Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Garden Learnings & Frustrations

I believe I have mentioned in the past that I am a bit of a perfectionist.  What I mean is I like things to be done right the first time.  Of course I allow myself to make mistakes, but then, I need to fix it, you know, put what I learned into practice.  OK, OK, my close family and friends jaws are hanging open right now, as they would replace the word 'bit' with, well, I'll let them comment if they like.  I will not take any offense:) 

Anyway, here is what I have learned about our garden adventure so far:

1. The soil is really thick, meaning dense, compact...you can see it in the photo of the bush bean below.  We actively chose not to amend the soil, thinking we wanted things to grow in the "natural" environment.
The result is that everything we planted has to work hard to spread it's delicate roots.  So some things are managing to grow nicely, other things are struggling (in particular, those seeds we began indoors [using seed starting soil] and then transplanted into the garden).  So we have learned that we need to amend the soil to loosen it up with the next garden we plant, i.e. compost, leaves, etc.  We will also plant directly into the ground rather than starting seeds indoors (at least that is my opinion).

2.  We knew before we started that a garden requires lots of direct sun.  Following some research, I learned that lettuce type plants need at least 4 hours, root type vegetables need at least 6 hours, and fruiting things (tomatoes, zucchini, etc) need at least 8 but prefer 10 - 12 hours.  We knew we had a lot of trees shading the garden and square garden boxes, so we tried to plant accordingly.  We thought we had enough open space, but we are learning otherwise.  Of course, the sun moves over time, so what we thought was good planting spots for each type of vegetable, changed over time. 

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned I was a lumberjack, when we cut several small trees to open up some space.  But I fear it is not nearly enough, and we need much more sun in order for our garden to be as fruitful as possible.  This photo was taken at 4:30PM today, no direct sun left!  You can see sun to the right of the garden, but the trees to the north are blocking the sun to my precious sprouts!
We've learned that vegetable gardens need a great deal of cleared space, in order to ensure adequate sunlight over time.  Not sure how we will resolve this problem, more to come about that I am sure!  I've also learned a few things from various literature my Dad read while here, (thanks Dad, for your help) that might make a difference, like spreading reflective mulch & using reflective objects like tin foil to help capture more sun. My personal inclination is to cut a few more trees it does after all, create more fire wood, but Mountain Man is still not keen on that.
This frustration with lack of direct sunlight is compounded by...
3.  ...the fact that we live in a temperate rainforest, which means lots and lots of rain, and I believe this year is a little above normal, and though I have no scientific proof of that, I have mountain folk proof!  Having a large amount of rain with limited sunshine in between storms has a thickening impact on the already dense, compact soil (I can make a mud ball out of it that will stick together and dry that way!).  While I really enjoy the rain and storms, and I'd rather have more rain than less, it increases the need to maximize the amount of sun we direct toward our garden. 
This is the storm from last night, lots of heavy rain, thunder and lightening.  It was beautifully eery, but squashed down my little seedlings.  Everything except the zucchini, corn and bush beans were affected.  I know I have no control over the rain, nor do I wish to...we have learned to capture the rain in buckets to use for watering when we have no rain:), but beyond that, I can just sit and enjoy it. 

Now for some simple appreciations:)...
4.  There are lots of worms here, excellent for the garden and a good hearty, juicy breakfast for the birds:), like Mr. Robin Red Breast, looks like he can use some fattening up!
I've learned to be careful when I dig (for the worms that is)!
5.  There are many beautiful butterflies, I keep seeing new ones...

The above two are Aphrodite Fritillaries

This Mourning Cloak Brushfoot butterfly was in my path but flew away before I could take a close up picture...looks like it has furry edges!
I encountered this little guy on my way to the mailbox, he also flew away too quickly for me.

I've learned to appreciate the simple things in life...and they flutter by unexpectedly! 

And so you have it...I must learn to be patient and let nature takes it's course.  I am tucking away each little learning so I can put them into action next time, whenever that may be.  In the meantime, I shall work harder at appreciating the simple things:)

Thank you for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,


Michelle said...

Lots of things in life are learned by trial and error. It will take a few years before you get your garden the way you like it. I plant lots of things, but I just like to watch them grow. I don't want to have to pick them and/or cook them. Last year I carefully planted seeds with the correct amount of spacing and the weather was bad, so not much grew well. This year I just scattered a bunch of seeds in rows and I have more peas, turnips and radishes than I want or need. I don't want them to go to waste, so now I feel pressured to think of ways to use or preserve them. So see....we're all a litttle crazy!

Lise said...

Mitch, I love the random planting concept, I think I figured our sticking to a more naturalistic approach would have the same effect, and who knows, maybe I am just too impatient! Today we are thinning out our seedlings, and going to talk about thinning trees again too!

Ha ha, maybe you will make lots of new friends if you start giving your produce away! Or you could put a stand on the corner of your yard and sell them! You did say we were all a little crazy, right?