Saturday, September 7, 2013

Plowing For a Winter Garden, and Getting Ready Now for Spring Planting

 We are going to raise a garden again. The deer and grasshoppers ate everything I planted this year, but we are going to fence out the deer and the Farmer's Almanac says it is going to be a cold, wet winter - so goodbye grasshoppers (please Lord?)!

Daddy came this past weekend and plowed the garden spot for us. I was impressed with his tractor skill - he can line that tractor up on a dime. He met right up with the stakes I had put out to define the space.  He said "after it rains, whenever that is, I'll come back and plow it again and that will kill a lot of the grass and weeds". And look, we had lovely rain the same weekend - just like washing the car except a GOOD rain-bringer. So I said "Thank you for the rain" to both my heavenly and earthly fathers! You can see in the pictures the difference in the color of the dirt while he was plowing, and after the rain!

 We have decided to use plastic mesh as fencing. Our primary goal is to keep the deer out and this product has really good reviews for such an inexpensive solution. It provides a visible barrier to animals and directs them to find another way to go. Eventually, the deer should forget there is food here. We can use steel u-channel posts that will stay permanently in the ground, and simply replace the plastic every few years.

This space was kept in production for many years by the folks who owned it during the 70s, 80s and 90s. The soil, we hear, is fertile. It has a good loamy feel to it. The big rocks in it are nodules of flint, which the Comanche and other tribes used to make their arrowheads out of. I need to do some research, because there is a great lot of this that I think would surely have been removed over time, unless new nodules keep working themselves to the surface. You can see several of them in the photo below

In Texas, we can grow things all year round. I will plant turnips, beets, chard, onions, garlic, and collards for winter growing. The freezes won't hurt them and the extra moisture will be a boon. Swiss Chard, Collards, Onions and Garlic will keep growing year round - they behave as either perennials or biennials.  Turnips are wonderful - use them like potatoes in stews or serve mashed and creamed. Turnip seed is cheap, and these root crops are easy to grow. They are good practice for amateurs.

Then, come February, I can start planting for early spring: peas, greens & lettuce, onion plants.  We must use "short day" onions here because whether onions make bulbs depends on the number of daylight hours they are exposed to. That is why those record sized veggies come from Alaska, the 24 hour days keep plants growing without stopping to "sleep" at night. In the South, our days are shorter. The longer growing season gives us a longer harvest and perhaps more production but does not give us larger individual produce.

Miss Fuzzy Slippers, of the blog Fuzzy Logic (linked from my sidebar), has a great article about the importance of learning to garden before we need to feed ourselves. For most of us, this is indeed a learned skill, not an innate talent, and we need to begin practicing now to accumulate the wisdom necessary for good harvests in our particular space.  Be sure to read the comments too, there are lots of practical tips in them.

Are you gardening this year? If you don't have a space in your yard, see if your town has a Community Garden. The nearest large town to us has very reasonable fees ($35 for the year) that include water and compost. It is a great deal, especially when you consider that using a community garden plot, like the British "allotments", also gives you direct contact with experienced gardeners who can help and advise you as you learn.  Contact them now just in case they have a waiting list.

Gardening is good for the body and the soul. There is just nothing quite like knowing you are working with God and His creation to make your own food, just like human beings have done since the very beginning.

Happy harvesting and good eating await!


  1. Great post and thanks for the linkage! I haven't tried turnips, but I think that I will this year. I started some cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chard, leeks, and even beets (I haven't really had them fresh before, so hopefully I like them). They're all indoors for now because it's still too hot for them outdoors (I'm in NW Florida), but once it starts cooling down, I'm going to put them out (hopefully, by then they will be big enough that the critters won't gobble them up). I also want to do onions, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and garlic, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

    I'm down to one tomato plant and one jalapeño plant now; between the animals and disease, that's all that's left (apart from my lavender, mint, and jasmine). Oh, and my marigolds are all doing great, too, which would be better if they still had other plants to "guard" (so much for companion planting, I guess).

    Happy gardening!

  2. We are going to try broccoli and brussels sprouts too. We really enjoy both of those and they can go into the freezer. I think you will enjoy learning about beets, there is nothing quite as nice as truly fresh hot buttered beets. Paul isn't big on beets but he will eat mine when I cook them with orange marmalade. Do you like them pickled? I go gentle on the spice - cinnamon but not cloves. That is the other fun thing about growing our own, we are forced to try new recipes to absorb bumper crops! :-)

    Companion planting is one of those things that I have never figured out. Maybe it is time for me to reread "Carrots Love Tomatoes". My mother knew Louise Riotte - in today's era of authority-trained "experts" and celebrity, it is always nice to remember that sometimes the wisest person on a topic might be our very ordinary neighbor down the street. :-)

    Thanks for the comment! I will enjoy reading about your garden as time goes on!

  3. It's so funny, one of the ways that I heard was best to cook fresh beets was in butter! Now that you've said it, I give it more credence and will have to try it (assuming I can actually manage to grow beets).

    I've not yet tried pickling; alas, I've not seen a bumper crop of anything. I'll chalk that up to my being so incredibly new to the whole gardening experience; I really have no idea what I'm doing half the time (and the other half, I just wing it). I'm so glad to have met you!

    As to companion gardening; I'm fascinated by the whole thing. It seems so intuitive and . . . well, natural (for lack of a better word). Part of my problem this year (my first trying it) was that I didn't plan for it, so instead of planting my marigolds and nasturtiums early enough to grow and flower to be deterrents or traps, they were all sort of growing at the same time with--or in the case of nasturtiums, which I planted late, lagging behind--the veg they were supposed to be helping.

    One thing I can attest to, however, is that basil really does improve the taste of tomatoes if it is grown in the same pot (or close by in-ground) rather than in separate pots. Not only that, but the basil itself does better in with tomatoes; it grows more and has less problems (those icky pale leaves, etc. or that weird legginess don't seem to be a problem if it's grown in with tomatoes).

    I don't know if carrots love tomatoes, and I sincerely doubt that they do here in Florida where it's much too hot for carrots when tomatoes are thriving, but I have heard of the book, and it's actually on my "wish list" at amazon! What a small world. And you are so right, people we know probably know more than we do about the simplest things . . . like cooking beets in butter. :)

  4. Beets should be fairly easy for you to grow. I have found that the basic red varieties are reliable, compared to the exotic looking ones - I have never gotten the yellow ones to even sprout, but the plain old red ones all sprout and grow until I thin or pull them.

    I am glad to hear about basil and tomatoes - we love them both and I have trouble with basil for some odd reason. I will put it all over my tomato patch next year! :-)

    Another trick I have learned is that old fashioned feed & seed stores often carry bulk seed and the varieties they carry are best for the local area. Ours sells them at so much a tablespoon scoopful. They put them out at the proper times for planting, so that is another resource to help you.

    Have a lovely week! :-)


  5. Beet greens are an added benefit of this veggie!



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