Sunday, October 11, 2009

How it all began...

When we first moved to Oklahoma in May of 2008 and bought our one acre of land, we were eager to throw paint on our walls, coordinate new furniture, and start a garden.

Mother Nature decided that I should focus on growing other things, however, because I quickly found out I was pregnant with our first child.

I got little accomplished the first summer and fall in terms of gardening, thanks to my "delicate condition," aka "alien invasion." I did manage to remove the 3-foot-tall weeds growing wild in the back yard and plant some spring bulbs in the front beds. My husband spent nearly all of the summer building a traditional split-rail fence around the back half of our property, which would act as a deterrant for our 2 wandering mutts, and also as a nice complement to the rural vistas. It was hard work trying to dig into the hard, red clay, so he rented a mechanical post-hole digger.

Our vegetable garden would have to wait until this past spring when our little helper arrived. We got started with the planting the day before Easter Sunday, and in retrospect that was probably much too late for most of the things we tried to grow. Theoretically it would have been better to start planting around the first few weeks of February, but with our son Joe making his grand appearance on Feb. 13th, planting just wasn't on our minds at the time.

After learning our lesson about the hard clay, we decided to go with 2 raised beds, one 6'x12' and one 6'x8'. I think when I first imagined these beds, I thought they'd be crammed full of healthy veggies, from which I could make countless meals and freeze up several pounds of bumper crops to later make into baby food. I later learned that 1 six-foot row of peas produces about a half-cup of shelled peas. So barely one serving.

But we had to start somewhere, so we stapled chicken wire (to keep out burrowing pests...which we don't really have in OK) inside a 12-inch-high wooden frame, and filled the whole thing with topsoil and compost. We later constructed 2 A-frame trellises out of a few old wooden pallets that we picked up at from my husband's work (for free! Also try Lowes, etc.) and strung netting hand-tied from twine over each. They held up surprisingly well in a pretty nasty spring storm, so we might try bigger ones next year.

We planted peppers, pole beans, peas, zucchini, cauliflower, pumpkins, cantaloupe, eggplants, and carrots. All in the same beds! All at the same time! What little we knew...or I should say, how much we've learned in the last 6-7 months. I think the most we had researched ahead of time in terms of planting spacing and timing we learned from the backs of seed packets and transplant containers. After exhaustively planning for NEXT year's garden, I realize how ridiculous the timing and spacing was, and we are lucky that we actually had some success despite ourselves. The zukes and peppers have done very well, and the cantaloupe and eggplants had a lot of potential, but we went on a week-long vacation right at a crucial time in their little lives.

In my next post I'll talk about what we reaped from this little experimental garden, but I have to say that our best harvest this year was lessons learned. We've got BIG plans for 2010, and I'm excited to documenting it all in this space. Stay tuned!

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