I had this idea in my head that I’d be an excellent backyard farmer. Live off the land, so to speak. Provide my family with nutritious, delicious, fresh off the vine vegetables and save a few bucks. Every afternoon, I could go to my garden and pick lettuce, tomatoes, and zucchini. I would spend early mornings, tending to the weeds, keeping a happy environment for my plants to thrive.
So last year, I went for it.
As with any new project… I began enthusiastically, rushing out to our local Home Depot … all the while whistling John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” to myself. Yes, this farmer was starting from scratch…no pre-grown vegetables in peat pots for me. I’m starting early and growing them from seed.
My husband and I purchased wood to make a few raised beds. Then we went to the garden center and picked up our own peat pots. Next we chose seeds. There’s so many. I remember as a kid, there were probably ten kinds of vegetables seeds you could purchase. Things have changed. There were rows of different varieties of carrots, beans, corn, tomatoes. Too much for this farmer. After a very scientific and thoughtful process, (Eeny-meeny-miny-moe) we chose our seeds.
All that was left was the dirt. Yes, I bought dirt. True, I had plenty of free dirt in my yard…if I didn’t mind living with the ants that reside in it. We looked at all the fancy dirt blends. Even something as simple as dirt is complicated… and pretty damn expensive. It’s dirt.
We ended up purchasing the cheapest dirt we could find and a bag of humus (not to be confused with hummus, the chickpea dip) and a bag of manure. That’s right, I paid a couple of hard earned bucks for a bag of shit.
This was exciting. My own garden. I had visions of a cornucopia on the dining room table every night, filled with the day’s harvest. This is good. I realize the up front money was more than I budgeted, but I will make it back tenfold because I can skip the produce aisle for months. Kind of an extreme couponing for farmhands. This is good. This is very good.
First things first. I have to mix my dirt, dip and shit together. I find a container we once used to mix concrete. That’ll have to do; it’s the biggest container I own. I open the bags and pour out the contents. Now I have to mix it. At first, I take a shovel and mix it around, but it’s making a major mess, spilling over. So I get down on my knees, throw on my gardening gloves and mix it the old fashioned way. By hand. So basically I have my hands in a mix of soil and crap. But this is the price you pay to be a hearty farmer….and that’s my new title.
Once the mix is complete, I get my tiny garden shovel and fill the peat pots with the newly enriched concoction I created. I open the seed packets. Hmm… the seeds are pretty small. I can probably fit a few in each pot. That’ll save me even more cashola. I’m quite the brilliant frugal farmer already. After about an hour of filling each tiny peat pot with various seeds, it occurs to me that they need sun. It’s too cold outside…so all around the kitchen and dining room they go. On folded tables, folding chairs. Anything I can find and place in front of a window.
While the seeds are germinating and doing their growing thing…we need to prepare the earth and build the raised beds. And when I say ‘we’… I mean my husband. This project was put off for various reasons. It’s too cold, it’s raining, the ground’s too hard…and the most popular….I’m tired. I’ll do it tomorrow. While I wait for tomorrow to arrive, I take special care of my seedlings. Always making sure they are properly watered and they have plenty of sunshine. I take them out on my deck in early May to acclimate them to wind and fresh air. Yes, acclimate plants. Wiki said so…and they never lie. So every day I’d move my seedlings in and out of the house. Like a nervous mother snooping on their kid’s Pre-K class from an outside window, I’d watch from the sliding glass door and nervously jump every time the wind blew. My plant babies!
It’s two months later and tomorrow is finally here. At this point, my seeds have grown to big proud plants. Too big for the peat pots I purchased (<—say that three time fast) and overcrowded from my frugal planting. I’m in crisis mode to save my plants. After extensive research, I’ve determined that they have no more nutrients to squeeze out of my magical shit and dirt mix. These must get in the ground. Besides, at this point, it’s late June. They should have been planted weeks ago.
After my poor husband worked his ass off, making his farmer wife happy with four new raised beds, and a nifty trellis for string beans… I’m ready to plant. This is when I realize I have more plants than room to plant them. Now what am I supposed to do? I cared for my plant babies; I can’t just throw them in the trash. I plant what I can fit. Zucchini, mixed spring lettuces, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, string beans…and our glamour crop…watermelon.
