When you want to be creative--you go to the garden and plant.
When you want some good exercise--you go to the garden and weed.
When you want to unwind--you stroll through the garden and smell the roses.
When you want a delicious meal--you go to the garden and harvest the vegetables and herbs fresh off the vine, out of the dirt, or off of the plant.
Our garden began as a dream, and sometimes dreams come true. In 2008, Mom and I got very sick. We borrowed a few English Garden videos from the library to "entertain" us while we laid around. We also borrowed some ornamental garden books. Soon our brains were spinning with ideas. We had dreamed of putting a raised bed garden in the back yard, but decided to experiment in the garden first. Now that it is well established and the bug population can be pretty high, we think that the back forty garden plot is a good place to keep our garden. Anyway, we got out pen and paper, and copied a few quilt patterns, and designed our garden. It is about one quarter of an acre, with three foot walkways surrounding about fifty raised beds of all different shapes and sizes. Building the garden took a few years, lots of sweat, and plenty of man power (though that power was mostly four women: Mom, my two sisters, and me). The ground had to be leveled first, and I guess it was good that we began to build the boxes on the highest end. The only problem being that Mom wanted all the boxes perfectly level (she is a carpenters daughter and sister) and that required us to level many boxes in the air, anchoring them with wooden stobs, then filling in the walkways to the bottom of the beds. We filled the beds in with dirt as we went, working our way out from the back wall, and up to the front corner. When the tractor could dump a bucket of dirt, that was a blessing, but there were many beds that we filled in with the shovel. When I see the pictures from the beginning, I am amazed at all the dirt, and so little weeds. It is always green now--with either plants or weeds. Keeping up with the weeds is a constant chore, but one that we find very rewarding and addicting.
The garden is walled in with roses on one side, a fence on the back, fig trees on another side, and different types of plants on the front. Every entrance has an arbor that is supposed to be housing grapes, but only two have survived. Two other arbors were happily adopted by wild Trumpet Vines. Throughout the garden there are trellises where we grow sugar snap peas in the winter, green beans in the spring, and in the summer and fall they are covered in Morning Glories (sporting different shades and sizes of purple) and luffa sponge (with its bright cherry yellow flowers). The center of the garden houses the beds where I grow herbs of all colors, sizes, and smells. There is peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, and apple mint. Not to mention oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Then there is Mexican Tarragon, Pineapple sage, basil, and lemon balm. Towering over all the others grows lemon grass, turmeric, ginger, and mullein with its tall yellow flowered spikes.
As the years have passed, the garden has seen many changes. Somethings that we planted didn't survive--like the citrus trees and blueberries. Others became unruly and had to be removed--like the peach tree that was supposed to be espaliered on the back wall. Most of the beds were used for square-foot gardening at the beginning, but we soon realized that we just couldn't grow enough corn, green beans, carrots, and onions that way. Plus, my sister complained greatly about the pumpkin and sweet potato vines that out grew their beds and sprawled all over the walkways. So, to the right of the garden we tilled up six long beds of dirt. The six beds began in the shape of flower petals, with a roundabout in the middle. Sometimes women's ideas, and man's practical reality don't mix. No man could till that garden and keep the petal shape, so after much sorrow, Mom tilled those beds into rectangles, and they worked just fine, just are not as pretty from the sky. After raising pigs in the garden one year to help eradicate some invasive wees, the long beds are now each enclosed by a metal fence. Once the main vegetables were removed from the raised bed section of the garden, we began to plant those beds with perennial flowers and vegetables, herbs, and other plants. Realizing that pear trees grow better here than citrus, we planted more pear trees. One bed was turned into a fish pond area, and another into a gazebo. Four beds are dedicated to asparagus, of which everyone says cannot be grown here in North Florida, but a vegetable that we have had great success with.
The garden is our favorite place to be, and many a meal is late because we just don't want to come inside. The center of the garden has a fire pit with a grill and hanging hooks for open-fire cooking. This allows us to cook meals, while we "play". Yes, that is what we call it when we go to the garden. While it is hard work, it is very enjoyable, and relaxing--though sometimes my muscles could argue the point.
Yes, the garden is where we are when we are not milking cows, gathering eggs, mowing the lawn or pastures, feeding the animals, cleaning the house, cooking the meals, or sewing our clothes. Homesteading is a busy life, but very rewarding!