A nudge out of my comfort zone

God puts people in our lives to grow us. I cannot imagine the person I’d be today, if not for my husband, Jeremie. When he invited the master gardener group in our county to come out for a garden tour, I just about died! I love my garden, but this was way outside of my comfort zone. IMG_5585But when the day came for the visit, I was excited to share my space with other garden lovers. About 20 people came! What a surprise! I was thinking maybe 5 or so. And they were all so interested and excited about what we were doing. At first, I had asked Jeremie to do the “lecture and tour” but as I prayed about it the Lord urged me to step up to the plate and be bold! I am always coaching my kids on public speaking and it was fun to put it into practice in my own life!IMG_5593Sometimes looking at a space through new eyes encourages and inspires me anew. I was hesitant to share about the Back to Eden method with other conventional gardeners, but they had a lot of good questions that showed they were truly interested. And talking gardening with other gardeners…is there anything better!!??IMG_5595 I’ve already received emails from people in the group about how to implement this method into their existing garden spaces. How fun to be able to walk them through this process. It was an absolute delight to have them here, and I’m so glad that Jeremie made that possible. Talk about growing and learning, ha!

A little late

Watching a plant grow from a tiny little seed is nothing short of witnessing a miracle. That’s why I was so sad that my tomato seeds never came up. What happened? I ordered a tomato growing kit from Old Time Tomatoes because I had a coupon to get it free. It came with a solution to soak the seeds in to ensure quick germination. But after planting those seeds, nothing came up. It also came with a peat pot tray that I used to plant peppers in. Again, nothing came up. At first I thought perhaps I burned my seeds. We had a really warm spring and the greenhouse got over 100 degrees on quite a few days. So I re-soaked and replanted the seeds. Again, nothing came up. I’ve grown my own tomato plants for years, so I know what I’m doing. But I can’t figure out what went wrong. I talked to many other people who ordered that same kit and there seedlings are doing fine. But in my mind, I thought, that’s the only variable.IMG_5362 So I tried yet a third time. This time I did not soak my seeds. And they all came up. My peppers came up too. I planted them in my normal seed trays. Now I have healthy looking, albeit small, seedlings. But I am so behind schedule. After waiting a couple weeks for each batch of seedlings to come up in vain, I lost over a month. I know that Tennessee has such long, hot summers, I’ll still get a bumper crop of tomatoes. But I’m anxious to get them in the ground to enjoy all this spring rain we’ve been enjoying! IMG_5363

Fruits and berries

We have some raspberry plants shooting up in the orchard. IMG_5354And the blueberry plants are getting so big! IMG_5355Look at all those tiny berries!IMG_5356 Apple tree. IMG_5357Strawberries in raised boxes, transplanted last fall and mulched with pine straw. IMG_5359

Garden news

Gardening in April! A little rain shower brings on a happy dance. Little green shoots pushing up through the wood chips! Planting vines and pops of color in the containers! Here’s some pics of what’s happening in the garden in Mid-April.

Onions

Onions

Potatoes

Potatoes

Garlic

Garlic

Cabbages and Broccoli and a few Kale

Cabbages and Broccoli and a few Kale

Carrots

Carrots

Little helpers and lettuces

Little helpers and lettuces

A new bed

IMG_4738While I love Back to Eden Gardening, I’ve always struggled with poor germination with my lettuce seeds. I think the seeds are just too tiny for the coarse wood chips. And I have a problem with creeping Bermuda grass on this fenceline. So, to remedy both of these problems, I asked Jeremie to build me a raised bed. A friend of ours had a huge cedar log on his property, so he took it to the local sawmill and we got the boards for $1/foot. IMG_4734 Jeremie had to dig out the ground because the box is going to be set on such a steep incline. This box is nice and sturdy and very pretty. I say that because we have had boxes in the past that are not nice and sturdy or pretty :) IMG_4742Then we filled the box with old rotting wood. Ever heard of hugelkultur?  It’s a method of building raised beds by mounding the dirt over piles of rotting wood. This feeds the soil and the plants with nutrients, moisture, organic matter and it makes it much easier to fill the bed. IMG_4746This bed is deep! We packed dirt around the wood and then I topped it all off with vermicompost from my worm bins. It still needs some more compost on top, but I can’t plant seeds for another couple of days, so I have a little time.

This is the finished be that I just planted with spinach and lettuce and chard.

This is the finished be that I just planted with spinach and lettuce and chard.

Strawberry hill

IMG_5368Every year I take the kids and we go pick strawberries at a local farm. Lots and lots of strawberries. Hundreds of dollars worth of strawberries. And that only gets me to January. We have strawberries in our kefir smoothies every morning. And depending on whose making those smoothies, we use quite a few berries. But growing strawberries in the garden? Whoa, that’s way to labor intensive. Until Back to Eden. Yes, wood chips are the answer again.img_9650 Paul Gautchi, and many others, grow his strawberries in wood chips. Every year, after they are done fruiting, he buries them with 2 inches of chips. In the spring time, only the hearty plants emerge. The older weak ones cannot make it through the mulch. So no more cutting off runners. No more transplanting new plants. No more keeping track of which plants are one year, two year, or three years old. No more trying to keep the notoriously riotous vining plants in nice neat rows. The mulch keeps the ground springy enough you can walk on the plants themselves with relatively no harm done. img_9657So finally, I’m ready to grow my own berries. And just in time, for my MIL just thinned her berries and brought over 100s of plants! While Jeremie was tilling the hillside, I was spreading the last of my wood chips over the existing garden area, just praying that the Lord would provide more chips for my berries. If none came, I planned to mulch them with chopped leaves, straw and bark mulch, for weed control. Not ideal, but I had no more wood chips. img_4136I finished up in the garden, headed in to make lunch and one of my boys came running inside to tell me the “wood chip guys are here!” I thought he was joking. But, no, the Lord is just that good to me. And we got another load the next day. So now this hillside is covered in 6 inches of wood chips and hundreds of berry plants. Can’t wait til spring!img_4133

