Giving organic gardening a try

organic gardening ideasDuring my time in the Peace Corps I learned a bit about gardening. It was mainly from my neighbor–whose name escapes me after three years–but she was a senora with a heart of gold. She maintained an immaculate, quaint garden and her husband herded a few cattle and horses. Aside from Jesus, they were probably the best human beings ever created.

There was something about the peace of their household and the contentment on their faces each day as they settled down to a homegrown meal…I’m convinced that there was something to this gardening thing. Health was a clear benefit. They were pushing 90, quick as whips, more fit than 90% of the folks at my LAFitness, and aside from a few smile lines you couldn’t tell that they were ancient.

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Years later, with my own little house in the burbs and two acres of land, I’ve got a chance to try my hand at gardening. At the tail end of March, after several late frost, I realized that I has already lost precious time.

My husband jumped into overdrive. We selected¬† a plot of land on the side of our house that is about 20×20. It’s elevated on three sides, like a giant raised bed, supported by retention walls made of railroad ties. (It was part of a gift from my father-in-law and fiancee at the time because they knew I wanted a garden.) Georgia clay sucks, so I took a shovel and turned over the dirt at least a foot deep throughout the entire area. Then we rented a tiller to loosen the soil even more. Finally, we made three rows about 4 feet wide with 1.5 foot aisles in between.

It’s not the perfect spot but it is the most perfect spot that we had available. The plot rests at the bottom of a hill so water sometimes drains down. We drilled holes in the retention wall and lined the area in the back corner with stones so that the water could drain out.

The space gets about 4 hours of direct sun and the rest of the time it’s partly shaded. Again, not ideal, but it was the clearest space near the house and we didn’t want to cut down and uproot lots of trees.

So…we had our garden. It wasn’t until the beginning of April that I put down the first few transplants that I purchased at Home Depot: 3 determinate Bonnie tomato plants, 2 red and 1 yellow bellpepper plants also by Bonnie. They made the space feel more authentic while I waited for my seeds to germinate in the soil. Not knowing how quickly spring would turn into scorching summer, I planted lettuce, spinach, and chives. I also planted red cabbage and collard greens.

Just as the first leaves of lettuce and spinach began to peak above the soil, the weather changed rapidly. Two weeks of intense heat were followed by a flash flood that caught the entire county by surprise. The newly sprouting veggies didn’t stand a chance. The one row of lettuce that did make it through the deluge fried in the sun the next day. The transplants and a few heads of cabbage were the only survivors.

I had another batch of seeds germinating indoors so I was able to pull out the goners and replace them with some plants that might stand a chance. I also sowed a few more seeds directly into the ground.

Only time would tell.

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