This post has been on the docket for months now, and I keep putting it off because, honestly, there isn’t going to be a whole lot to write about. I’ve mentioned it a few times in past posts, but it’s worth mentioning again–we’re downsizing like whoa in 2016 in most areas of our life. And one of the biggest places we’re simplifying things is in the garden.
For those of you just tuning in, my husband, daughter, and I live on a nine acre hobby farm in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. We bought the place from my parents in 2012 (this is where I grew up) with dreams of becoming homesteading rockstars. In some areas we’ve succeeded (shout out to our beautiful flock of chickens and our awesome maple sugaring operation), but the one place where we thought we’d thrive easily—the growing of fruits and veggies—we’ve struggled quite a bit.
We’re pretty skilled gardeners with lots of academic and colloquial knowledge in the ways of gardening. Both my husband and I grew up playing in the soil of our parents’ respective gardens (mine right here in Indiana, my husband’s in Northwestern Ontario), and we’ve tried to consume as much gardening knowledge as we can in our relatively short times here on Earth.
When we lived in the city, we transformed our little apartment patio into a incredibly well-producing container garden. We rocked it. We grew so much food on that little 8′ x 10′ patio that, honestly, we got a little cocky with it. So what do two people who think they are God’s gift to gardening do? Well, they go and buy a homestead in the country and put in a garden that is 6000% (literally) bigger. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?!?
We can now easily see that we bit off too much way too soon. We couldn’t keep the weeds in check. Watering during our yearly August drought took HOURS. Just harvesting tomatoes would be an entire afternoon worth of work, not to mention the preserving of them. It was just all too much.
It took me bawling my eyes out while picking tomatoes one day last summer for it to finally sink in that it wasn’t working, but, hey, at least we finally figured it out. We’re planning on this place being our forever home, and instead of embracing the fact that we probably have a good 40+ years left here, all we could think about when we moved in was “MUST GO BIG NOW.”
In hindsight, we should have done a slightly bigger garden than our apartment garden that first year. And maybe a little bigger the next. And then eventually, in a decade or so, we’d have the knowledge and skills to do the massively huge preserving and market garden we aspire to. Instead, we just jumped in with both feet, and then felt like big ole failures when we couldn’t keep up with it all. The weeds, man. THE WEEDS.
So that’s a lot of backstory to explain to you why our 2016 garden is going to be tiny. Teeny tiny itty bitty compared to the 3500-5000 square foot gardens we’ve planted the past three years. We are planting exactly 128 square feet of garden space this year—or four of our 8′ x 4′ raised beds. It’s bigger than what we had in our apartment, but not overwhelmingly so. In other words, we’re doing in 2016 exactly what we should have done in 2013.
Will I be able to put up 100 jars of diced tomatoes like I did last year? No. But I also (hopefully) won’t have anxiety attacks in the middle of the night over the garden (no exaggeration) like I did last year. And that seems like a pretty good trade off. Honestly, we are SO excited to do a small garden this year. It’s a great feeling to know that we can rock it! We’re feeling confident again, and that’s huge.
Alright, now that you’ve heard my life story, let me tell you exactly what we’re planting in our four little raised beds this year. You know me, I have a chart.
For the Spring crops (which are planted right now), we have:
- Romaine Lettuce
- Mesclun Mix (seeds we’ve saved of different leaf lettuces from years past)
- Red and Yellow Onions
- Snap Peas
- Snow Peas
And then once our last frost date passes (at the beginning of May), we’ll put these out:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Slicing Tomatoes
- Red Bell Pepper
- Yellow Mini Bell Peppers
- Bush Beans
- Slicing Cucumbers
We also have another bed in the garden that holds our perennial herbs (sage, thyme, etc.) and that will still be producing. We have a permanent bed of asparagus—I just saw the first shoots coming up a few days ago! And we have our grape vines.
And since we’re cutting back on the rest of the garden, we also have some plans to do some fun plantings for Juniper. Like a sunflower play house for her and maybe a pole bean tent. I think she’d love those! (And we’d love her having something to play with while we weed the garden.)
Overall, our goal with choosing varieties was to stick to ones we know and love to eat. Which sounds obvious, but we’ve (read: I) have been guilty of letting the shiny, shiny pictures in the seed catalogs convince me that I need to grow blue tomatoes (even though they are mostly tasteless) and I need to grow whole beds of radishes (even though I don’t really like radishes). We stuck with varieties we know grow well for us and to veggies we know we’ll eat.
We still started our own seeds this year, but instead of having a massive shelf with dozens of flats of starts like we did last year, we literally have one little flat of plants started. It sitting in my office window. And I water it everyday with a hot pink watering can we got at the One Spot at Target.
As far as the garden beds, we didn’t do much to get them ready for the year. Just pulled back the straw that we had protecting the beds over the winter, put on a layer of compost, and planted.
We’re still trying to decide what to do with the other 4800 feet of fallow beds this year. Right now, they are all packed under a heavy layer of straw, but even with that mulch, they will start sprouting weed seeds soon. We might go ahead and plant cover crop on all the beds, but that’ll take some time and effort—and we’re trying to keep that to a minimum this year.
So there you have it, our entire garden plan in less than 1000 words—that’s never happened before! Like I said, I’m super excited to get to focus on our small eating garden this year. We definitely need a gardening win.
I want to hear all about your gardens in the comments! Who is going big? Anyone scaling back like we are? Anyone going to grow something new to them this year?