Oh the joys...and struggles...of gardening! It really all ends up being a joy with a nice frustrating learning curve thrown in. Each year of my adult life I have given a good effort to get a healthy garden going. I am always being presented with new challenges each time I give it a go, both in Utah and in Tennessee. The last few years I have been starting my own seeds indoors and planting them outside when they are strong enough to handle the temperatures and weather conditions that the wet south can present. I have lost my seeds every time and have found without a greenhouse I am no good at keeping these lil guys strong and alive! Once they get placed in the ground they wilt from the sun and die...it is so sad.
This year I am giving some time at a local organic garden once a week to pick their brains and see what the professionals do to grow delicious crops. The farm is called "The Greendoor Gourmet", located in west Nashville. They have a beautiful spread of 500 acres of organic soil and they grow fruits, veggies, herbs, and the most stunning flowers you could find. They also support locally raised organic meats and poultry and have many homemade goodies in their farm store. It's a great place for my education on this subject. I am understanding the efforts it takes for large scale farming and the team work. I have grown such an appreciation for the farmers hard work to bring humanity REAL FOOD with out compromising the Earth or our health to do it! Yet, I don't think I desire to run my own large scale farm. I used to, but helping out and watching the stress they go through and the demands seems more than what I can handle. However, watching this process has brought to life many other new visions for myself and I am excited to take on my own journey when the time is right. I will be growing a medicinal garden on my property, where ever I find myself I will grow helpful herbs and plants to make my own medicines and help those who seek my help.
This year I decided I needed to put my focus on the soil! Soil preparation is the most important thing that can be done to growing a bounty of healthy rich plants that produce fruits and vegetables in abundance. JJ did most of the research on soil prep and got our boxes and our land ready for vegetation. He covered the ground with hay for the winter to keep out weeds and unwanted ground cover, and he added a compost mix of mushrooms and some local un-sifted topsoil. He tilled it in with our own soil. Tilling isn't always a necessary step since it really takes a toll on the Earth, usually destroying anything that was living in the soil previously. Some professionals believe that adding more nutrients on top and not disturbing the soil underneath is a better approach, that is if the soil is in good shape to begin with. Our dirt was tested and the PH was quite acidic so we needed to give it a neutral boost by tilling or mixing in a good compost. Testing is always a good idea before unnecessarily tilling your soil. If your plan is to create a garden space where one has never been you can remove the grasses, weeds, and other unwanted vegetation by tilling which is a popular option. Keep in mind, however, that it can be detrimental for the unseen life that exists below. The life that is very beneficial to the new plants that will grow in your new garden. Other than tilling ground for a new garden, some other options include removing all of the unwanted vegetation by suffocating or blocking the life giving sun. This can be accomplished with a variety of things. Placing a thick layer of hay (4-6") where the garden is planned, or a sheet of black plastic tacked down to block the sun, etc. Remember that these methods take a considerable amount of time, so get started early!
...and its so rewarding to sip on some fresh mint, from my herb garden, and some lemon water while I watch it all progress and grow. I give it loving offerings daily and I learn so much about myself when I garden, the similarities between the plant life and my own are astonishing, they are just much more simple. I see the delicate care they need and the attention they demand. Nature wants to be noticed and appreciated for the gifts it gives. With that attention, communication, and awareness, it gives in abundance and the gifts are full of beneficial nutrition. The time and effort put in place is what helps nature return our reward. Mother Nature will always give when she is given back to, if I take something I give something, be it time, a song, a touch or plant something new. Those are usually the times I find the most success from my garden. I love having my house full of plants and flowers year round and taking my energy outside to get to know the wild environment has been so rewarding for myself and my family.