Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fighting nature

My garden makes kind of pleasant, innocuous blog material, but that's because I avoid telling the parts of the story that are slightly more interesting but definitely more embarrassing.

I'm afraid I'm one of those wackos who took survival measures when Y2K was coming. In 1999 we were still in NJ in our wonderful Victorian house with its nooks and crannies, and I piled canned goods and a huge sack of Sam's Club rice into an odd little closet I kept shoes in. Later, when a local food drive arranged with the postal service for carriers to pick up donations, I dragged the 20(?) pound rice sack out to the porch and our poor mailman hauled it away.

c. August 1997, just after we bought the house.

But, no, I have not entirely changed my nutcase ways, because I honestly think that the ability to provide ourselves with at least some of our own food could become a necessity rather than a hobby. If we never need a food-producing farmette, the kids just might. Or might want one. The current economy being the mess that it is, I wanted to begin my learning process now. This place we're in now is not very good for a sustainable life, but it's fine for a learning laboratory. We'll have some acreage eventually. Why be a novice in 5-10 years?

This is part of the reason why I'm trying things that are more difficult to grow. I like some of the easier crops like lettuce and cukes well enough, but, bottom line, salad holds limited interest for me. I want to be able to raise serious sustenance vegetables that keep better and have more recipe versatility. I'd rather fail more and learn more, than succeed at things I don't care much about. Ideally, I'll have a greenhouse too, and have a small but steady production of salad veggies.

I'm as complete a novice at this as one can be. I've never been into gardening for pleasure. I have to avoid sun, which means getting out there at 6:30 AM to work on it while the yard is still fairly shady. I'm also not a morning person, so this is a radical shift.

I'm also not a detail person. Gardening, especially organic gardening, requires some vigilance and attention to detail. You can't just decide to take a few days off. Nature doesn't.

So I'm not exactly a natural-born gardener. An online friend once told me that if I ever joined her role-playing group, they'd probably dub me The Goddess of Convenience Foods and Take-Out. I have to fight nature, and by that, more than the predators and the weather, i really mean my own nature.

While gardening is kind of calming and satisfying even for my temperament, for me it's more a means to an end, than an end in itself.

So! I planted my carrots and broccoli almost 2 months ago. We oughta be eating the stuff by now, but neither was the right crop for its location. They didn't die, they didn't grow. They all just sat there suffering in the too-long day of full broiling South Carolina sun.

Both are now in containers. I used to have ornamental trees in these two square planters, years ago. Each crop has a planter now, and both are perking up. Naturally, as soon as I put the carrots into a shadier spot, we've had nothing but cloudy days and downpours. I can move the planters to adjust for weather, so we may get some food out them!

The peppers are happy in the raised bed, though. They love this climate. We harvested 2 and had stuffed peppers, and Larry's (mumble...thriving...mumble) garden produced enough tomatoes for me to make a sauce that looked pink and wimpy, but that had the richest, most delectable flavor... o my! Home grown tomatoes demonstrate the blah-ness of grocery store produce to a mind-blowing degree.

And the rest of my big box garden is now an attempt at, believe it or not, a pumpkin patch. A weird but very sincere pumpkin patch. Larry had a couple plants that needed a spot and I thought I'd try it.

We're also dinking around with pest-discouraging companion plants, which is the reason for the marigolds, and the basil, which you see there to the left, between the pepper plants (and which contributed to my delicious tomato sauce). Nasturtium seeds are in those rectangular planters. Nasturtiums are supposedly good for discouraging certain bugs as well. We'll know a fair amount by the time we've got space for a mini-farm.

I'm learning in fits and starts.


Sherwood Harrington said...

Your raised bed is looking very handsome, and I wish you and Larry all the best in managing to feed yourself more than the occasional salad. It's hard work.

We've planted pumpkins a few years in our raised beds. Old Boo felt a kinship with them.

And is that Downeyflake I see helping out? There's nothing quite like a ginger cat as a garden helper.

Mike said...

In the back-to-the-earth days, wife and I read The Rolling Stone's "First Time Farmer" guide and were inspired to create a farmette as soon as I graduated. Then we read a book called "Five Acres and Independence" by someone who had actually run a farm. The gap between fashion and function was rather daunting and we reconsidered our talents, energies and dreams. We kept a nice truck patch for a few years, though.

Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Sherwood - you see a row of sticks around the perimeter of the broccoli planter. Those are to discourage Scooter (the Outdoor Orange; Downy is strictly an indoor kinda guy) from acting out your garden helper photo. Which he has done in each garden.

Mike - it hasn't escaped our notice that this is work for 20-somethings and that we'll be over 60 when we really get started on....augh!

southernyankee said...

Wait, wait, was that mumble. . .thriving. . .mumble?

Or thank God for the terrific tomatoes! Bless your Yankee heart :-)

southernyankee said...

Oh, and I forgot. Congratulations! It's National Farmers Market Week! Yah!