Monday, October 27, 2008

The Land's Bounty: A Garden Saga

I have had gardens, off and on, for the past twelve years or so. I have always loved the idea of gardening, have read about it extensively, and have gardened off and on with varying degrees of success. But I have never been satisfied enough with my results or my level of experience to call myself a gardener. Until this year.

When we first moved to our current farm, about five years ago, there was too much "deferred maintenance" to allow much time for gardening. But three years ago I did lay out and tend a modest garden, using techniques that I gleaned from Eliot Coleman's Four-Season Harvest. I will be doing a complete review of that very important book in an upcoming posting. Using Coleman's tools and techniques allowed me, for the first time, to keep a garden under control. For me that's important. What I've done several times in the past is plant more than I can manage, in a rather haphazard way that prevents me from tending the garden as I should. And so eventually it becomes an overgrown weed patch. The thought of even stepping foot into that chaotic mess becomes more and more daunting until I basically just give it up as a bad job. But Coleman's tools and techniques, his whole vision and approach to gardening, hold out the promise of a garden so tidy and so (relatively) easily cared for that it becomes a beautiful place that veritably beckons to you to come and spend time there. Gardening, even on a relatively large scale, is hard work, yes, but not frenzied. The garden becomes an inviting place, a relaxing place. Chaos has given way to order and beauty.

That's the theory anyway. Well, after that modest but satisfying plot a few years ago, we got caught up in some major remodeling to our house and, after a long string of miscarriages, finally received the blessing of the birth of our daughter Bridget. Gardening once again was pushed aside by more important things. Now I'd trade a lifetime of gardens for Bridget, but after tasting a morsel of success in the past I was anxious to get back to it.

This year, with the increasingly abundant help of my older children, I tried again. I got a bit of a late start, so I was not able to get a full spring crop of some family favorites, like sugar snap peas. But sometime in May I laid out the plot according to a modified Coleman scheme, amended the soil one more time with the abundant compost that we have on our place, and began to plant. Many of the seedlings for this year's garden were tended in a coldframe (click here to see my earlier posting on this). Each of the three older children got their own plot, in which they could plant whatever they wanted. Between us, we grew the following:

* Swiss Chard
* Spanish Black winter radishes
* Lettuces, varied
* Spinach
* Carrots
* Beets
* Turnips
* Rutabagas
* Sweet corn (two varieties)
* Beans: purple, yellow, green, pole
* Watermelons
* Cucumbers
* Yellow squash
* Zucchini
* Pumpkins
* Broccoli
* Leeks
* Shallots
* Green onions
* Chinese cabbage
* Red cabbage
* Kale
* Tomatoes, two kinds
* Peppers, several colors
* Potatoes, three kinds
* Parsnips
* Tatsoi

In a word, the results have been awesome. We are still harvesting all of the vegetables we consume fresh out of the garden and have put literally hundreds of pounds of turnips, beets, rutabagas, potatos, carrots, cabbage, and radishes in the root cellar. God is very good and I am blessed, after all these years, to be able to call myself a gardener.

1 comment:

Father G said...

Hey Dave,

What about the asparagus???
I want some asparagus!!!

Father G