I spent another lovely Saturday morning at the Farmers Market this past weekend. I bought three large purple bell peppers for $1, three zucchini for $1, three cucumbers for $1, and…
…freshly baked donuts.
Actually, my Dad bought those. I ate them.
And as I strolled the lovely lanes of produce stands, I must admit, I felt a little depressed.
How could these farmers be harvesting huge heads of cabbage already…when mine are still so little and caterpillar infested?
And what about those peppers? Mine are still the size of large lima beans!
Some booths were selling strawberries…must be of a late variety, as mine gave out months ago it seems like.
And the tomatoes? Folks, let's not even go there.
I couldn't help but feel a little envious – the farmers there are so good at what they do. And while I realize this is how they make their living…and they are professionals…I still couldn't help but covet their wisdom. They have put my garden to shame in all it's adolescent glory.
Although I've gotten a fair amount of produce from mine, with a few months of growing still and many a harvest ahead, it is still nowhere near the goal I am aiming for. Each year that I have tended to my garden, I have increased the size and the productivity of it. So maybe in ten? Fifteen? Twenty years? I'll be producing as much as I'd like!
And all of this produce got me thinking – how is it possible to learn how to learn not only to garden out of “hobby” but actually garden out of a sincere desire to grow your food.
Sure, I love to eat a nice fresh potato for the novelty of it. But how then do I turn that into enough potatoes to last us through the entire year?
How do I grow enough tomatoes to supply us with sauces from one harvest to the next?
Onions? Beans? Herbs? Cabbage? Carrots? Parsnips? Peppers? Berries?
I don't just want to garden. I want to GARDEN, people. Ya know what I'm sayin?
Being an emotional brain-fart, I sat down with my husband to share my distress. I wanted to make sure that he was on the “homesteading bandwagon” with me. I know that we have a lot in store for us – a lot of hard work to be done! There is a reason that we have established more conveniences in this modern world – because they are convenient! And cheap! And mindfully choosing a life that is not centered around these conveniences is a tad overwhelming at times.
Honey, I said, I really want to garden. How do those farmers do it? They've had peppers at the market for a month now and mine still are so little!
That's their job, Shaye.
I know, but still. How do they do it? Do they hoop-house their beds? Do they use heaters? A crazy amount of Miracle-Gro? What!?!? I need someone to show me!!!
Why don't you move to a farm and learn.
Will you come with me if I do?
Fine, I'll do it.
I'm kidding…Stuart would never send me off to live on a farm all alone. Probably not, anyway.
They say that experience is the best teacher, and while that is good advice, it can be frustrating. Because when you garden, you get one or two shots a year to get it right – and you don't want to screw that opportunity up…or you'll be left with green tomatoes and no butternut squash come October. Not that I know that from experience or anything.
So how do I do it better? How do I stretch out the short season we have here in Washington and use my ground to the best of it's ability?
After doing some research, it seems that adding some hoop-houses (like the one pictured below) would be beneficial in our area. Not only would I be able to plant about a month earlier, but it would also keep the temperature raised for vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. Under a hoop house, I could be ready to harvest my peppers and such about a month earlier than normal.
Take that ya dang green tomatoes!
I could also use these same hoop houses in the fall to protect my plants from the first bites of frost. Lettuce, kale, swiss chard, carrots, potatoes, herbs, and onions would all like a nice little home under one of them.
I've found a few plans that detail how to make a hoop house over an existing raised bed for a little under $20. Not bad.
So guess who gets to build some hoop houses?
Stuart. That lucky guy.
I know I'm young and have years still to acquire the vast amount of knowledge it takes to grow food well. I know that each year, I will learn more and more about the needs of each particular plant. I will learn about soil temperature and quality. I will learn about pollination and pruning. I will learn about worms and pests.
But dang man…if anyone wants to give me the Cliffs Notes version of how to garden without such drastic failures, I'd love you forever.
Until then, I will be very thankful that someone…although not me…can grow large, beautiful sweet peppers and lush juicy tomatoes.
And I will be very thankful that they are willing to sell them to me for $1.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go find a local farm that is willing to take on a crazed wannabe-farmer, her husband, and a sweet-cheeked baby as amateur interns.