For the third year we have stepped into the heretofore unknown world of gardening. It is becoming more familiar to us, but we still have a lot to learn. This year is doing well - especially the cool weather veggies, as we are enjoying a cool spell. I absolutely love green onions from the garden! Rebekah also has a little wild onion garden in the forest. She will often bring me a handful before dinner :-). They are one of the first veggies we can eat in the spring because they grow so fast
In October we will finally plant garlic. I've even written it on the calendar so I won't forget, as we have the last two years. So far this year we've planted spinach (not coming up - I must do some research), black seeded lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, onions, potatoes, and gobs of tomatoes! Our lettuce is delicious and we eat it with every evening meal - it's really good with the green onions. It is especially rewarding to be able to supply the fresh vegetable for a meal from our garden. The three oldest children also have a little square garden that I roped off with string. They have planted what they desired to plant from our collection of seeds.
We plan to mulch again with straw or hay, using the Ruth Stout method. Ruth Stout gardened diligently until she was well into her 90's. Though she is no longer with us, her many articles and books about gardening bring much spunk and wisdom on the subject. She is mostly known for her method of laying down straw or hay at least eight inches thick in order to smother weeds and prevent watering. As soon as I can get ahold of my straw provider, we will have them deliver a truckload of straw bales. The kids will have great fun for a week or two playing on the straw bale stack; then we will begin mulching around the plants and between the rows. After a few weeks, when a few weeds will begin showing their ugly faces, we will just cover them up with straw so they can't grow through. Simple! But still a challenge in the hot weather when we would prefer to stay inside with the A/C on :-).
Though we don't plan to need a lot of watering once we get the mulch on, we have determined that there is a need to have a water supply closer to the garden. A hose laid across the yard just doesn't cut it! We decided this after two hoses burst due to hot weather, and one hose was shredded by an inattentive mower (I'm not naming names her :-) ) Having a water line put in would cost about $1500, so that was out of the question. So, my sweet husband decided he would bury a hose across the yard. He ran the hose along the back of the patio, up the edge of the cement stairs that lead to the garage, and off the landing into his trench, which is the shortest route of ground to the garden and goes downhill. The trench leads to the edge of the garden, so when we do need to water, it's a cinch! And o-so-much-better than dragging the hose off the yard every time you want to mow.
We have also experimented with two ways of deterring critters from the garden. The liquid fence (foul smelling liquid that deer hate the smell of) is not very cost-effective or fun to use for the garden, but we like it on our apple trees. The water sprayer with the laser eye (I'm not remembering the name of it right now) was very effective for awhile. The device is battery-operated and attaches to your hose. When it senses movement in the vision of it's "eye", it will then spray a semi-circle burst of water toward whatever critter is invading our garden. Generally speaking, this was very effective in scaring them off. However, it was not as effective when the plants began to grow too tall and thick. I think the next thing we will try is the electric fence; if we can find the time and money this year.
We also planted 4 new apple trees this year, which seem to be doing very well. We planted them in a semi-circle around the apple tree that Nate's dad planted before he died. However, Nathan did find ants - big, fat, black ones - on all of them last week. He learned that the ants were there because aphids were present; the ants were trapping the aphids at the end of the branch until they were nice and fat from sucking the juice out of the leaves. Then they would eat them. What was the solution? Dish soap, diluted with water, and sprayed on the aphids, effectively killed the aphids (and some of the ants). This solution seems to work well for a lot of yard pests. Our decorative cherry tree was attacked by tent caterpillars this spring, and dish soap did the trick with them also. Now I just need to find the solution for squash bugs. I found some of them on my zucchini plants and I refuse to leave a pail of bleach water in my garden, where the children often are present.
In summary, I love my garden! And I love a good portion of the work associated with it. But I still have so much to learn and so much work to get into a likable pattern. Anyway, it gives me a great deal of security to know I am working on it, when I consider the current state of our economy.