Thursday, March 03, 2011

A vegetable garden is not such a simple thing.

The decision to start a garden sounds simple. You either want to do it or you don't. If you want to it is easy to become overwhelmed and wonder if it's really worth it. To start a garden, it will cost you... a lot. Besides costing you time and effort, the financial portion can easily become astronomical if you're not careful.

I have attempted gardening several times with mixed results. I still am not that familiar with it either and am still learning. My first garden was years ago back when I was married to my first husband and we were stationed at Ft. Stewart, Georgia. We lived on-post and we rented a community garden that was also on-post but not near us. We had very little money and started from seed. We didn't add any soil amendments that I recall, but I did get a soil test.

All went fairly well until the great floods of that year (I can't remember the specific year but was between 1990 and 1995, I remember it was the year the Savannah K-Mart parking lost was flooded). We had some storms that not only flooded Savannah, but our garden plot too. It was knee deep in water and when the water finally subsided, to my dismay the green beans and carrots continued on. We had loads of beans and carrots, but nothing else. All others were lost.

It was a lot of very hard, intensive work for only beans and carrots that cost next to nothing at the grocery store. Not to mention that the heat and humidity was just about intolerable over that summer. I cannot tell you how easily we would become dehydrated while working in the garden that year. Disillusioned, it would be a very long time before I did it again.

Now, Ft. Stewart was in gardening Zone 8B and we then moved to Ft. Wainwright, Alaska which was a whopping Zone 1. Quite a difference! On the other hand, it was supposed to be so much easier to grow there during the summer since the weather was mild and there was 24 hour sunlight.

Unfortunately I did not take advantage of a full garden while living there. I did some container gardening (only 2 or 3 containers) and they turned out fairly well.

Year before last though (now with my second husband), I decided it was high time to try again. We bought a tiller and tilled up some soil. Planted some plants and then waited to see what happened. The tomatoes were ruined via attacks by a form of stink bugs; the jalapenos were cracked and woody; the cucumbers died a few days after being planted; the squash flowered but never matured; and the bell peppers never grew to full size before dying. The only things we did get were serrano peppers and poblanos. Those grew wonderfully well.

Okay so we figured it was the soil and weeding. We spent several hours of every day pulling out weeds only to never have it fully weeded. We did put in some fertilizer, but evidently it was just not done right, even after the soil test.

Angry, I did not garden last year. It just grew into a weed garden without anything but weeds.

Finally this year, I thought I'd give it a go again, but this time I wanted better organization. We built a small raised bed and added soil instead of tilling. We'll see how it turns out this year.

What I want to mention now is how much I LOVE Google Sites, which are personal wikis. Yep, it seems off topic but allow me to explain.

I read how it's good to keep a gardening notebook and makes plans and all kinds of other things. I am only 43 and already am developing arthritis in my fingers. It is difficult for me to write. What is great about Sites is that you can do so much with it. You can create a journal (using the "announcements" template) and write in it as often as you can. You can create spreadsheets and documents using Google Docs then insert them into Sites pages. I made expense reports as well as a Seed Inventory list and a database with container sizes for certain plants, plant dates, square foot sizes for square foot gardening and all kinds of things. I used Docs to create and insert a drawing of my garden plan. I have page with my favorite gardening links and forums, I have a calendar with a record of what I planted and when it should be harvested, I have a to do list (using the "List" template), I have photos that I've taken and put in my journal and the list goes on.

Think of it as a filing cabinet or a notebook with sections. What's great about digital records is that unlike written records, you can search the wiki for information too! If I want to find what I've written about tomatoes then I type tomato in the search box and voila! It's all there.

I love that wiki so much that I may just make another for organizing my whole life! I just love it!

In the end, I have no advice to offer and this isn't a post for giving advice. It's just a post explaining the problems I've had and my reluctance to remain optimistic. Just know that if you decide to garden, do so with an open mind.

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