On The 'Stead

Let’s Get to Tillin’

After much diagramming, googling, hemming and hawing- it’s planting weekend! FINALLY we get to build out the garden we’ve been dreaming of.

Preparing our Plot

To get started, we needed to prepare our plot. We’ve got a few beds around the house and the barn that we’ll be using for herbs and flowers (which is my realm, lowest level of risk!), and a 40 x 26 plot for our vegetables. G constructed a quick-and-dirty deer fence out of netting and stakes, which I of course got caught in because I’ve got the grace of a drunk doe apparently. Once we have a better sense of our needs for the year, we’ll replace this with a more stable fence.

The first step was tilling the ground up; ripping up all the grace and turning over the soil so that we could plant. We don’t have a tiller and didn’t really want to pay for one. I flexed a little ‘millenial-muscle’ and went to NextDoor. If you haven’t signed up for NextDoor in your area, I’d highly recommend it. While it wasn’t super helpful when we lived in the city, (there are only so many posts about passive aggressive parking that I can take), it’s been great out here. There was a woman who just happened to have a tiller but couldn’t use it herself.

*Enter Brawny Husband*

By helping out a neighbor we were able to also save money by borrowing the tiller for a few hours. Now we have a tilled yard and she has a bearded adonis she can call whenever she needs free labor. I might be technically farming husband out for favors, but I’m not going to look too closely at that.

Since we both have full time jobs and I’m a full time student- our weekends are sacred to us. Not only because it’s the only time we get to spend together while conscious and not drooling into our pillows, but also because it’s when we get the vast majority of house projects done. So if there’s monsoon coming, guess what? We’re still tilling!

Ok.. I use the term ‘we’ very loosely. G tilled, I did laundry. We all have our strengths.

Plant shopping

Once G finished up, (and of course the sun came out 10 minutes later), we hopped into the truck to go pick up flowers. After a quick stop for milkshakes and burgers, (because we’re grown ups), we got to stroll through rows and rows of flowers and veggies at Jack’s Nursery.

While we had a plan.. We all know what happens with plans. G tried very hard to keep me on track, but I inevitably went rogue. We had a giant cart that I kept piling high with flowers that would die IMMEDIATELY in our yard, so G spent half his time carefully selecting veggies and the other half unloading roses and azaleias I had stacked up (I already have a dozen of each).

There was also a lot of G gently trying to teach me more about plants. There were more than one conversation that went something like this:

G- ‘We have to be careful about where we plant the broccoli, it won’t do well with all the tomatoes,”

Me- “Well, duh! Everyone knows that!”

(I definitely did not know that)

On being clueless..

Whenever I tell someone about this homesteading project, people cock their head and ask, “do you know anything about farming? Aren’t you from Brooklyn?”

To be fair- both of these points are 100% correct. However, G did grow up on a farm and is basically the guy you want on your team if the zombie apocalypse ever rolls around. So while I’m trying to absorb all of the information I can through books, blogs, informational interviews with local farmers- he knows things by instinct that I just.. don’t.

Trips like these are great for me in terms of learning new things, but also to appreciate all the things about my husband I wouldn’t know if we were still living in a studio apartment on Hoboken. For example, the man loves forsythia. We now have a dozen forsythia plants.

By the end of the day we came home with the truck loaded up with:

  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas
  • Onion
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Beans
  • Shallots
  • Garlic
  • Radishes
  • Eggplant
  • Arugula
  • Lettuce

As we planted, I picked up some pretty interesting tricks from G aka Farmer MacGregor. For example:

  • When planting tomatoes, toss in some of the ashes you have from the woodstove to provide additional nitrogen
  • When planting a seedling, rip a tiny piece of newspaper and wrap it right around the bottom of the plant, burying a bit to keep it in place. This will provide enough stability for the young plant- as well as reading material for those slow days- and when the plant is big enough, the newspaper will simply decompose
  • Certain plants pair well- for example carrots and tomatoes grow well when next to each other. Maybe why some of us put carrots in our marinara?! Nah.
  • Shockingly- Potatoes and onions? Not good neighbors!

While the vegetable plot is at the farther end of the property, we decided to put herbs and fruits a bit closer. I cleared out the wall on the east side of the barn which gets maybe 60-70% of the sun for our herb garden and planted:

  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Catnip (couldn’t help myself)
  • Beebalm

And added some succulents like hens and chicks around the rocky bits to cover. To clear out this plot I needed to move some hostos out, which are now happily under a tree in a sunnier spot.

While I felt really accomplished after we finally put down our shovels, (and popped champagne as one does), it also made me realize just how much work this is going to be. Immediately we saw squirrels starting to eye the garden and I swear I saw weeds growing before my eyes. But as I stretched and realized this was the best workout I’d had in weeks (THANKS SCIATICA), I figured out that I’m actually really looking forward to the work…

— well let’s see if I feel that way in the morning.