Thursday, March 31, 2011

Garden 2011 - The Saga Continues...

The Homeschool Village is hosting Garden Challenge 2011 and even though I just posted about our garden, I decided to join the Challenge! I learned about it from WonderMom over at The Fantastic Five blog. Today is the first day of the challenge so there is still time to join in. To share your garden, or potted plants all you need to do is post these four things:

  • PHOTO — 1 current photo where you will be gardening (actual location)
  • PLANS – what you are/have/gonna plant – (seeds / starter plants / herbs)
  • RESOURCES — books, magazines, verses, unit study, etc.
  • INVOLVEMENT — homeschooler’s reaction / participation / anticipation

Some of this was covered in yesterday’s post, but I will recap that and add a little more information. Oh, in case you are new to my blog, there won't be just one photo! ~grin~

The area we will be gardening is a sloped area to the west of our house. We have had a smaller garden in the past, but tilled up more than twice as much ground this year. Our garden measures about 70 feet by 20 feet. We added composted cow manure and a little peat moss to enrich the soil. Our soil is very sandy and not nutrient rich.

About three years ago we planted our first heirloom tomatoes and found that they were much easier to grow than the hybrid tomatoes we had grown in the past. They taste much better too! Since then we have found Seed Savers and Botanical Interests and order most of our seeds from there. I love to find unusual varieties and I read the description on each seed packet before I buy so I can find varieties that can handle the heat and humidity here in East Texas.
Some of last years potatoes and sugar snaps (2010)

So far this year, we have planted 4 varieties of potatoes, sugar snap peas, 4 kinds of carrots, a couple of types of lettuce, red and yellow onions, and strawberries. Dad and Kirk set up this fencing for the sugar snaps to climb. Since the garden is reclaimed from a field of Coastal Bermuda it is very hard to control the ‘weeds’. If you try to pull up the little grass blades you will pull up your plants as well because they have underground runners. We weed carefully and try to wait for the plants to be well established. In another couple of years there will be much less invasive grass coming up in these rows (hopefully!)

We will be adding lots of tomatoes and peppers, watermelons, cantaloupe, yellow squash, zucchini, okra, beans, corn, pumpkins, and many more vegetables to our garden in the coming months. The weather has been so warm that I am very tempted to get those plants in the ground, but we always get one last little freeze right before Easter, so I am patiently, patiently waiting.

Picking potatoes last year (2010)
We don’t really use specific book studies as we garden since this is something we do each year, not just as a homeschooling project, but to feed our family. However, we have many educational resources. By far the favorite educational garden-related resource is the Texas Bug Book : The Good The Bad and The Ugly. This is where we turn to determine if our pests are beneficial or harmful. Unfortunately for me – those humongous spiders that love my garden also help protect my garden. We have learned which insects need to be water gunned off the plants and which will eat the ‘bad guy’ insects. My new favorite resource (by the same authors as the Texas Bug Book – J. Howard Garrett and C. Malcolm Beck) is Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening.
FRitW with his first Homely Homer tomato (2010)

The kids are very much a part of our garden each year. They participate from the first shovelful of dirt turned to the making of the Salsa and stir-fry. They are learning how to decide which varieties are good for our area, how to recognize a plant by its first leaves, how to control pests and encourage beneficial insects, and ways to use fresh produce. This year for a little added fun, we got each child a special plant. Dad and I were on a date at our local Atwoods (oh yes – we know how to have fun!) and found a ‘Homely Homer’ plant. We bought one last year and FRitW adopted it. He waited and waited for the tomato to ripen - so sure it would form a face like on the picture on the plant spike. He has been asking to plant another Homely Homer and yippee! – on this visit to Atwoods, Dad spotted a Homely Homer. Once it was in the cart, we decided it would be fun to look through the wide selection of 4 inch pots and find a plant to fit each of the other kids.
MT, lover of all things orange, got an Orange Oxheart tomato plant.
Maggie, currently in her purple phase, received a Lilac Bell Pepper.
We chose a World’s Hottest Pepper for Kirk because it just seemed to fit.

Our compost pile is another source of educational involvement. We are learning which scraps are good for creation of compost and watching the breakdown of plants, leaves, and food scraps as they become nutritious soil. All of the kids help with adding scraps, turning the pile, and watering it to maintain moisture.

Thanks for visiting my garden! Click here to visit other participants in the HSV Garden Challenge. I visited a few already and was pleasantly surprised to find a mixture of new gardeners and established gardeners.



April said...

Wow. I am in awe of your garden. I'll be following to learn from you.

Zonnah said...

I agree our compost pile is a great learning adventure as well :) Can't wait to see how your garden comes along.

Cheryl said...

Absolutely beautiful!! Looks like you have tons of room to grow. We love heirloom tomatoes too. We can never get enough Cherokee Purples Mmmmm. From the HSV Team thanks for linking up. The next garden challenge will be April 28 :)

Our Village is a Little Different said...

What a great garden! I grew up on an orchard/farm here in NY, (It's the best of both worlds beautiful country here, and the big city an hour away) and I love fresh grown fruits and veggies.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today! If you ever get a chance to visit NYC be sure to look me up! It's big, but it's an amazing place, and easy to get around.