Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Planning for Growth

I'm a gardener. 

My Microfarm-Summer 2010


Not a particularly good one.  Not one who wears big floppy hats, has a cool gardening apron with pockets for well-kept tools, and perfectly sloppy gardening clothes.  I'm a total work-in-progress type of gardener.  Here's what I mean about that:


I try very, very hard to be an organic gardener.  I believe it is the best way to take care of our little corner of this earth and of my little family.  I also know it is really hard to poison myself with organic gardening methods.  I try to do everything from start to finish-start each annual from seed around March and preserve veggies in late summer, early autumn.  That sentence sounds awfully presumptuous, but I have had some specular failures with this.  I've learned more about powdery mildew than I care to ever know, and how it can kill months of work on a beloved cucumber/zucchini/squash/melon crop.  I've learned that composting isn't always easy, and needs a special balance of moisture, green and brown matter-which I still haven't mastered.  Each year I've grown things, I've had grand plans around January/February (you know, when the gardens in our imaginations look perfect, are disease and bug free, and rains come predictably) and sometime in July my spectacular failures begin.  


That's where I've learned things.  


That's also where I usually end up heading to local produce stands to get what I need to make pickles, preserves and sauces because I have yet to grow enough to provide for my family.


However, I am good at two things for sure.  


I grow spectacular peppers.  Beautiful, strong pepper plants from seed that produce prolifically until frost.  Heirloom, organic, clean, delicious peppers like you've never seen.  Last year I grew pimento, hunky hots, and hikelhatz.  The year before I had sweet orange, jalapenos and hunky hots.  I don't know exactly how or why I do so well with these, but I do.  I guess pepper plants are idiot-proof.


I also have found luck with sweet peas.  I grew them the first year my husband created our fenced-in veggie garden as a way to decorate the exterior for the neighbors.  I'd never come face to face with a sweet pea before that, and now my summer won't be complete without them.  I can't kill those vines.  (don't want to either)  If you've never smelled that scent wafting to your nose on a humid summer day, you haven't lived.  It could bring world peace, of that I'm certain.  


I have many other failings too...I am a terrible slob...my garden tools are a mess.  I always promise myself I will do the smart thing and make a storage bucket for them with sand and oil.  But no, they languish in messy piles all over the place, rusting and dirty.  I have stashed various soil amendments everywhere in our garage so that I can't find them and sometimes will purchase something I already own (read: bone meal).  Last summer, I made a powdery mildew milk spray up, took it outside to put on my plants and had to run in.  Totally forgot about it for a few days.  People, that spray is 10% milk.  It sat in the blazing July Ohio sun.  You can only imagine what that smelled like.  


Barf.


But on the bright side, I haven't poisoned myself, or my family, with plant chemicals.  I have made some delicious meals with our veggies.  I have lovely bouquets made up of native Ohio perennials all summer long.  Maybe this year I will crack the tomato code, get my basil to grow taller than my ankles, and find a mulch that holds moisture.


It is winter after all, and right now my garden is pretty much perfect.


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