We just purchased our first home in a small, quaint and charming little town in northern Wisconsin. Let the fun begin! While raising our six blessings, we are going to attempt to revitalize our cozy Dutch Colonial Revival home. Follow along and see what we learn, discover, and overcome in the process. It is sure to be a houseful of laughs!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Back to Eden Garden

Things have been really busy in the Fuller household the past few weeks. Sometimes, I don't know which way is up! We have so many projects that we have been juggling lately. With that being said, I am happy to announce that our garden is finally planted!

This project actually started several months ago for us. I had read about a new gardening method on a homesteading site (homesteadcommunitypost.ning.com) that referenced a movie that anyone could watch online for free titled Back to Eden. I had never really had a family-sustaining garden as an adult and to be honest, I did not pay all that much attention to it as a child. So I watched the movie at backtoedenfilm.com. Let me tell you, everyone should watch this film! I really like that it offers a Biblical approach to gardening and raises some really valid points, while simultaneously teaching how to garden a more natural and organic way. And thus started our Back to Eden garden journey.

I measured out the area that we were going to use for the garden. My husband likes to give me a hard time since he claims that I am taking over half the backyard. The area is fairly large and measures (without taking into account the shed) roughly 60' x 30'. Or a little less than 1,800 square feet. Needless to say, by town standards, I guess it is considered to be a large garden. But then again, I have a lot of mouths to feed, so I think that the end result is a bit too small.

Anyway, after watching the film, I made a plan for how I wanted our garden to be layed out. Here is a picture of it for you. The indented area on the right is where our garden shed is located. We were not able to follow this plan exactly for a few reasons, one of which is the huge stump right where my tomatoes were supposed to be planted. This is the stump from the huge silver maple that we had taken down earlier this spring.

So after I came up with this beautiful plan, I ordered my seeds from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds company located in Mansfield, Missouri. I wanted to use heirloom or open-pollinated seeds and to avoid as much as possible any genetically modified seeds. I am hoping to learn how to save seeds from this years crops to replant next year...but first, we have to see if this year worked or not!

I bought 4 starter trays that held 72 "pellets" each. This was a mistake, I think. Not so much the attempt to start the seeds, but the method I used. These pellets never seemed to get soft enough to plant the seeds deep enough, so they grew really quick but were very shallow and spindly. Most of my first batch died and I had to try again a week before Memorial Day. Not good. :-( Thankfully, I found a video on YouTube that shows a much better method for starting seeds and I am going to try that approach next year.

To implement our Back to Eden garden, we needed a few supplies including newspapers, composted soil and wood chips. Because we had cut down two trees on our property and our neighbors had also cut down two trees, we had plenty of wood chips. These wood chips are all different sizes and range from the larger stick and chunks to an almost sawdust size. Exactly what we needed. But that was all we had.

I checked with our local newspaper, the Marion Advertiser, and was able to get some bundles of extras from them. This was perfect! Our little paper usually averages 4 pages (full size) and we needed to have 4 layers. Because this approach is a no-till method, we needed to use the newspaper to cover the grass in the backyard. We dug out most of the weeds and other plants that we thought might be problematic. The newspaper will break down over time and kill the grass, adding more nutrients to the soil. So now we had the wood chips and the newspapers, but we needed composted soil...and a lot of it!

I called a landscaping company about an hour from our home. They had some really nice composted soil that had been sitting for a year. Unfortunately, they wanted $35 per yard, and they calculated that to cover our garden area with soil at least 4 inches thick, we would need 22 yards. That meant spending over $700 for soil, plus delivery. Way too expensive for our budget. I did not know what we were going to do.

In the meantime, we began researching the cost to put a temporary garden fence up. We are planning on installing a privacy fence and had hoped to have it in before the garden, but due to a variety of factors, it has been delayed, so we needed something to get us through this first year. While researching, I noticed that composted soil, enough to cover 1 square foot, cost about $2 per bag. We initially thought that we would need approximately 3 bags per yard, and 66 bags for 22. So, for about $130, we could finish the garden. So off my dear husband went to Lowes, which is located about an hour away.

While there, he saw that they were selling Timberline Organic Composted Soil made with cow manure for $1.76 per bag. We agreed that this fit the bill and he bought 20 bags. Keep in mind, each bag weighs 40 pounds, and we have a 4-door sedan! We did not want to overload the car. Once he arrived back home, we began to lay out the garden.

