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. 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!
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.
While 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. 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 Then 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. This 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.
Every 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. 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. So 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. I 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!
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! We 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. 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!
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.
Or so Josephine rabbit recommends. Peter Rabbit enjoyed a nice cup of chamomile tea after his daring escapades in Mr. McGregor’s garden, remember? This 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! 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!
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!
For the past couple of weeks there has been much going on in the garden. Last month the kids and I spread all sorts of leaf mulch over the entire area. I’d love to have wood chips, but the city guys brought leaf mulch this time. The worms love a good chopped up leaf mulch and it does a fair job of keeping the moisture in, so onto the garden it goes! Whenever wood chips come, they will go on top of this mulch. That’s the beauty of Back to Eden gardening. Whatever you have on hand, spread. There is no mixing, tilling, digging. It’s all about laying down a cover, layer by layer. Everyone got in on the action, even the littlest Gloria enjoyed a day out in the sun. All the seedlings have been set out….lettuces, kale, spinach, kohlrabi (one of my favorites!), cabbage, broccoli, chard, brussel sprouts. Really here in Tn it gets too hot too quickly for these cool weather plants to thrive. They do much better in the long fall and mild winters. But I am always so anxious to get working in the garden, I give it a try. Some years have been better than others, but it’s always fun to watch with anticipation.