July 27, 2017 by Billie Anderson
Today Lexy came to visit our garden and I asked her about writing my blog entry. She answered questions and gave us some valuable tips. She is a fantastic mentor and I am very grateful for her help.
We are thrilled to be a BIU Gardening family this year. Our home has been nestled in the mountains of Carter County for almost 40 years. My husband and I both grew up in suburban America. We came of age in the late 60’s & early 70’s and were caught up in dreams of owning property and living off the land. lol! Even though we managed to acquire some acreage, it did not take long to find out this living off the land idea took more work than we had imagined. With children entering our lives and a house to build, we found ourselves working at jobs in town. There were many attempts at gardening through the years – – all fell by the wayside and grew up in weeds. Lots of frustration!
Thinking about the “back to the land” movement of the 60’s and the “green,organic” movement today, I will offer an observation. The “back to the land” movement of yesteryear had a mistaken emphasis on independence and isolation. The “green, organic” movement of today seems much more realistic and practical with a healthy emphasis on collaboration and interdependence. The community garden not only provides food, but also lessons in cooperation, goodwill, and even hospitality. As we learn from the BIU program, I hope to “pay it forward” by helping with at least one community garden in Elizabethton.
My husband & I recently refreshed (retired) and now whole-heartedly embrace this opportunity to bring some dreams back to life with gardening, forest management, and farming. Almost in response to long time desires of our hearts, I began to learn about several programs to help! The BIU program has guided me every step of the way in regard to gardening this year. It assisted me in choosing an optimal spot for my garden with enough sun and available water. It assisted me in designing a garden that is not too big and overwhelming for me to maintain. I learned about no-till gardening, a concept I had never heard about.
This is our first of two years of being on the BIU program. Our garden did not get fully tilled and prepared until the middle of June, so the garden got a late start. Not wanting to discourage myself, I consciously chose to be patient and to view this first year as mostly a preparation year. Planting and storing would take second place to the goal of preparing a well-designed, permanent garden site, having the soil tested, and then building up the soil with lots of organic matter. This allowed me to relax and take joy in each accomplishment without feeling bad about not having a fully productive garden as I had envisioned. But that fully productive garden will, hopefully, be ready to manifest itself next year.
I now have a beautiful garden site with five raised beds inside a fenced area to protect the garden from dogs and deer and maybe to discourage rabbits, also. I have okra, zucchini, squash, green pepper, watermelon, and cantaloupe planted in the BIU garden which I think of as being my more traditional, main garden. I had developed a square foot garden several years ago (based on the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew). It, too, like my other attempts at gardening turned into a weedy mess. This year I cleaned out the weeds & moved it so it is located next to my traditional garden of the BIU program. Earlier in the spring, I planted young plants I received from the BIU program in the “Square Foot Garden.” We had turnip greens and collards greens. They attracted green worms which I picked off daily. Even though they were shared with those worms, the greens were delicious, both cooked and also added to nutra-bullet drinks. I also planted onions, tomatoes, and basil in the square foot garden, all of which are growing very well and with good health. I also had three straw bales and planted cucumber, tomatoes, and basil in those three bales (based on a book entitled, Straw Bales Gardens by Joel Karsten). I must say that the material provided by the BIU program has helped immeasurably with all three types of gardening: traditional, square foot and straw bale. Next year I will again use all three gardens, with most of my focus being on the traditional garden.
In addition to the gardening, we acquired 4 pigs. We are composting the pig dung along with other organic material to help build up our soil for next year and to help with our new High Tunnel Greenhouse to be constructed hopefully by the end of August. We have received a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture to build that greenhouse. The BIU program is a great resource for that up-coming project, too.
I am a hands-on type learner. Reading about gardening has never really been very effective for me. The hands-on workshops and record-keeping tools provided by Lexy have worked for me better than all the gardening books that have accumulated on my bookshelves over the years. Of course being “refreshed” has freed up time to pursue gardening and other conservation projects on our land daily. In the past I approached gardening very haphazardly, with no plan. I would purchase seeds and then in a rushed manner dig holes in a garden spot and plop the seeds in, then hope for a beautiful garden. No wonder my gardens were far less than gratifying. BIU gave me planning tools and information that has already given me the best garden I have ever had, even though it is incomplete this year.
Happy Gardening to all of us!