To keep it manageable, we measured an 11' x 6' area and layed out the newspapers, 4 pages thick. We then spread out the composted soil. I am not sure where, or how, but we somehow miscalculated how many bags we would need, because we used all 20 bags for that one section! We had to in order to get the soil 4 inches thick. Once the soil was down, we covered the area with wood chips, about 4 to 6 inches deep. We could do no more until my husband went to get more soil. This continued until we borrowed a friend's jeep. We ended up purchasing 260 bags of soil to lay out a majority of our garden. We spent almost $500 on dirt! But it was still cheaper than what we had been quoted by the landscaping company, so we thought we did pretty good. Here are some photos that I took after we finished planting:

Looking across the garden, with the shed behind me.

Most of this section contains our sweet corn...and the stump.

View from the top of the garden looking towards the garage.

Our little watermelon patch.
Here is how we actually planted the garden...

Overall, I am pleased that I was able to plant everything I wanted and a few things that I had not planned on in a much smaller area. My husband still thinks that the garden is huge. Now, I just pray that God will bless it and help it all to produce abundantly.

So, what all did we plant? Here is the list of what we planted, by type, moving accross the garden from left to right, and top to bottom. At the end, I will cover what I have planted along the fence, shed and the watermelon patch. In some cases, such as the tomatoes, I have indicated how many plants we planted (yes, we planted 102 tomato plants) and for each type, where the seeds or plants came from, just in case you might be interested. I have also added a Food Preservation page to our site to keep track of everything we manage to put away for the winter, so stay tuned to follow our progress with this new, Back to Eden gardening methed!

Row 1
Iceberg Lettuce (Baker Creek)
Giant Noble Spinach (Baker Creek)
European Mesclun Salad (Baker Creek)

Row 2
Catskill Brussels Sprouts (Baker Creek)
Emerald Giant Peppers (Baker Creek)
Coronado Crown Broccoli (local Amish greenhouse)

Row 3
Radish Giant of Sicily (Baker Creek)
Big Bertha Green Peppers (local Amish greenhouse)
Giant of Naples Cauliflower (Baker Creek)
Calabrese Green Sprouting Broccoli (Baker Creek)

Row 4
Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot (Baker Creek)
Alisa Craig Vidalia Onions (local Amish greenhouse)
1-Zucchini (local Amish greenhouse)

Row 5
Yellow of Parma Onion (Baker Creek)
Violet de Galmi Onion (Baker Creek)

Row 6
Stonehead Cabbage (local Amish greenhouse)
Red Acre Cabbage (local Amish greenhouse)
Tete Noire Cabbage (Baker Creek)
Brunswick Cabbage (Baker Creek)

Row 7
8-Amish Paste Tomatoes (local Amish greenhouse)
8-Roma Tomatoes (local Amish greenhouse)

Row 8
16-Brandywine Tomatoes (local Amish greenhouse)

Row 9
4-Celebrity Tomaotes (local Amish greenhouse)
4-Burpee Delicisous Tomatoes (local Amish greenhouse)
8-Tomato Homestead (Baker Creek)

Row 10
18-Watermelon Beefsteak Tomatoes (Baker Creek)

Row 11
18-Thessaloniki Tomatoes (Baker Creek)

Row 12 - The Herbs
Balm Lemon Basil (given to me)
Sweet Basil (given to me)
Chives (Baker Creek)
Cilantro (given to me)
Herb Dill Bouquet (Baker Creek)
Thai Dill (Baker Creek)
Oregeno (given to me)
Giant of Italy Parsley (Baker Creek)
Italian Parsley (given to me)
Rosemary (given to me)
Thyme (given to me)

Row 13
Tendercrisp Celery (Baker Creek)
Butternut-Waltham Squash (Baker Creek)

Rows 14-16
Stowell's Evergreen Sweet Corn (Baker Creek)

Row 17 - Alongside the Shed
Mary Washington Asparagus (Baker Creek)

Above Rows 1-6 and 13-16 Alongside the Fence & Beyond
Rows 1-6: Old Homestead Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans (Baker Creek)
Rows 13-16: Tall Telephone Garden Pea (Baker Creek)
Rows 13-16: Garden Berry Red Wonder Wild Strawberry (Baker Creek)
Rows 13-16: Parisian Pickling Cucmber (Baker Creek)

Below Rows 13-16 Alongside the Fence
18-Fox Cherry Tomatoes (Baker Creek)
Red Cherry Tomatoes (given to me)

Behind the Shed - Watermelon Patch
Sugar Baby Watermelons (Baker Creek)

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