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Shepherds Hill Homestead » Gardening » The New Garden – in Mellow Valley

The New Garden – in Mellow Valley

We are well into April and the urge to get into the garden is overwhelming.  Our new farm is a learning experience from beginning to end and I must admit that I love the challenge.  For many years I have been use to the typicalAlabamaclay soil for gardening in but our new home has much better structure in the soil – more of a sandy loam.

When we came to view the place for the first time we brought with us a shovel.  Yes, we went out into the yard and garden areas and dug holes to see what kind of soil the place would have.  Then and only then did we actually begin discussions on buying the place.  For a family that is very connected to the land, the house was only part of the consideration to buy.  It would have been pointless to purchase a new home if we couldn’t grow a good garden.

The area where we decided to put the gardens had a well established centipede lawn.  It was lovely but absolutely useless.  Lawns are very pretty, but to us vegetables, herbs and fruits growing is much prettier.  So we began the process to convert that carpet of green into a rich and flourishing vegetable garden.

Where to begin?  First, I recommend doing a soil test.  You can get one from your county extension agent.  There are directions on the package.  If your test shows that you need to amend the soil then you can do that first.

So the next major part of the process is to remove any sod/grass that you have.  If you want you can scrap up the sod and replant it elsewhere or you can till it all up and this is what we did. Paulbought us a very nice, large new tiller and we began tilling immediately.  I have to admit that eventhough I knew the soil was good I was astonished to see black soil churning up instead of the familiar red clay. Pauland I had to stop and just look at it because we were so overwhelmed at the richness of it.  Another thing that stunned us was the lack of grub worms in the soil.  This place has not been farmed before and the soil has not been turned.  I am really getting a new understanding of working with fresh soil.  Lord willing we will be good stewards of this land and it will remain rich and perhaps even richer as we use the most diligent and healthy practices in making this garden grow.

Within a week of moving we made sure to begin our compost area.  At the moment it is just a pile but we will be constructing bins to make it easier and more attractive.  A pile works well but we want it to be closer to the garden than it is now and this will be in full view of our little road so we want it to look a little more orderly than just a huge pile of steaming dirt. J  We place all of our vegetable waste, old animal bedding, and fallen leaves into the pile and we turn it a couple of times a week.  Our main problem is that this area is fireant friendly and they have found the compost pile. I am trying to be diligent to pour boiling water on the pile regularly to kill them or at least drive them out.  As the pile heats up this will help to get rid of them.

Within the next couple of months, along with the regular planting, weeding and hopefully harvesting of our garden, our goal is to add as much organic material to the soil as we can get our hands on.  Our own animals will produce a good deal of manure and old bedding to add, but we want to get into the woods and find plenty of leaf mold to add as well. Erinhas begun a small vermiculture box and is growing worms.  As this develops I would love to have this be a large part of our gardening plan because there is nothing better for the garden than those ooey gooey earthworms!!!  Be sure to check back often because from this point on we will be updating our gardening sections of the website often!


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Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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