I find buckets, old pots anything I can to plant the orphan plants. My pretty farm is looking a little hodgepodge at this point, like a thrift store of this and that with a plant stuck in anything. I set the other plants free to fend for themselves, never actually throwing them out.
The potatoes were pretty cool to grow. I saw on you tube, you can grow them in garbage bags. With the chipmunk and mole issues we have, that was the perfect solution. (You tube this…it really is pretty darn neat).
For the first two weeks, I’d go out every morning and tend to the garden. Pulling weeds, water the plants, inspecting each plant for disease. I even read up on hand pollinating if the bees didn’t show up. I was ready.
By the third week, I realized it’s pretty fucking hot in the sun in July. I’ll weed at night. This proved to be a mistake, as the mosquitoes enjoyed devouring me… a lot. A fucking lot. Apparently I’m quite tasty…and they told all their mosquito friends.
So I try early in the morning. It seems that New Jersey has a constant stream of mosquito armies on duty. No matter what time I went out, I was getting eaten alive. Well, fuck that. I’ll let the weeds grow and just water the plants. This also was a colossal fail, as my cucumbers and zucchini plants got some white powdery mildew on them and died on me. All of them. Dead. Muerto. Bereft of Life. Powdery white plant cadavers soaking up the sunshine.
My tomatoes at this point have hardly grown. I have no idea why. I did every thing right. They got sun. Okay they didn’t get weeded, but they got water. That’s something. Tomatoes are spiteful… that’s the only explanation.
Because of my mosquito/weeding protest, I can’t pick any of my lettuce. I can’t tell what’s lettuce leaves and what’s a weed. I have a fear of dying. I’m not about to ingest something that may send me to the Emergency Room. So that’s another crop fail.
I still had my green beans…which are doing surprisingly well. And growing freakishly long. Probably a mutation…but I don’t care, it’s all I have left.
So in the end…I got a handful of tomatoes. I mean exactly a handful…they fit in my hand. There goes my dreams of homemade tomato sauce.
So here’s what we ended up with after all that work and money spent.
My potatoes grown in a large trash bag
Mutant Green beans
My only carrot
Watermelon…our glamour crop
Glamour Crop- Actual size.
Nice huh? And I’m going to do it all over again this year.
The book is done and due to be published soon.
I have an Author Page on facebook. Please ‘LIKE’ it (and tell your friends). I need constant reassurance…and you can keep up with my book there.
I have the outline to the next chapter to the Different Way story completed (hint: Wanda). Working on the chapter now.
And after many requests…and the fact that I love to mess with Mr. Grey…there will be a part 3 to Nighttime Thoughts.
That’s all for today. Enjoy!
lol. I love your adventures in gardening. The pictures are priceless.
Sad, isn’t it? And what’s sadder is I plan on doing it all over again. My new project is restoring a vintage wrought Iron bistro set. I’ll have to document that and share the catastrophe it’s sure to become.
Never, and I mean never, use chicken poop for fertilizer. Man of Mine convinced me that it wouldn’t smell up the yard like cow manure would and to use it in my garden last year. True, it didn’t smell as badly, but this spring the ground is covered with the tenacious chickweed. We will have to be non-organic this year because I don’t know of anything that will kill it out except RoundUp. I’m seriously thinking of doing all of my gardening this year at the local Farmer’s Market.
It would probably be a whole lot cheaper to go to a Farmer’s Market.And I wont be scratching bites all night long.
Funniest blog entry I have read in a looonnngggg time. Had tears rolling down my cheek.
Pesky mosquitoes are a problem down on the coast in the south. HUGE problem. I always, ALWAYS have a can of Off at my door when I go out to weed, walk or do anything else you can conceive. Yes I know there are some that claim the chemical used to fend off the skeeters can cause all sorts of cancer but its that or some strange mosquito-born virus that has no name or vaccine yet. And personally, having lived in this climate my entire life, I have never met anyone that died b/c they used Off or similar product.
Hope your next garden is a success! Its just trial and error and loads of perseverance.
He’s attempting watermelon again this year. I’ll post an update.