Today I am interviewing Kim. Kim is the author of her blog Mothering with Mindfulness, one of the many things I admire with her is that she is an avid gardener. Personally I am very inspired by her images and what she writes about her vegetable garden.
In the past I have had trouble keeping up with all my weeds in my organic garden, the soil wasn't right either- it all became so overwhelming I eventually gave up. Last year reading Kim's blog and seeing images of her garden and her abundant harvest I thought I would give it another try.
I want to be a Garden Guru.
Following alongside Kim this year I'll be showing my progress and results with my garden here in Montana.
This will be a 4 part series,
1. Preparation & planning a garden. Tools, cold frames, where to buy and how to start seeds.
2. Planting seeds, propagation, getting down and dirty, watering, fertilizer, setting up the garden
3. How does your garden grow? Enjoying the garden, seeing the progress, weed prevention
4. Harvest, extending the garden, canning, storage, planning for next year, thoughts
When did you start gardening and why?
I began the moment I moved out of my parent’s home, at 23. I had just gotten married, and we were in our first basement apartment. I didn’t have garden space, so I planted everything in pots and found a sunny spot in the homeowner’s backyard, and the rest, as they say, is history.
How did you learn to garden, what resources did you have, books, online, teacher?
Honestly, trial and error. I planted seeds, they sprouted and grew. I picked up seedlings from the garden center, some were successful, and some were not. When I had questions I visited the garden center and asked. I guess I was lucky to find some very passionate people who were willing to answer my questions.
Since those first few years of trial and error there have been lots of reading, lots of chatting with local organic farmers, and a lot more experimenting. For me it is all about the process, the end product is lovely, but I love the process, the journey that gets me there. I am willing to have a few failures here and there; it is how I learn, and how each year my garden grows a little bit better than the year before.
I can’t stress enough how helpful the farmers are at the farmer’s market. Not only do they love answering questions, but by being there in person, chatting with them, you can see the passion in their eyes, and feel it in their soul. It is one thing to read about gardening in a book, but to stand talking with someone who makes a living growing food, that is where my best learning has taken place.
Is it a lot of work - is it worth the effort?
Yes and no. When I first started gardening, my little potted backyard garden was not a lot of work, and it was a pleasure. Two years later, we moved into our current home, and then the real work began. We have lived in our home for 18 years now but in the beginning we were starting from scratch. Over the years there has been lots of digging, lots of ideas brought to fruition, and lots of food grown. Some years take more effort than others, but no matter what, the moment you bite into the first sun warmed ripe tomato, you know it was worth it.
What are things you grow, what are your favorites?
Over the years we have grown a little bit of everything. In the last few years we have really streamlined what we grow. Growing what we know grows well, and what we eat a lot of. Typically we grow kale, Swiss chard, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, beets, salad greens, beans, peas, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries, garlic and herbs. I grow herbs for both cooking and for making medicine with. Favorites that is a hard one, I think I might have to say my medicinal herbs because I know how wonderful they are, and the act of making our own medicine from the plants we grow feels pretty good. Close runner ups would be kale and tomatoes J
When do you start to prepare and what do you need to start?
I start preparing as the summer garden is coming to a close. The soil gets worked over a little bit, compost added, maybe some manure, and I start dreaming of next year. I draw up plans in the late summer, noting where everything was planted during the current summer and where I will move it to the next summer. I make notes of what grew well, and what didn’t, I might research reasons why something didn’t grow well, or ask local farmers at the market how their crops were and ask them questions if I have them. The final step is giving the gardens a cover with leaves, before the snow falls.
Last summer was a little different as I tried out fall and winter gardening. So as I was putting some beds to sleep, others were being nurtured, growing us a little bit of food in a cold frame and in two low tunnels.
And of course in late winter the seed catalogs start to arrive in the mail and the dreaming and the lists of seeds to purchase begins.
Is your garden organic - if so what makes this work, any tips for replacing pesticides?
Yes, in that we grow from organic, non GMO seeds. The key is good soil that is where it all starts. Take care of the soil, and your plants will grow. After that you have to worry about bugs, and for the most part that is paying attention, watching your plants, and hand picking bugs as they start to show up. Last summer we did use row covers to protect our kale from cabbage moths who like to lay their eggs on the kale leaves, once they hatch, the caterpillars eat the kale. It worked well, and is something we will do again this year. We have also started to use diatomaceous earth, here and there in the garden with success.
