Overwhelmed by My Garden

| 6/6/2011 2:15:10 PM

garden spring 2011

My garden is a daunting thing at this time of year. In fact I often stand looking at it in stark terror, the way that I would look at the prospect of crossing one of those decrepit rope bridges over a gorge of sharp rocks while being chased by zombies.

2garden spring 2011

It never used to be this way. I think it’s a combination of factors this year, but mostly the weather. We basically had rain every day in May. And lots in April too. My sandy soil, which can look like a desert during an August drought, has been saturated. The lower part of my garden near the dug well is basically a quagmire. It’s like quicksand and I worry that my boots will be pulled off my feet when I try to walk through it.

Even the upper parts of the garden that usually dry out quickly have been too wet to inspire me to plant. Plants need some sun, and heat, and got next to none of it in May. So while I usually start planting as soon as I can in the spring, this year it was so wet I was afraid the seeds would rot.

seeds in kitchen

At this time of year everyone that I meet asks, “So have you got your garden in yet?” It’s usually non-gardeners who would ask this, because they view rain as something that requires you to take an umbrella to work as opposed to something that can prevent you from getting your vegetable garden planted.

At the beginning of March our kitchen was taken over by the new three-shelf grow light and seed table. We just moved the grow light to storage in the barn since at this time of year we move our seedlings from the back porch to the back lawn and then back to the porch on cold nights. Our nights here are still as low as 7 or 8° Celsius (40°F) so I’m still keeping my heat-loving plants like peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, inside. I have planted some tomatoes under cloches but I’ve discovered after many, many years of gardening that even if I put a few tomato plants in early, they produce ripe tomatoes at about the same time as the plants that I put in later. I think the reality is that they just need a certain number of heat units to mature so you’re not much further ahead putting them in earlier.

There is still an enormous amount to be done otherwise and I’m overwhelmed. When I spend the whole day in the garden on the weekends I start to feel like I’m making progress. But during the workweek when I get out there by 6 am and have to stop at 9 or 10 am to head to my home-office to work on the computer, I feel like I’ve hardly made a dent. That’s when I ask myself, “If I worked in the garden all day, every day, how much money could I make?” Unfortunately I realize that at my scale it would be very difficult to support my meager lifestyle by just growing food. I would really have to scale up the gardens to the point where all the cleared land around the house was in production. It’s a huge task, especially without a tractor. And a tractor would cost me $20,000 or $30,000. I’d have to sell a lot of garlic to pay for a tractor.

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