, and irrigation setup, I got lost in the hustle and bustle and stopped providing regular updates, which resulted in skipping over opportunities to share lessons learned (the most important part!).
If you haven’t been part of the process since March, that’s a-ok. I’m going to start there and fill you in from the get-go.
Last year we gardened a little sliver of our back yard, our first desert garden, where we learned how difficult and rewarding it is to grow in this area. Our last garden was in the heart of Kansas, where garden success came easily thanks to perfect soil, abundant water, and a mild climate.
Regardless of our low success rate and awareness of the work required to grow anything here, we were given a little piece of land for a garden and we accepted it. This meant going all in, despite Griffin working impossibly long hours through hay season (which is also gardening season!). Our thought process was you can’t learn if you don’t try. We’re all about taking advantage of opportunities!
Some requirements we had for our homegrown food: It had to be organic, we had to grow what made the most sense in regards to food waste and what we had access to at the store, and we didn’t want to throw crazy amounts of money at this project we weren’t sure we could make work.
Where We Started
This piece of property we were offered had never been gardened on before. It was just a weed and sage brush covered little corner of land Griffin works on. We borrowed equipment to disk up the garden which took a few rounds of a tractor. It ended up being about half an acre in total, although it’s a funny shape and odd amount of land.
Next came the fence. Deer, coyotes, rodents and birds were all threats to the establishment of a garden that we had to take into consideration. In the spring wind and snow, Griffin and I were out there setting fence posts and stretching barbed wire.
After much deliberation we settled with two rows of hot wire around the bottom of the fence, close to the ground so the critters wouldn’t crawl under. A more experienced gardener in the area informed us of the coyotes’ skill in rolling entire melons out from under the fence. We added many rows of barbed wire to the fence, stacking them as high on the posts as we could to prevent the deer from jumping over. This wasn’t entirely successful, as we spotted the occasional deer tracks through the mud, but I assume they just passed through because I’ve never seen evidence of them snacking.
Choosing Seeds/What We Planted
Seeds had to be organic, because we planned to garden entirely organically. I shopped long and hard for quality, organic seeds, settling with some from local farms such as Floret and some from brands like Seeds of Change. The large majority of our seeds, however, came from the stash we had saved from the organic produce we purchased at Natural Grocers over the past 6 or so months. This is one way we reduce waste- save those seeds! We were gifted a pack of 100 seeds of corn that we planted which were not organic, but we grew them separate from our organic section of corn.
What we got in the ground:
- Sweet Corn (two varieties)
- Spaghetti Squash
- Acorn Squash
- Butternut Squash
- Giant Pumpkins
- Ornamental Pumpkins/Squash/Gourds
- Summer Squash (three varieties)
- Beets (two varieties)
- Green Beans
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Giant Sunflowers
What we got in tubs:
- Tomatoes (three varieties)
- Cherry Radishes
- Basil (two varieties)
We consciously chose to grow what we did based on what was already available to us and easy on the budget. For instance, potatoes were a hot item we wanted in the garden for a while, but we realized we could save the time and space and buy them by the 50lb bag for $10 at the store. Peppers, jalapenos, garlic, etc. are readily available for next to nothing at the farmers markets through the summer, and we already have trees of cherries, apples, and pears at home so we put the focus on vegetables rather than starting new fruit babies. Most of the vegetables we planted are going to give us hundreds of seeds which we’ll save and plant again next summer.
Come back for part two of the garden update tomorrow, where I’ll answer some questions we received and address the challenges of organic farming, how much money we put into this space, and “can we really eat all this food?!” 🙂