It was August when the property was bought, followed by a large drought in the area all the way till the next year. No garden that first half year so the following spring we were super excited to get it going.
For the first year we started several seeds to hopefully make it into small plants to hopefully plant in the garden. We started several types of tomatoes, peppers, and some cantaloupes. Out of those only the Cantaloupes produced anything for us (and boy did they).
We ended up having to buy tomato plants and pepper plants, but there were several for sale around here. Since we bought ours kinda “late” we actually got a great deal on them as most plant places were getting ready to change into firework places as is their usual rotation every year.
The garden itself was designed to be part raised bed part hugelkultur bed. Knowing the ground was clay dirt it just seemed easier to build something to hold “good” dirt. If you have read the other posts on the site you know that in our section of woods there was an impressive pile of trash. Part of that mountain of garbage was fencing that had been pushed down with a bulldozer. It was a painstaking and slow process but we were able to get enough old cedar fence posts to build the bed.
(sneak peek of the barn in the background with the walls off and new roof)
The layout went ok, just carrying up fence posts, stacking them with wood stakes cut from the woods and driven into the ground. Cutting a few to fit when need be. Then the middles filled with sticks/brush/rotten wood gathered from fence rows and previous cleanings of the property .
As for the dirt, my mother and step-father have a spring feed creek that runs down the edge of their property. This mini creek was great but would flood their yard every year during rainy months. While it was dry he would dig it out deeper to prevent the flooding, which meant he had dirt. It was great soil with silt-like qualities from the wet weather creek bed. Several truckloads of that and we had our garden filled.
The first year garden had several successes and several failures also .
Failures include– All the seedlings we started died , aside from cantaloupes. The cantaloupes took off – we probably had about 50 or more. The problem is they all were ripe at the same time. We ate as many as we could, gave away just as many. Even with all the giving away after a 2 day rain storm the remaining cantaloupe just rotted on the vine. We grew enough okra for a small army, and much of it went to waste. That area in our raised bed could have been better used growing something else. Lettuce was planted late and didn’t grow. Corn was planted a little late, and not deep enough or in a good location. Storms knocked it down so many times we lost count and it stopped trying to stand back up. Planted the fall garden way too early the first time (on what ended up being the hottest day of the entire year) and wasted several packets of seeds. We had enough to replant some when it was the right time and did manage a few turnips, beets, lettuce and carrots.
Cucumbers came in numbers we were unprepared for and seemed rushed to make them into pickles. We probably made 60 jars in one day which seemed like lot for first time trying pickling and canning, too.
We tried to grow potatoes in tires (remember, we have 250 of the things). Red potatoes didn’t produce, but sweet potatoes did alright .
All in all, the garden produced more than we could have asked for. The tomatoes were delicious and made amazing sandwiches that summer and delicious soups that winter. The pickles were so much work that one day, but delicious all year long. Thinking about the fried squash makes my mouth water even now. Going to cans and freezer for veggies instead of grocery store shelves every time felt like a win.
Most importantly, we were reminded how wonderful it is to have a garden. The amazing feeling of waking up, walking outside and picking some spinach , onion, peppers to go with breakfast. Getting home from work and for dinner having whatever was perfectly ripe that day. The smell of the freshly turned dirt, the pride and excitement when sprouts started poking up. The satisfaction of looking at freshly weeded rows.
If there is only one thing that anyone ever takes away from this blog I hope it is to plant something. There is a peacefulness and joy we have felt ourselves and have seen in others that came from gardening; we’d have to suggest it. It really is something special.
It was a great first year and we will always love our little raised beds. That being said it turned out to not be enough space for our ambitious goals . In an upcoming post we will discuss the 2nd year garden which was two areas each 25ft by 50ft.