What do love the most about gardening.
Oh goodness, the whole process. The magic of planting a little seed, watching it sprout, nurturing it, and then having it nourish our bodies. It is amazing, and never gets old.
How difficult is it to begin, to become successful?
To begin…not difficult at all. Find yourself a little plot of land you can prepare, or use some pots, nurture the soil, and then plant some seeds. Water, tend, watch it grow, and repeat. And finally eat. It really is easy. I guess I might suggest starting small, little steps to start, and then keep adding as you go along. Success is in the eye of the beholder. Some people feel successful growing a handful of tomatoes, others feel successful when they have grown a ton of food and put it by for the winter ahead. It is all relative. I think the most important part is to enjoy the process, if you do that, then in my books you are successful.
Do you draw out a plan for your garden?
Yes, just a basic one. I draw in the beds, and the areas where we grow good, and then start putting in what foods we will grow where.
I noticed you use garden boxes, why? Why not directly in the earth?
The raised beds…yes, we use them, and have for three, or is it four years now? It was an experiment at first. We started with a few raised beds, as we had heard that it worked well. I also really liked the clean look of them. Our gardens are placed around our yard, and so I wanted something that was aesthetically pleasing, but also functional and raised beds were it. They were very successful, and the following summer we converted all our beds to raised beds.
Any tips on tools?
None. All of my tools, even my wheel barrel, have come from my father in law who picked them up at auctions and estate sales. I love working with them. Each time I pick them up I feel a connection to the past, to another person who spent time in their garden, tending, nurturing and dreaming. That connection means a lot to me.
Does your son Reece help with gardening. Any tasks that are easy and helpful that kids can do?
Yes, he loves spending time in the garden. He actually has his own garden that he decides what to grow, and then tends it himself. His favorite things to grow are green beans, tomatoes, strawberries, and eggplant. He also loves to have some flowers in his garden.
Watering is a fun task for kids, and always ends up with giggles around here, and a few wet people. Reece isn’t particularly fond of weeding, but I do know some children who enjoy that. Harvesting is probably his most favorite task, whether that means sneaking ripe strawberries from the garden, or helping me on harvesting day bringing in baskets full of green beans and cucumbers.
Do you start from seed? How do start them, where do you buy them?
I do start some things from seed, but only those I can direct seed into the garden. Things like kale, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, peas, green beans, squashes, and cucumbers. Tomatoes I buy from a friend who is an organic gardener. We unfortunately live in a very small home, and just don’t have the room for an indoor growing space. There are hopes, maybe one day, of a greenhouse, but that is way into the future at the moment.
I have a few places I pick up seeds from. Most of my seeds come from a local spot, The Cottage Gardener, but I also order from Baker Creek Seeds, West Coast Seeds, Veseys and Cubits Organics. My herbs come from Ritcher’s Herbs, also local to where I live.
Cottage Gardner - http://www.cottagegardener.com/
Cubits Organics - http://cubitsorganics.com/
Baker Creek Seeds - http://www.rareseeds.com/
West Coast Seeds - https://www.westcoastseeds.com/
Veseys - http://www.veseys.com/ca/en/
Ritcher’s Herbs - https://www.richters.com/
How do you plant them, where and how to do you care for them?
That is different for each seed. Seed packets will tell you when to plant based on frost dates, and how deep. They will also give you other bits of information such as how far apart to plant, when to thin, and how much sun.
Lastly any books, websites or other informative resources?
There are lots of books out there, and I am sure they all provide wonderful information. There are a few I have on my bookshelves so I will share those with you.
Creating Your Own Backyard Farm by Nicki Trench
The Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour
Good Bugs, Bad Bugs, Who’s Who, What They Do and How to Manage them Organically by Jessica Walliser
The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan
What’s Wrong with my Vegetable Garden by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth
I wish I had a list of website resources, but honestly I am a book person, I like the printed material in my hands, and don’t do much internet reading. And as I mentioned above, I often seek out advice at the farmer’s market, from those who have the knowledge and experience, and are willing to share it with me.
You might also want to check out this lovely e-book, Farm to Table, that I was part of a few years ago; it offers some wonderful information and recipes.
Thank you so much for shedding some light on gardening and giving us some tips an insight. It has been very informative and encouraging. I really look forward to digging in and getting my hands dirty.