Ellis has accused me (on multiple occasions) of not only NOT having a green thumb, but actually having a black thumb. He says that I can kill any plant, given just a short amount of time. I’d like to say he’s wrong, but my track record precedes me.
So when we started down this path to self-sufficiency, we knew that gardening was going to be an important skill to master. (Hint: I’m not there yet). Growing things at 7000 feet is a challenge in and of itself, but when you add the ungodly WIND to the mix, I swear the gods are against me.
Year 1: We planted the garden too far from the house, with 50 starter plants that a friend (from a warmer climate) brought us. The magpies hung out on the fenceposts and pulled seedlings out of the ground and pecked our marigolds and tomatoes. I gave up halfway through the summer and just stopped watering.
Year 2: We downsized, moved the garden next to the house, and focused on spinach and greens. I took a local class on high-altitude gardening, and was envious of all the folks who seemed like they really knew what they were doing. The few square feet that we planted did pretty well, and with a small area (2 4×4 raised beds) I was able to cover them with a bird net to save them from the $%*@ magpies. I bought a couple of tomato plants from our local elementary school fundraiser, and we had a few tomatoes through the summer to go with our salads. I was able to freeze a good amount of spinach for use in cooking through the winter.
Year 3: We doubled the garden space and this time, the same friend brought us a dozen tomatoes (and they’re still alive!). I planted lettuce and spinach in the same bed as last year, but for some reason most of it didn’t sprout. Same with my kale and collards – new beds, but only half sprouted. The collards are doing well, but the kale seems to be struggling. My carrots didn’t sprout either; they were last years’ seeds, but really, NONE sprouted?!? I think most of our tomatoes are of the cherry variety, which I love, but I don’t think we will get enough out of the garden to can anything.
I am thrilled that I have so many tomato plants doing well, but at the same time, frustrated that so many of the things I planted didn’t succeed. I planted about 20 pea plants – about half sprouted up to an inch or two high, then proceeded to wilt and die, all the while they got plenty of water and sun. They are in the same bed as the spinach and lettuce that did not do well, so I’m wondering if there is/was something wrong with the soil there.
A big goal for Ellis and me is to be able to feed our family. I’m not planning on planting a wheat field in our front yard and threshing it by hand at this point in my life (hmmm, but maybe when my kids are big enough to provide the labor?) but we would like to be able to provide a significant amount of the produce that our family consumes. This provides health benefits (it’s all organic and fresh), bypasses the dependence on petroleum that shipping fruits from across the globe requires, and also bypasses the expense and tax burden that comes with purchasing items in a retail setting. Now that we’re working less and making less money, we’d like to spend less on food, too.