Oh Saturday, how I've been looking forward to you all week! Do you ever do that? Live for your weekends? If you're a gardener, I know you do. Because that means it's time to get into the gardens, weed those beds you've been neglecting, drink your morning cup of love (ehem, COFFEE people), and enjoy the cool summer air before the heat of the day rises.
The gardens this year are.. well, a work in progress. They're beautiful, don't get me wrong, but as any gardener would know, a garden is never finished. There is always work to be done, perennials to be moved, and things to be reworked. I like to call this year, for our gardens, a practice year if you will. I'm still very much a new gardener and in taking on all that we did, I knew it wouldn't all go as planned. We've had some good success (which I will talk to you about in just a second) but we've also had some incredible failures (which of course, I will also share with you because HELLO, this is real life people!).
To start, we put in four new gardens this year on our farm.
the Market garden - for food production for our family to be preserved, canned and stored for the winter months
the Flower Cutting garden- for our flower business, Lake Farm Florals. To grow cutting flowers to be used in bouquets and arrangements for weddings and events
the Potager garden - the upper level of our backyard where we will someday add a patio off of our house and a pond. This will be where we sit after a long day's work or host friends and family for an outdoor farm to table dinner. I have big dreams for this space and I am filled with excitement at the idea of hosting loved ones here
the Kitchen garden - this is the newest idea I've come up with. This very small garden sits right in front of our house and can be seen from the kitchen window. It will be a combination of perennial flowers and herbs, to be used in food recipes and to be a beautiful sight to see while washing dishes or planning a menu. Once this garden is finished and beautiful (probably next summer), I will be very excited to share the before and after photos
Quite a bit going on, eh? And these are just the gardens. That doesn't include the 150 strawberry plants we added to our new strawberry patch, the 50+ raspberry vines, the rabbits we purchased and are using for our rabbit breeding program (to be used for meat for our family), the meat chickens we raised and butchered for our family, the egg layers we added, the PUPPIES we had from our German Shepherds... oh and of course regular life of full time jobs, running a business and surviving the adventure of COVID 19.
AND IT'S ONLY AUGUST!
Anyway, back to the point. Each garden has had it successes while also having some major failures. Turns out, you can't just plant a zone friendly perennial and expect it to grow perfectly! Gardens take a lot of work, and when you're starting a garden in soil that hasn't been worked in DECADES, I promise, you will face some challenges. Our biggest challenges this year have been soil, water and weeds. Like I said before, this soil hasn't been worked in decades, which for us means that we have to get the soil tested, make the necessary amendments, improve our water situation & take care of those weeds. This garden has been all grass so the grass and seeds are prolific, making it very difficult to get rid of during the growing season. So, as much as I want this garden to look natural, the weed tarp will go down, the mulch and compost will be added, and next year we will (hopefully) see the fruits of our labor.
We've seen some struggle with different crops here and there, the first being our corn. We planted three varieties of corn in a 75 foot row and only one variety has really shown promise. Next year, I will start corn earlier in the greenhouse (I used the direct sow method this year in early May, I believe). This will give the corn that much of a head start in the season. Our pumpkins are, well... lagging behind. Those rows will also get weed tarp and the seeds will be started in the greenhouse so I can ensure proper germination on the seeds before transplanting them out to the garden.
The tomatoes have done okay; I don't think they love the wind that they get in that field. I think they'd like a warmer spot as well, but we will contemplate how to best grow them for next year, whether that be back in the field with weed tarp or in pots in the greenhouse. I have seen no sign of harvest from the red pepper plants (which is a bummer because the goal was to oil pack roasted peppers for sauces and soups). The carrots are doing well, the onions are slow to grow but I'm sure we will still have a harvest of storage onions for the winter. The cabbages have been doing alright. I think they should be further along at this point in the season but hopefully they'll be a good enough size come harvest time.
The flower cutting garden has also faced some struggles. I'll point out that a lot of gardeners have had later and maybe even smaller harvests this year but we definitely didn't till our soil enough this year, meaning that the roots of our plants couldn't get deep enough to grow large. My dahlias have specifically shown this issue. Each dahlia plant is about 6 inches in height, with very small buds on them... that's an issue as a florist. I NEED THESE FLOWERS TO BE HAPPY AND TO GROW BIG. So, once again, we will be amending our soil, improving our irrigation system and putting down weed tarp for a better harvest next year. There are a lot of flowers that I could have started more of, packed them in a little tighter and paid just a little more attention to, but it's all about learning more and growing more and realizing you can't do it all.
Gardening is about next year. Take the leap of faith, try new things, make mistakes, and learn for next year.
In the meantime, I was able to harvest a beautiful bouquet of lavender to hang in the kitchen. These lavender plants will give me another harvest come fall and this bouquet will hang in our kitchen where I spend most of my time, to remind me of the bounty of the season. And oh what a bounty we will have this year. Despite the failures, there is still much to celebrate.
My goal for this farm is to cultivate an atmosphere of hospitality. I want people to step into our gardens and feel as though they are in a different world. I want people to feel welcome and at home here. This farm is a safe space for a cup of coffee or fresh bread or a delicious meal with friends and family. This farm is ours and we are so thankful to be able to cultivate it to be our little slice of Heaven and to share it with those around us.