Friday, March 22, 2013

Learning to Garden

Like a lot of folks these days, I'm looking at grocery store food prices and thinking, 'holy crap, I could buy a small car for this amount of money!" Although perhaps that's more for people like me who are buying gluten free and organic food. Seriously, a small car might be cheaper.

So I'm trying to make a garden. I've been trying for maybe four years now, although with mixed results. There's a few challenges I have to overcome.

First, I live in a desert. It goes from really hot to really cold, really fast. Not kidding - just this month I had snow on the ground that lasted for three days straight, and two weeks later it was 85 F outside. This is not entirely usual, but not completely unusual, either. It does make the plants pretty much freak out, though, if they are not made for this climate, and very few of my traditional garden plants are made for this environment, let's be honest.

Second problem is related to the whole gluten free thing, because annoyingly enough, that's not the only food I've got to avoid. It turns out, if you are very sensitive, there's a surprising number of foods that end up in things we use for gardening. I've been finding organic soil mixtures with peanut shells or rice hulls recently (neither are good for me). Slug bait often contains wheat, and most pest control agents are no go for me as well.

With these food issues, I feel very nervous about using any soil amendments.  I mean, I didn't used to react to peanuts, but now I do. If I'd used the garden soil with peanut shells in it before now, I'd be pretty upset to have a big section of my garden feel unsafe for me to be around, you know? So I'm trying to not only garden, but to garden with little to no additions. I have a little bit of soil I bought long ago that I didn't react to and I'm keeping, and some moss. Other than that, I've got my own compost going, very, very slowly.

And my third problem is my own inherent laziness. I do great on my garden for a couple weeks, and then I get distracted and forget to water for a day or two and out here in the desert? Kiss a few of your plants goodbye if you forgot to water them even one day, in the wrong season. I also research really well for a while and then half-ass it and know bits and pieces about the plants I'm growing and where they grow best and the best season to plant and the best places to plant them in.

I know in part this is because I want it all NOW. I want food now, I want the most awesome garden evah right this second.

Not going to happen, not even close. Although I'm not kidding about the awesome garden part. I want it all: organic, with sustainability and water conservation taken into consideration. A haven for the local animals and food sources for me and the family. I want a garden where native plants and my garden plants can coexist near each other. I want native plants that attract the right birds, bugs, bees, and butterflies. I want them to shade my garden or help keep bad bugs and critters away. I want to use what grows naturally in my yard for food and medicinal purposes (if I can figure those out), and then add the food items that will help our diet, or our budget, or both. I want to know where and when things should be growing, and how to grow them, save their seeds, propagate from cutting, whatever is needed to keep them going and expand my yard into pure, unadulterated awesome.

My attempt to grow squash last year.  All that survived was the basil. >_<

*cough*  I've got a loooooong way to go before my reality matches the garden in my imagination.

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