Wednesday, March 24, 2010

As Local as it Gets: Garden Planning

My blog is probably going to change direction a bit this spring/summer, as the source just a whole lot closer. I was lucky enough to find a home to rent just outside of the city on 35 acres of land. The home owners have kindly allowed me a very large space for my first garden. The land that we are on has always been farmed organically, from what I hear, although there is currently no farming being done. It has not been used to produce food, save for the tiny garden plot behind the house, in a long, long time.
I have never had a garden before... well, that's not true. Every summer, my sisters and I would eagerly make our way over to our weed strewn, dried out little plot on an island near Lake of the Woods, where we spent our summers. Every year we would plant a vast array of vegetables and then promptly lose interest. Once in a while we'd check out the garden, find it overtaken or dried out, snack on the few morsels of edible stuff, and then continue to play somewhere else. We didn't understand the work that went into a garden then. Next to our little plot was my Auntie Jean's garden. Her garden was always thriving and bursting with vegetables. Sometimes we'd even sneak a garden pea or two and run away giggling. I think we always thought that Auntie Jean must have been in cahoots with Mother Nature. How else did her garden always look so good and ours, so poor, in comparison?
Eventually, we gave up. All that digging and sweating and impatient waiting never produced anything more than a tiny salad, which we'd all fight over. But this year promises to be different. I'm very excited about the prospects of self-sufficiency. Maybe I'm hoping that there's a little Auntie Jean in me too.

Eager as ever, I started ordering seed catalogs in the fall. I remember reading Barbara Kingsolver's awe as she pored over her seed catalogs. I now understand that feeling. So many varieties... Heirloom. Certified organic. Hybrids. Early harvests. Late harvests. It's all so overwhelming to someone who's admittedly never done this before.
One of my first big purchases was the Encyclopaedia of Natural Insect and Disease Control. After making a list of everything that I wanted in my garden, I diligently looked up each one (honestly, I've gotten through only three) and made notes. Who knew there were so many insects who hanker for just one vegetable? For example, the cabbage is susceptible to a plethora of hungry critters: aphids, the cabbage looper, the cabbage looper moth, the cabbage maggot, the cabbageworm, the army worm, the imported cabbage worm (like a homegrown one wasn't enough!), the vegetable weevil and the mole cricket. The list, quite literally, goes on and on and on. Never mind that the property is home to a fairly large herd of deer, rabbits, skunks, a red fox and coyotes. I've even seen a wild turkey out here. How do I protect my garden from all of them? And, ultimately, is it fair to keep them out? Aren't they, too, a part of the natural world? But then, is my garden? These are all questions that niggled away while I plotted and planned.

To be continued...


  1. Mel, best of luck. I've tried planting a garden, though not much of one, on my balcony just outside of Tokyo and it's tough. Good luck Mel!


  2. Thanks, Derek! I wish you the best of luck this year! I've been there... the balcony gardening. I feel blessed to have the space that I do this year.
    Happy gardening!