When we decided to pursue earning a living farming, in our case, market gardening for profit, we realized that our daily spinning in circles wouldn’t do. We’d need a plan.
When we inherited the garden here, the weeds were at our armpits. It was a snake pit with purple orbs of garlic blooms floating above yellowed Johnson grass. Once we got it all whacked down, we found muskmelon, yard long beans, a huge asparagus patch, hundreds of elephant garlic scapes, banana peppers, kidney beans, and a straggling snow pea vine. They were all so happy to be found and nurtured.
Our days were dictated by whomever we glanced at first. “Mexican tarragon on the deck, gone to seed already, needs a trim. Hostas in the side bed, too close to the mint. Mint needs to be thinned. Morning glories, taking over the compost, transplant near the front porch“. It guided us rather than the other way around. We felt constantly overwhelmed and hated spending time trying to figure out which task to do when.
The infrastructure was great. Dad had so much homesteading knowledge. I appreciate all of his amazing talents. He was a master mechanic and could build anything, fix anything and was great at long term, large scale planning. He’d chosen the perfect sunny spot, rabbit proofed and deer proofed the area with proper fencing. He created a built in compost bin and situated the green house (with electricity) and water spigots near by. The outer edge of the fence is lined with deer resistant lillies and the the martin and bluebird houses are positioned around the perimeter.
We’d read Mother Earth news and Rodale’s Organic Life and Garden and Gun, Backyard Chickens, Modern Farmer, MaryJane’s Farm for years and had spent the past year and a half reading Dad’s gardening library. We felt we’d gained a good amount of knowledge over the years and that the knowledge of our grandparents and parents runs through our veins.
But, in designing our garden, firstly; I wanted it to reflect our tastes rather than our parent’s. What do we eat? More into black beans than yard long beans. More into chickpeas than green peas, spaghetti squash rather than summer squash, purple potatoes rather than white. Alan is from Georgia and prefers Vidalia onions. We sweeten our tea with stevia. We wanted our own citrus, nuts and berries to support our latest “we are getting old and have to obsess on what we put into our bodies” diet.
Secondly; we have to make money. So, What does the market around us want? Lot’s of Farm to Table networks in the area, so, we’re thinking micro greens, heirloom tomatoes, peppers for our hot sauce account, juniper berries to the cocktail set. Cut flowers and home decor gifts with a farmhouse vibe.
So, how many of what do we need to grow to make money? how do we arrange them in the space to make best use of water, sunlight, soil, fertilizing, pest control and harvesting? The growveg.com software we purchased in January helped us get on track and working on it in the winter months worked great. Then in March, we started the seedlings in the greehouse, put cardboard down to kill the weeds, built two raised beds outside of the fence when we realized that we needed more space, built trellises for the tomatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers and squash, made string trellises for tomatoes and built up the bed for the potatoes, hauled in tons of organic soil, black cow fertilizer, mixed it with our composted soil and worked the beds with a broadfork. Brown paper was added to hold in moisture and keep the weeds down and the seedlings and direct sow seeds were watered in. Next up, we’ve ordered the drip irrigation system and shadecloth and hope they arrive before the hail and tornadoes do and will participate in our first Farmer’s Market this Saturday. Here goes nothin’!