Late September Garden

img_3589My poor garden has suffered from neglect. There are only so many hours in the day. But it has been calling to me in my dreams. And what a delight it is to work out there in the cool fall temps!

This wheelbarrow full yielded 10 pounds of dried peas.

This wheelbarrow full yielded 10 pounds of dried peas.

This last weekend we pulled out all the southern peas. What a job! They were tangled worse than my daughters’ hair. And twined around the arbor! img_3591We also pulled up all of the peppers. They were so many brightly colored ones! They will be frozen for stews, chilis, and stir frys over the winter. Susie and I have been slowly spreading wood chips over the empty areas of the garden. Little by little. img_3603 The cow is munching on the hillside that had been planted in corn. The weeds got away from us and we didn’t get to harvest any. Hopefully he’s turning any corn he finds into delicious tenderloin. There is still much to be done out there!

Fall crops ready to be put in.

Fall crops ready to be put in.

Garden update Mid-May

It has been an exceptionally cool spring with lots of rain. The wood chips are still working out great, except that I would love more.

Our first zucchini!

Our first zucchini!

Strong tomatoes ready to climb the arbor

Strong tomatoes ready to climb the arbor

Snow Peas

Snow Peas, with volunteer zinnias all around!

Candy Onions

Candy Onions

Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts

Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts. Just out of the picture was a white cabbage moth who insists on laying detestable eggs on my leaves.

Red Sails

Red Sails

Calico crowder southern peas

Calico crowder southern peas

Beets, carrots, drunken woman lettuce

Beets, carrots, drunken woman lettuce

Jade beans

Jade beans

Scarlett and Lacinato kale

Scarlett and Lacinato kale

Corn, just making an appearance.

Corn, just making an appearance.

Been busy harvesting lots of greens! Chard, Kale and Bok choy and Tastoi

Been busy harvesting lots of greens! Chard, Kale and Bok choy and Tastoi

2 Tablespoonfuls to be taken at Bedtime

Or so Josephine rabbit recommends. Peter Rabbit enjoyed a nice cup of chamomile tea after his daring escapades in Mr. McGregor’s garden, remember? IMG_20160511_155627153This stand of chamomile is ready to be harvested and dried for teas and soaps. To do so, simply pluck the flower heads off and spread out in a hot, dry place. After they are dry, crush the heads and save in an airtight jar. At the end of the season, the entire plant can be used. But the heads are the most flavorful. Chamomile is useful for so many things. Dried and crushed it makes a lovey herb sachet. It also makes a tasty tea. Weak chamomile tea sprayed on plants in the greenhouse ward off the dreaded damping off disease. I add it to soap because it helps heal eczema. Sprinkle some dried or fresh flowers in a warm bath and feel your tension ease away!IMG_20160511_155411945 Chamomile is useful in treating irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, skin rashes, colic, muscular cramps, heartburn, nausea and so much more. It is an easy herb to grow. These were volunteer plants from last year. It smells so sweet and looks so cheerful growing in the garden. Makes me happy!

May 1, 2016 Garden

So much work has been done in the garden! Jeremie spent the whole day helping me out. He put up trellises and arbors for my cucumbers and southern peas and tomatoes. He tilled up the hillside for corn. He helped me lay down plastic because I want to plant my pumpkins and gourds in the plastic and train the vines to grow down the hill, into the corn. We have a huge garden this year, but the wood chips keep the weeding under control. We have spent an hour or so out there, pulling weeds and freshening up the garden for the new growing season!

The left arbor is for Southern peas..Calico Crowder on the north side and Mandy on the south side. The arbor on the right has cucumbers. There is lettuce planted under the cukes and beets planted under the peas. I hope it stays shady and cool enough for those cool weather loving greens.

The left arbor is for Southern peas..Calico Crowder on the north side and Mandy on the south side. The arbor on the right has cucumbers. There is lettuce planted under the cukes and beets planted under the peas. I hope it stays shady and cool enough for those cool weather loving greens.

Cabbage and brussel sprouts coming along nicely.

Cabbage and brussel sprouts coming along nicely.Tomatoes are planted on the outside of this arbor.

Tomatoes are also planted under these trellises.

Tomatoes are also planted under these trellises.

More tomatoes waiting to be set out.

More tomatoes waiting to be set out.

Newly transplanted cucumbers. We could never have too many cucumbers!

Newly transplanted cucumbers. We could never have too many cucumbers!

My view of the garden from the house.

My view of the garden from the house.