“Large streams from little fountains flow. Tall oaks from little acorns grow.” ~David Everett
Folks are always amazed to see the VARIETY and AMOUNT of produce that we grow in our backyard garden. In a space that is just under 40 x 60 ft, we produce at least a TON of produce (based on actual measurements in Summer 2010). Not bad for less than 6/100ths of an acre, eh?
This year we are going to weigh our produce for an entire year instead of just the summer, starting from our first freeze date (which this year was November 1). I think we’ll easily pass a ton… perhaps two. Easily.
How do we grow so much food on such a tiny area? You’ve got to have a good base to start with, and we are incredibly lucky to have terrific soil.
The first time Pa Hubbard fired up the rototiller, we couldn’t believe our eyes.
I’ve gardened elsewhere in Appalachia, and in most other places I’ve had to deal with heavy clay. Our soil was a beautiful loam.
I soon realized that we would need to take extra precautions to preserve our soil. Though I’ve gardened in Appalachia my whole life, working on a hillside was new. It didn’t take many rains to realize that we could have problems with the traditional, widely spaced garden rows that we’d used before.
The first solution involved planting strawberries through the center of the garden, hoping an area with more permanent vegetation would slow the movement of water down the hillside.
The ultimate solution was to terrace the garden. No more ruts, and the stability of the soil improved greatly!
The addition of terraces opened up a whole new world for us! First, it drastically cut down on the need to use the rototiller.
Have you ever used a rototiller on a hillside? ‘Nuf said.
But limited tilling is also important to the health of your soil. With established raised beds, I need only use a spading fork to loosen the soil when a bed is finished with one crop, and I am ready to plant the next. I rotate crops in quick succession. In just one bed alone this year, there has been broccoli (spring), corn (summer), sugar snap peas (fall), and now greens (getting started for winter).
Another benefit of raised beds? Gardening under cover. About half of the garden is under landscape fabric/plastic at any given time. This drastically cuts down on the amount of time spent weeding (I do work full-time and have 2 toddlers after all!). It also allows us to use low tunnels to extend the seasons and grow food year-round.
An unexpected benefit of the terrace? When I work from the side that is downhill to a raised bed, I don’t have to bend over much at all! Weeding and harvesting become a breeze!
We do all of this using heirloom seed varieties and organic methods. There are few things more satisfying than being able to eat veggies as you pick them.
By growing the majority of the food we consume, I can ensure my family’s food safety, and we are one step closer to living sustainably. And it just feels good to be in the garden with them too!
I’ll be sharing more about my gardening methods throughout the blog. It is so much fun to grow food for your family, and you can do it too!