Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Battle of the Carrots

Gardening is a relatively new passion for me. Growing up, you would have to force me to go outside, and don't even try to talk me into putting my hands in the dirt. In my mind, gardens were big and required a lot of work, and I was simply lazy.

That all changed when a new roommate moved in. M.E. kept a small container garden with vegetables and herbs, and I found it interesting to watch the plants grow even though she didn't put a lot of work into it. She explained a lot about what plants do well in our area and what pretty much grows on its own. With a Master's in Nutrition, M.E. knew the science behind why homegrown food tastes better and is much healthier.

So with M.E.'s help, I started adding to the container garden. I started with lettuce, spinach, and kale that first season and was hooked. I loved watching something start as just a tiny little seed and grow into a plant that I ate on for weeks/months. I quickly became one of those people who talk about gardening, read about gardening, subscribe to videos and podcasts about gardening... My family was shocked. Surely, I wasn't the same girl who would scream if I accidentally touched a worm.

The next season, I set up a 4' x 12' raised bed vegetable garden. Being extremely sensitive to the slightest floral fragrance, I mainly stick to vegetables and some herbs. I continued with my lettuce, spinach, and kale, and added a few other cool weather plants, like carrots and broccoli. My broccoli did AMAZING. It was huge, and it was the best broccoli I had ever tasted. I never would have imagined broccoli being sweet!

The carrots, however, ended up stolen by the neighborhood rabbits. Oh well, maybe next year.

The following Spring, I tried to get as much out of my little garden as I could, so I built a little trellis to grow cucumbers on and put lettuce underneath to grow in the cucumber plant's shade.

I put in two different types of tomato plants and what I thought were bell pepper plants, but turned out to be banana peppers. I sewed a 4' x 4' section of carrots because I was determined to get some this year.

I loved looking out my back door and seeing my pretty little garden. There were more cherry tomatoes than I knew what to do with. The lettuce was absolutely beautiful; though, I should have planted more.

The cucumber vines growing up the trellis were my favorite part. That is until I actually tried to eat the cucumbers. I had done my research and found a variety of slicing cucumbers, which was exactly what I wanted. These, however, never turned dark green and were bitter. I kept harvesting them just for practice for the next year, but I wasn't actually able to eat even one cucumber.

And the carrots... Every time they would start to push out of the soil, the birds ate them. For a second season, no carrots.

I had planned to do a Fall garden again since the broccoli was so amazing the year before, but I ended up getting sick in late Summer 2016 and have basically been sick at least one week a month ever since. On top of being sick, I got a promotion at work, so I have been working more and feeling worse. Something had to give, and it ended up being the garden. I still dreamt about growing more vegetables, though.

Actually, the more stressful my job gets, the more my goals and dreams move toward leaving the city, starting a farm, and getting into the whole homesteading thing. But the left side of my brain keeps telling me that all of that takes time, so I can't just quit my job to go grow lettuce. Not yet, at least.

Here we are now at the beginning of 2017. I've been home sick for the past week, so it is becoming more apparent that living a healthier life is going to have to move up on the priority list. The best way I can think to do that is to get back to my garden. I need it to be much bigger, though, if I'm going to try to use it for at least most of my diet.

There are so many things I want to grow; things I love, things I buy a lot, and things I never liked as a child because maybe homegrown tastes better. Creating a large garden takes a lot of planning, though. How will it be laid out to be functional and get the highest yield without taking up my entire yard? How will I keep the rabbits and birds away from my carrots? What can I grow an excess of and can or freeze to use throughout the winter? Can I do it all organic? How much will all this cost?

My biggest issue, though: If I plan to eventually move out of the city, will setting up a large vegetable garden in my backyard lower my property value and make it harder to sell?

I've been going back and forth with this issue for months. I'm still not 100% settled one way or another. I don't know what the best option is, so I sit here with my stack of gardening books staring out my window hoping for some sort of epiphany. And carrots.

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