My 2020 Garden Mantras: Better Late Than Never And A Little Bit Is Better Than Nothing

Reader Contribution by Cheryl In Texas
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My goodness, it’s been entirely too long since I’ve haunted these halls of the fabulous GRIT reader blogs. But I’m back and endeavor to be a regular around here.

My garden last year was an epic failure. I think it got too hot too soon and then the grass and weeds started growing with a vengeance. It’s like the garden was determined to return to a state of pasture. Ugh. I was so disappointed, but I have to say, I really didn’t miss standing out in 100 degrees with 85% humidity last summer to keep the garden watered. When this year rolled around, I wasn’t even going to plant anything. I found myself missing the whole process of starting little seeds, delighting when they sprouted, tending to them as they grew, and eventually harvesting the fruits of my labors. I always have such a sense of wonder when something that started out as a tiny little seed is now providing me with food to eat.

And then, enter a global pandemic. Dun dun dunnnn!

I started thinking that it might be a good idea to get serious again about growing some of our own food. Something. Anything. I was already late to get things started in our area, but I thought better late than never, and a little bit is better than nothing. Thus, those became my gardening mantras this year.

My “tomato fence” was still up in the “jungle” (aka garden), so I chopped and hacked enough grass and weeds out to plant green beans on both sides of the fence. I usually use t-posts and a stretch of 4 ft. welded wire fence for tomatoes, instead of tomato cages, tying the plants to the fence as they grow. It works WAY better for me than those cages. It’s also easy to water because I can water the plants on both sides from just one side. Anyway, back to beans. I usually grow Roma bush beans, but this year I decided to grow pole beans and let them climb my tomato fence since that was about all I could manage to hack clear.

I also have these wonderful cases that I got last year to organize all my seeds. It was kind of hurting my feelings to not be putting any of them to good use. I pulled them out and got some zucchini, yellow squash, basil, cilantro, and jalapeno seeds started. Plus I got to use my beautiful potting bench that I built last year! I didn’t have a plan for where to put all those yet, but I got them started anyway. We had some weird weather and late cold spells this spring and it ended up being an advantage to all my seedlings being started late – I was able to bring them inside when it got too cold out for them.

I started rethinking my garden strategy and thought about switching to raised bed gardens. I just didn’t know if I could get anything ready in time for this year. On a day off from work, I went to buy some supplies for a raised bed and using cedar decking boards, I built a 4 ft. x 8 ft. x 1 ft. all by myself while hubby was stuck at his computer for work. Yes! Unsupervised with the power tools. 😉

My hubby has 10 green fingers and 10 green toes, but he has no interest in vegetable gardening, so I’m usually on my own. I was planning on putting the raised bed in the “jungle” but hubby surprised me by suggesting we put it in the area near the barn we built (a whole other story since I was last here – in 2018 we built a 28 ft. x 56 ft. post-frame barn – all. by. ourselves!!). The barn “yard” is secure from chickens, cows, and dogs, so it’s pretty good growing space. We had all kinds of herbs growing in containers there last year. We have slowly been transferring the herbs that came back over the winter from containers to planting them in the ground all around the barn yard. He even started talking about where we could put even more raised beds in the future. Woot woot!

I also got six big heavy duty empty cattle protein tubs from our neighbors for container gardening. I drilled holes in the bottom and filled them partially with soil from the pasture and then topped them with good container soil. I ended up planting all my tomatoes and cilantro in those. I planted seven squash in the ground in along a fence and another four in my raised bed. All of the jalapenos are in the raised bed too. The basil in several five gallon pots.

As I mentioned, everything is late for our growing area. Most gardeners around here are already harvesting squash and beans. I just remind myself of my new gardening mantras – better late than never and a little bit is better than nothing. Seems like life is settling back down a little bit. We’re able to buy almost everything at the store again. But fresh, homegrown food is always better. Eventually I’ll get back to the point where I’m preserving as much as possible from our garden each year. It’s a long-term goal of mine to put up enough beans and maybe tomatoes to get through the year.  

We heard from a cousin that lives about an hour north of us that the baby chicks were selling out as fast as they could get them in a local feed store. Have you noticed an uptick in the number of people deciding to try raising chickens in your area?

How are you and your family faring during these turbulent times? I hope you’re doing well. What has been the biggest change in your family’s routine? Are you doing anything differently? Will you continue once things are “back to normal?” Or have you made permanent changes to your lifestyle? Do you think there will be a resurgence in victory gardens?

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