Somerset, Somerset County, New Jersey
Gardens are on the rise in the Garden State, amid the Pandemic, with home-growing becoming the more viable option. No one ever expects the occurrence of a Pandemic that will not only change our everyday lives, but more importantly, how and if you will be able to feed your family. These days with Prepping Culture and Survivalism becoming the ever-growing norm, we as many, personally make it a point to have rations tucked away for unexpected situations, such as a blackout, or inclement weather that may prevent travel to the local market, but it is always with the notion that it will be short-lived.
Observing nearly every consumable commodity become depleted and the cost of scarce goods skyrocket to exorbitant prices, has really put things into perspective for many. Although we have been blessed to make it through this calamity comfortably, we still found ourselves asking those harrowing questions, "If the high point of Pandemic had stretched months longer, would we have been able to survive on what we had"?
These unprecedented times have definitely encouraged us to better prepare for unforeseen future events more autonomously. With the vast array of methods today for preserving and storing highly expiratory foods like bread, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables, such as canning, jarring, drying, freezing and freeze-drying, home-growing to amass for the unexpected is becoming the more reliable route and most cost-effective option out there. In turn, the home-growing trend has allowed markets to conserve their goods for those who may be unable to home-grow.
Building Our Garden
Having a garden was not a new concept for us, as we have had a small garden for several years now, but revamping it to be structurally suitable for mass growing was indeed a venturesome task. Normally we would fill our garden with just a few of our favorite select herbs and vegetables, as Gardening was deemed just the casual springtime hobby, in which we would simply purchase ready-to-go greens in plant-form, in opposed to starting from scratch with seeds and parenting seedlings.
The end result of our hobby harvest is generally very small (lasting a mere 2 to 4 months) and most of which was completely consumed by the fall with our family of four. These eye-opening times have encouraged us to expand our gardening efforts so that we may have fresh fruit, herbs, and veggies abundant throughout the year, and no longer as the just the mere seasonal leisure pursuit.
We began by overhauling our 8 ft. wide by 10 ft. long garden and expanding it to 15 ft. wide by 36 ft. long. We raised the ground a few feet, graded it off, filled it with Upright grown compost and tilled the ground 2 feet down. To reinforce our garden and further secure our harvest, we installed 2 x 2's (cemented 1 1/2 feet down) around the perimeter of the garden and installed 1 layer of 12 foot deer fencing (1 foot of the fencing is in the ground to deter garden moles and gophers from tunneling), followed by an outer layer of 4ft chicken fencing, as we reside in a doe-eyed deer and furry-friend zone.
Constructing Raised Boxes
While our fluffy newly composted ground is the ideal panting ground for just about anything, we went ahead and built (2) 1 1/2 ft. high x 4 ft. wide x 8 ft. long. raised beds for optimal growth of certain root vegetables likes Beets, Carrots and Potatoes, and I must say it was easier to build than you would think.
While Cedar is always the best choice (as it is naturally rot deterrent), it can become quite costly. As an alternative you can substitute Cedar for a more cost-effective option like Douglas Fir and prevent rot by coating it with Linseed Oil. Not only does the oil seal the wood to prevent rot, but it really brings out the woods natural color.
Planting the Garden
Finally we were ready to begin planting! As mentioned before, we were keen on taking the quickest route possible, which was to vegetate from plant-form, but due to the current life altering event, decided it was best to utilize the more cost-effective approach of all seeds.
As we naturally start gardening early on, we had already begun very slow-growing plants indoors during the winter and others the end-of-winter to early-spring. Following transplanting our in-home seedlings and plants to ground, the only thing left to do was to sow the remainder of our swift growing fruit and veggie seeds into our new garden. Most seedlings can be started indoors and managed in containers and/or flats, then transplanted to ground later, while other temperamental plants seems to thrive best when planted directly in the ground.
Shown in the garden plan below is the abundance of Fruits and Vegetables we were able to plant! To keep the garden fun, as well as to attract bees to pollinate the flowering fruit, we planted Mammoth Sun Flowers (one of my favorites) throughout the garden. Also to provide shade for partial-sun plants like herbs, we placed corn stalks around fully sun-exposed areas to protect them from sunburn.
In the Fall, the use of inorganic mulch and the placing of black plastic and tarps over the garden will serve as a suitable winter ground-cover, to keep the garden and beds weed-free! Starting a garden can be a daunting task, as knowing when to begin planting seeds, transplanting seedlings and configuring crop rotation can become quit a time-consuming process, as well as confusing. Worry not because The Old Farmers Almanac's Garden Planner is the ideal Gardening software for beginners and is our go to platform for maintaining our own personal garden. Having entered and saved our garden design in the Garden Planner, fall crop rotation will be made easy.
Checkout The Basics of Home-Growing