5 Tips for a Successful Backyard Garden

Fresh red and golden beets
Harvesting red and golden beets fresh from the garden.

Preparing for a local Seedy Saturday today has me thinking about my journey as a gardener. On reflection, I realize that I am entering my 27th year of growing veggies, herbs and flowers. Wow. 27 years!

Growing in downtown Kitchener, then growing in small-town Wiarton paved the way to growing on our rural property and finally growing for market. I guess I might have a little to share with budding enthusiasts, after all.

Want a Successful New Garden?

garden beds prepared for planting
Preparing the beds for next spring’s planting. After weeding (whew!) the beds were broad forked, amended with organic fertilizers and raked to a smooth finish.

1. Start Small

It is totally normal to be super enthused to start your new garden. Most garden burn-out occurs in mid-season when the weeds have overtaken the soil and garden work turns into a sweaty, sun burned, horse-fly biting war. Don’t buy the line that there is a “lazy gardening” style of gardening that actually is successful. Growing and tending a garden is WORK. If you don’t have a lot of extra time to throw at your new project, starting with a smaller area is a wise move. You can always expand as you gain skill. You can grow a surprising amount in a small space. I recommend two classics on the subject Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew and How to Grow More Vegetables John Jeavons for more details.

 

Polka Dot Hen Produce fresh produce Wiarton Farmers' Market
Tomatoes, peppers and green beans freshly picked

2. Grow what you like to use

Choose plants that get your attention, whether by stimulating your appetite, your nose or your eyes. Continue reading “5 Tips for a Successful Backyard Garden”

The Holistic Homestead?

snowfall birds nest garden farm
An early snowfall blankets the garden.

Review last year’s ups and downs?

I just feel like tossing last season in the bin and not looking back.

It was a summer of digging deep. We were met by challenges both planned and unplanned. Some were so hard, it was impossible to write about them–not a great way to meet my goal of blogging twice a week.

The Challenge We Expected

Lambs.

Introducing lambs to our farm ecosystem was in the plan. Peter beat the bushes researching mobile livestock housing, watering and fencing. He bought and built the necessary infrastructure. He read up on lamb husbandry and persistently pestered our friends for their pasture management wisdom.

Finally the day came when seven lambs arrived, and there was no going back.

lambs birds nest garden farm
Lambs arrive at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm. Let the games begin!

Even though we knew in our heads that being shepherds would be a steep learning curve, I don’t think we really got it. It’s kind of like realizing that being a new parent will change your life, but you really have no idea until you are in the thick of it. No going back.

Continue reading “The Holistic Homestead?”

Irrigation Irritation

Zucchini and tomatoes grow in a hoop house
Prickly zucchini leaves are located too close to the water line header.

Written by Peter

Picking up the irrigation equipment order was a journey full of holes. Early in the day, I lost precious time trying to locate a local irrigation salesman who’s business has yet to embrace modern standards of advertising, especially when it comes to LOCATION. From the third parking lot deep in Old Order Mennonite Country, at least I finally found him on the phone.

He drawled, “Aww–you’ve come all that way, and now you’re actually pretty close to us. I’d like to meet you, but I have a family reunion and I have to leave now or be late.”

Ironically, that made two of us. I zoomed away towards the store where my order waited, passing many places I’d loved to have stopped if the time thief hadn’t stolen my savings. I arrived at the store with just enough time. It was a good thing the order was pre-packed, because it was expensive and took many lines of typing to put into the computer.

An elderly salesman gathered my order, and added a few new items I’d chosen. Sheepishly, he then informed me, “Uh oh–I think I just accidentally deleted the order.”

Not funny. I tried to think sympathetic thoughts, while he re-entered the entire order, line by line, with the speed of someone who’s first language did not require typing. Upon purchase, I whisked the boxes to the car and ignored the first rule of parcel pick-up: check your order. Upon returning home many hours and hundreds of kilometers later, I realized he’d accidentally double-billed me on one item. That would prove to be easy to remedy; at least I had everything I ordered.

Everything except the irrigation kit! During the initial phone order, I’d included numerous non-essential items and add-ons to customize the kit to our needs. But I never added the actual kit order number. So there was no kit inside the boxes I picked up.

Nevertheless outside, temperatures were climbing, plants were drooping, and watering by hand was still the only lifeblood of the tomatoes. Continue reading “Irrigation Irritation”