Garden 2023

Garden 2023

Garden 2023

“The most wonderful time of the year” meant something very different to me just a few short years ago. Just the mere thought of snow covered ground, Christmas tunes, and decked halls brought a smile to my face. These days, however, the most wonderful time of the year looks a little more like 80 degrees, pure sunshine, and me tending to my garden.

I started dabbling in gardening back in 2011. Back then, I knew nothing of soil health, companion planting, or permaculture. For years, I struggled with getting my plants to survive, let alone thrive. Until now…

The decision to start the transition from small town girl to homesteader happened quickly…more like a calling. Within a few months, my knowledge in gardening multiplied and I was more ready than ever to get started. Since moving to Back Acres Homestead still feels like an eternity away, I decided to make the best of my time and focus on improving the garden I already have. Here is a glimpse into the steps I’ve taken so far and how things are progressing…you won’t want to miss it!

Soil Health

“You don’t know what you don’t know” accurately describes my relationship with soil health. It seems like common sense, but up until now I just figured dirt was dirt and it’s health didn’t truly make a difference. Boy, was I WRONG!

In case you missed it, my previous post “Soil Testing” dove a little bit into why paying attention to your soil is one of the most important steps you can take when starting a garden. Not only does the pH matter (some plants thrive in acidic soil while others require alkaline), but the amount of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) available to your plants determine whether they live and/or produce as they should.

Since this is my experiment year, I decided to start from the soil up. I tested the soil and found out that not only is my soil basically sand, it’s extremely acidic and super nutrient deprived. In order for anything to grow, I had my work cut out for me.

Garden 2023

Amendments

The most important step in amending my soil for optimal growing conditions, was to add quality dirt to my sand lot. This would give my plants a healthy growing base. The soil I chose was organic and all natural since this was going to be used to grow food for my family. But before I could add it, I needed to burn off the dead brush to make a clean slate.

After the burning was complete and the soil was added, I mixed in a bag of worm castings and two large bags of mushroom compost. Both of these items are great ways to naturally boost your soil’s health.

Unfortunately, compost and casting can take a while to break down into the soil. In order to get nutrients to my plants faster, I boosted the ground with a healthy dose of organic fertilizer. To top everything off, we added wood ash from our firepit to help correct the soil pH levels. This combination of amendments was just was our garden had been begging for!

The “No Till” Method

While some people choose to till their amendments into the soil, I chose to experiment with the “no dig” method. The theory is that the less you disturb the soil, the better the natural ecosystem in the soil remains. Uprooting weeds and removing the top soil can kill bacteria and fungi living in the roots. This change can cause the soil web to become imbalanced and increase the risk of plant diseases and pest invasions later. I’ll update you later in the growing season to see how this theory is going.

Mulching

The soil has been amended and the soil web left in tact. Now, it’s time to mulch! Not only will this help control weed growth and retain moisture, but as the mulch decomposes, more nutrients will be dispersed into the soil.

We chose to be resourceful and use dried grass clippings around our trees instead of store bought mulch. In our garden, we used a mixture of chopped grass, weeds, and straw. I’ve seen some gardeners use rock or landscaping fabric. Whatever is easy and most economical for you works just fine!

One important thing to remember, is that building soil health takes time and patience. It’s a marathon not a sprint. If done correctly, you will find more and more success each year. Sure, there are steps you can take that are more immediate (like adding the organic fertilizer and mulch). However, the long term goal is for your garden to be as self sufficient and bountiful as possible. This saves your back as well as your budget!

Garden 2023
Garden 2023

Function Over Beauty

I’m going to be honest with you, this is a tough one for me. As as prior wedding and event specialist (and lover of all things aesthetic), the idea of loving a garden that looks like a hot mess gives me anxiety. BUT…hear me out.

As much as we all love the Better Homes and Garden version of a vegetable garden, the main focus isn’t really beauty. It’s function and health. Sometimes this means letting the weeds go and letting nature take it’s course.

Now, I’m not talking about letting it get out of hand until it snuffs out all your hard work. You can cut down the weeds without disturbing the soil. But by allowing my garden to do as God intended, we discovered that sometimes less intervention means more.

There have been several beneficial plants that have surprised us amongst the weeds. We have also noticed an improvement in the health and happiness of our perennial plants. The ecosystem is diversifying and the soil food web is getting happier by the day!

Pump Up The Music

I can’t personally testify that this theory does in fact work…but I’m crazy enough to give it a try. LOL! There are studies that show that plants thrive when listening to certain genres of music. Particularly, jazz and classical. If nothing else, it can’t hurt…right?

While heading out to my garden for an afternoon of pruning and watering, I decided to grab my portable speaker and give it a try. I hooked it up to my phone and let the melodies flow. I’m not going to lie, there are WAY worse things than listening to soothing music while playing in the dirt. It turned out to be very therapeutic!

It’s too early to tell if it’s going to work and there’s a lot of variables that can make it hard to decipher if it was in fact the music that made the difference. Regardless, it’s now my new favorite thing. If you’re interested in the science behind the theory, check out this great article Music and Plant Growth: Here’s What the Science Says.

Garden 2023

Flower Friends

NOW it’s time to channel your inner Better Homes and Gardens by adding flower friends to your garden plot. Not only will this improve the look of your garden, but also the functionality!

Flowers help bring pollinators to your other plants. This will increase your plants’ pollination rates resulting in higher, more quality yields. Certain flowers will also help to repel pests. The most popular pest repellants are marigolds and nasturtiums. We planted several pots of these seeds and can’t wait to see them in full bloom in a few weeks!

In Conclusion

If you take a minute to glance through our garden photos, you will notice many happy and healthy plant babies. Focusing on soil health, companion planting, and permaculture methods is already paying off. This is by far the best looking garden we’ve ever had and we’ve only just begun.

As the growing season marches on, we will make new discoveries and adjust as need be. I am very proud of all that we’ve accomplished so far and I CAN’T WAIT to take all this new found knowledge with us to the new homestead. Be sure to stay tuned on the Messy Masterpiece Facebook and Instagram pages for garden updates! You might even be inspired to take on a project of your own…Wink!

Want to learn more about Back Acres Homestead? We’ve got you covered!

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