This Year's Farm Challenge: Gardening With Baby

This Year's Farm Challenge: Gardening With Baby

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Ever since we moved to our land, I’ve been eager to garden. Our predecessors left us with two established plots and an amazing irrigation system, so getting started should have been easy.

Well, it wasn’t.

Our first summer here was all about the move. By the time we got ourselves in and settled, there was very little time left in the growing season to get the garden plots cleaned up and plants started, so we focused on caring for the crops—some garlic, asparagus and herbs—that were already growing.

Last year, against Mr. B’s most insightful wisdom, I was dead-set on getting the garden of my dreams started, and I dove flat into failure. You see, our second summer on the land was all about my pregnancy—and boy, was it a doozy! While I managed to get seeds started and plants in the ground, the upkeep of such a large garden was a little more than I could handle. Each evening when I came home from work, I was overcome by waves of nausea, so getting on my hands and knees to pull weeds wasn’t exactly what I could manage. By mid-growing season our garden looked something like this:

As you can tell, it hasn’t changed much since then.

I don’t regret the good ol’ college try, though. Amazingly enough, we were able to harvest some summer squash, which I made into pickles, and a ton of peppers, which we froze and have been eating all winter. (Oh, those resilient peppers, able to grow among the thickest weeds—I’ll never leave them out of my garden again.) However, I never staked my tomatoes or trellised my cucumbers, so those were complete disasters, and hardly a winter squash grew. Maybe the soil wasn’t fertile enough, maybe the squash borers got the best of them; it’s hard to say because I was too sick-feeling to pay attention.

So now we’re moving into our third summer here on the farm: the year of the baby. I’m hoping the old adage, “third time’s a charm,” rings true when it comes to gardening because I’m desperate for a win this year. But I also realize that my big garden dreams need to be reigned in a bit.

To be quite honest, life with baby hasn’t been as hard for us as people would have liked us to believe (y’all, we actually get sleep!), but the cold hard reality of the matter is that it has forced us (and when I say us, I mean me) to slow down. That’s something the land hadn’t quite been able to instill in me yet, but leave it to a little one to rock your world.

While I’m proud of all of all I’ve accomplished with a tiny human in tow, such as sourdough bread (more on that later), my expectations for each day have had to be—how should we say it?—a little simpler. So as hard as it is for me—the person who wants to grow all the things—to admit, I must limit myself this year if I want to accomplish some greater good for the garden. To help me out with this, I’ve come up with a few garden resolutions to keep me on track:

1. Can My Own Tomatoes

I use tomatoes all winter in soups, stews, curries and sauces, and freshly canned tomatoes beat the store-bought variety every time. After last year’s complete tomato failure (12 plants and nary a tomato ripe enough to eat), I’ll give this crop a little more attention this year—like, actually staking them and maybe even doing some sucker picking.

2. Grow Medicinal Herbs I Use

One thing missing from life the past two years has been my own garden-grown medicinals. In my little urban garden, I grew lots of things, including chamomile, calendula, motherwort and echinacea, for use in the teas and balms I craft. Not only were they useful, they added a certain charm to the garden. I’m looking forward to incorporating a few favorites into my garden this year and maybe even trying some new.

3. Enlist Weed Help

The weeds in these parts are unrelenting. I’ve waged battle on cockleburs and spiny amaranth in particular. If anyone has any suggestions for ways to put these two plants to use, please let me know, because we have no shortage. With little one by my side, these weeds and others will probably grow faster than I can hoe them down, so I plan to implement some weed barriers this year. Straw is a common go-to, and I’ve been told black fabric does wonders. Maybe I’ll try both and see which I like best.

If nothing else this year, I hope my daughter and I can get out into the garden and have some fun. Even if just one jar of tomatoes is canned, few herbs are established and the weeds grow out of control yet again, we’ll have done something, and I hope I’ll be on my way to instilling in her a great love of the outdoors.

Tags The Accidental Farmer

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