Friday, August 23, 2013

Starting Fresh

Please welcome our guest today, Erin Little, of  Bluebirdbaby and A Love Supreme Photography fame. Erin is a lady of many talents, and I think it's safe to say that growing beautiful gardens is one of them!

I've been gardening for almost my entire adulthood. As a child, I used to help my mother and father in their garden. We grew all kinds of vegetables that wound up on our dinner table. The neighbors would walk by and tell me my mother had a "green thumb" and go on to tell me how jealous they were of our lush garden full of fresh vegetables and fruits. I never thought much about it until I had my first raised bed as a young adult.

I never quite got my plants to grow, which is a pretty essential thing. I was frustrated and thought maybe I hadn't inherited my parents' gardening skills. But I certainly didn't let it stop me. Since I was 19 years old, I have started and maintained five different gardens. Each starting from scratch. It's always a big undertaking: making raised beds, filling the raised beds with a combination of loam, peat moss, and manure, starting seedlings and purchasing some, planting, watering, weeding, pest maintenance…it all takes a lot of energy and time. But I have found the rewards are well worth it!

Last fall I purchased an old church to live in on a busy road in midcoast Maine. I spent the winter renovating and painting the inside, but spent a lot of time dreaming about what I planned to do with the yard. We had established perennial gardens out front, but no vegetable garden. I opted for 6, 4x8 foot raised beds. I have found in the past that 6 beds that size are perfect for our family's needs. The beds went together in an afternoon. We used hemlock and screwed them together. We reinforced the corners with an extra piece on the inside. We were planning on digging up the sod on the insides, but we figured that 12 inches of soil would probably be sufficient enough to kill any grass on the bottom, so that saved us tons of time.

My favorite combo to fill the beds with is 6 parts organic loam, 2 parts peat moss, and 2 parts alpaca manure. I don't actually measure these, as I tend to eye what the composition looks like and how it feels running through my fingers. But I swear, alpaca manure (if you are lucky enough to find some!) is the magic part. It makes my plants grow like crazy. 

We also purchased a few self-pollinating fruit trees. I made the mistake in the past purchasing fruit trees that actually needed a pair to pollinate and produce fruit! This time we went with self-pollinating pear, plum, and peach. Also, three high bush blueberries were bought, each producing a different month so we'll have berries all summer long. We have a large apple tree that was already on the property, and we've been enjoying munching on those already! We also added a flock of chickens (16!), so by next spring we'll be enjoying fresh eggs daily! 

So these are all pictures from my new garden. The plants went in late May/early June, and well…you can tell how they're doing. My gardens tend to look more like jungles, which basically means I don't prune, I water like crazy (thanks to our rainy Maine summer this year), and I just let things go nuts. Our friends constantly comment on my "green thumb" and how beautiful it all is.

Maybe I did inherit my parents' gardening talents? Who knows…but I am very excited about enjoying this garden for at least the next twenty years! And it's nice to feel like we are supplying the majority of our fruits and veggies on our little 1/4 acre lot!


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  2. That kale with the cat! Jealous! Here in Texas I don't get to plant mine until October.

    I followed on your blog when you started your beds, I'm glad they filled in nicely.

  3. Beautiful!!! I wish my beds were looking less shabby and more like yours! All that kale! wow!