My biggest goal for my homestead is to have an abundant vegetable garden. To make this a reality, I need have a plan in place to prepare my vegetable gardens. My soil is diverse and finicky on my five acres. The front yard soil is sandy and the rear is mainly rocks and clay. I have two vegetable garden beds that I am preparing to plant this spring. The lasagna gardening method is the least labor intensive for me, so I am continuing on with that method this growing season.
Both of my gardens were started from scratch by laying a thick layer of cardboard down and then adding layers of straw, compost, leaves and garden soil. You can also use a few layers of newspaper as the base. Don’t forget to water the base layer well before loading on the next layer. It will help it to break down. This is a great article about the Lasagna Garden Method. I do nearly all of my vegetable garden preparation during the winter months. Why? One reason and one reason only. Gnats. Once the warm weather hits in South Georgia, they will be flying up your nose and buzzing in your ears!
I have a garden in my front yard that measures 8 x 32 ft and the soil is probably the best on the property. It’s similar to smushed chocolate cake, but we have lots of flooding during storms on the south end of that garden. My rear garden is situated on rocky clay soil. It measures about the same size as the front garden. Two years ago after Hurricane Matthew, I threw a whole bunch of tree cuttings and pine logs on the south end of that garden. It has decomposed well and helped to amend that area. I added a layer of straw and leaves and it was planted with watermelons last year.
Shortly after moving here we constructed a compost bin out of old pallets. I keep a five-gallon bucket on the back porch to collect our kitchen scraps and every few days I dump this onto the main compost pile. The hens enjoy poking around down there which saves me from having to turn it myself. They are such great helpers! Recycling my coop litter and using fallen leaves and pine needles from my property is a great way to save money! I did spend some cash on a wire and metal post fence to go around the rear garden due to my hens love of anything I plant. They ate every single one of the watermelons I grew last year! If they can get to it, they will peck it to death!
Are you ready to get your vegetable gardens in shape for this upcoming growing season? Follow these easy steps and you will have an overflowing garden too!
PREPARE YOUR GARDEN:
CLEAR IT OUT!
Remove all old vegetation from last years garden if not done previously. Don’t forget to add them to the compost pile! We have a very long growing season here in Zone 8. I still had pepper plants and brussel sprouts growing in my front garden in December! They were getting pretty dismal so into the chicken coop they went for a little winter treat for the girls. Talk about the circle of life! One side of my front garden had been overrun by grass, so I chopped it all up, gave it a thorough raking and leveling. In early October, I added a layer of straw on top all my gardens to keep down weeds and add another layer to the “lasagna”.
GET YOUR SOIL TESTED!
I am guilty of not doing this! I am kind of a lazy homesteader. I like to try things and if they don’t work out, I try something else! Seriously though, understanding soil ph and how to amend your soil is super important in having a prosperous vegetable garden. Too much of one thing or too little of another can really wreak havoc on your wallet if you have purchased seedlings and they all die! You can purchase soil testing kids online or take it to your local Ag Center.
USE NATURAL ITEMS!
I am always looking for a way to save some money when gardening. I use leaves, pine straw, fallen branches, wood ash….anything that is on my property is fair game for soil amendments! Having a compost bin is a great way to save money and improve the quality of your garden soil. Keep in mind and educate yourself how these items affect your soil. Epsom salts are great in the garden! Do a little research and you will be amazed at what you have on hand to amend your soil without breaking the bank!
SET THE CHICKENS LOOSE!
About a week before I am ready to plant, I lower a section of my fence and let my hens in the garden. They do a great job of mixing everything together for free! After about a week, I close the fence up and kick the squatters out. Another quick rake through and leveling and a splash of compost and voila! I am ready to plant!
KEEP A GARDEN JOURNAL!
Since I am a haphazard gardener having a garden journal is helpful to me. It reminds me where vegetables did well and where I wasted my money! I have endless pictures drawn to assist me in companion planting my garden to improve production. There is so much to learn and these journals are invaluable to me in keeping track of all the information from growing season to growing season.
Homesteading is a journey…..learn a little bit every day!