Our garden is under snow.
It looks dead, and much of it is . . . at least on the surface.
But there is life beneath the frostbitten vines and frozen decay.
It may look like a beast of a hibernating thing . . .
but beneath the frost layer, the garden is teeming with summer in miniature.
The soil is breathing beneath a protective duvet of sugar snow.
She is resting, yet still growing.
Microbes never fully stop, and neither do we . . .
the ones who like to get our hands dirty in the miraculous mess of it all.
As the soil prepares for another year of bounty, so do the gardeners.
Planning, preparing, dreaming by the fire.
We may look cozy and complacent.
But just like the soil, our minds are sprightly below a blanket of winter calm.
Up here in the frigid mountainous north of Montana, the temperatures haven’t come up for breath above that 32-degree Fahrenheit mark for a few weeks now. It has made for a lot of indoor days and plenty of time to reflect.
We’ve been dreaming green, thinking about this past year’s garden and envisioning what’s next. Lists are often involved —what we won’t be doing again, what we will, what we’d love to build. Sometimes sketches come in to play. Hot beverages and a roaring fire are a given.
In all this warm reflection, I’ve isolated five decisions we made this first growing season on our little budding homestead that made all the difference for us. I’m honored to share them with you, for this is how we grow together. Our gardens can get better each year, even during hibernation! 🙂
Five Gardening Decisions that made ALL THE DIFFERENCE for our first growing season on the homestead:
*This post includes affiliate links. Please note, I only ever promote products that I use and truly love.
1.) Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Rare seeds indeed.
Every plant in our garden this year we grew directly from seed. That’s a pretty big deal to me. In previous years, our pre-homestead gardens have been comprised of mostly plants bought from nurseries, so I was really nervous to give growing everything directly from seed a shot. The results were better than I could have ever hoped, and most of that I believe to be because nearly all our seeds were Baker Creek varieties.
It may sound too fantastic to be true, but Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds sprouted for me at a near 100% success rate. It blows my mind as much as it may yours. I even did a head-to-head sprouting test of Baker Creek seeds against seeds of the same type (ie. sunflower versus sunflower) from more generic, get-them-anywhere-seeds and the results were staggering —often a 50% or lower sprouting success rate for the competing seeds. And that’s just the beginning. Add to the sprouting spunk of Baker Creek the fact that these are heirloom seeds, each variety more beautiful and tempting than the next, and well . . . I’m sold.
Sure, these heirloom packets may be slightly more expensive than the more household name seed companies, but when you factor in a nearly double sprouting success, the price point gap is more than bridged. And that’s before color comes into play.
I get nothing for recommending these seeds other than the deep satisfaction of knowing I’m spreading a really, really good thing. But, hey! If Baker Creek peeps are reading this, it’s time to start an affiliate program! 😆
Join me in my heirloom addiction! Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com)
2.) Raised Birdies Beds
Where to start. After a ton of research, price versus value comparisons, and lots of measuring and re-measuring, we chose Raised Birdies Beds as the framework for our homestead garden and we could not be happier with the results!
You really do get what you pay for, and Birdies are no exception. The product, the customer service, the perks . . . these are the ultimate dream raised beds for serious gardeners! We purchased 12 of the largest size and filled them with 7 pampered layers of ingredients. (Stay tuned for those details soon!)
A few of our favorite things about Birdies:
- Australian made, and sold by a US distributor
- amazing, direct customer service
- long-lasting, sturdy material
- a visually stunning product
- indulgent growing height (no back-breaking work!)
- critter resistant
- weather resistant
With how much we love these raised beds, I just had to pass on this awesome news! Epic Gardening is hosting their first ever Epic Black Friday Sale this week and it’s pretty unbeetable 😆 !
Here’s all the dirty details, plus my exclusive promo code:
ONLY Sunday November 20th through Monday November 28th . . . spend $500 and get $100 gift card!
- Use this link: https://lets.growepic.co/818
- DON’T FORGET to use this exclusive code: CANDACE-BLACKFRIDAY5 for 5% off your order!
3.) The Square Foot Gardening Method
We were somewhat skeptical to begin with, but we are so glad we gave the “square-foot gardening method” a go. True to the claims, you really can get more than twice the yield for the space if you prepare your soil properly and companion plant strategically. We were thrilled with the harvest we were able to get out of our set of twelve Raised Birdies Beds. Our harvest would have been halved at least if we had planted our veggies according to more traditional methods such as the same crop in rows.
In the one bed pictured above we grew:
- 3 heirloom tomato
- 1 tomatillo
- 4 marigold
- 1 bell pepper
- 8 lettuce
- 8 onion
Yes, some of us have to “re-learn gardening” in order to adopt this method. I grew up sowing seeds in neat little rows and it’s hard to break away from that grid. But the prospect of reaping double the harvest or more for the space is worth muscling through the learning curve. And, actually, the method is really very simple. Once you get started in it, it’s very easy. I highly recommend this method to anyone with limited space, raised beds, or who hates either waste or weeding.
If you’re interested in square foot gardening, these two books are a must:
4.) Heavy-Duty Wire Trellis Tunnels
In my previous post, 🌻Everything we did our FIRST SUMMER on the Homestead🦗, I wrote this about these trellises:
“These trellis tunnels we made from extra heavyweight wire precut to size, bent into submission, and then wedged between our already assembled and filled Birdies Beds. I think these trellises made perhaps the biggest impact in our garden this first year. Not only are they just beautiful when covered in vining produce, but they provide fantastic support and space for tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash to really go wild! Oh, and they are simply magical for a kid-friendly garden.”
If you have raised beds (or plan to), setting up wire trellises between them is such a great way to maximize space and give your garden a splash of enchantment!
5.) Yes to DRIP!
This was a hard decision for me. I don’t easily drop 400 bucks. But after a month spent watering for more than an hour average per day, we decided it was time to invest. I actually love watering on warm summer evenings —standing passively in the garden glow. But I don’t like having to choose between watering the garden and making dinner. Our family needed a break.
Adding a drip system turned out to be one of the best decisions we made on our homestead this first year. My hubby ran drip lines to all of our raised beds, as well as to all of our fruit trees and berries. To water, all I have to do is turn on the main hose in front of our house and hand water my herb garden. We’re talking from sixty to five.
By August, my hubby and I were actually able to SIT in our garden and watch the kids play on their Skyfort. That’s us living our homestead dream.
Thanks so much for reading!
Keep dreaming green, my friends 🙂