How Does Your Garden Grow?
by Julie Lavender
I grew up on an eighty-three-acre tract of land that my father paid for in monthly installments to a great uncle. The land was my dad’s pride and joy. The income my family lived on, meager though it was, came from my truck-driving Daddy’s slim paycheck and lease-money from a wealthy farmer who grew corn on much of my dad’s acreage.
The field behind our dilapidated farmhouse, though, was reserved for the family garden. Rows of corn grew tall and stately. We anxiously watched for tassels of silk to appear, and then Daddy peeled back the shucks of one ear to peek at its ripeness.
Preparing the sweet corn, cream-style, took days, and I can still remember Mama using clothespins to drape and attach old sheets over the kitchen cabinets. Spattered corn turned into a sticky mess, and it was much easier to remove the sheets and wash them than it was to wash down the cabinet doors.
Our un-airconditioned farmhouse, in south Georgia, grew hot and sticky as we blanched hundreds of ears of corn, and then scraped off the nuggets of sweetness and filled freezer-bags with yumminess. Mama kept a running tally of the results, and that list stayed on the side of the refrigerator throughout the year. When the tally marks grew slimmer in number, we knew it was almost time for another season of gardening.
We also enjoyed fresh corn on the cob throughout the summer, too.
Daddy planted squash, too. Mostly yellow squash, and I always marveled at the odd shapes the crooked necks made on the produce. I didn’t like squash as a young child, but I loved to be one whose task was to slice each squash in preparation for blanching.
Peas and butterbeans filled our freezer, too, and we spent almost every summer evening sitting on the front porch shelling the peas and beans. Daddy grew tomatoes, and Mama canned. Daddy grew okra, and Mama stewed and fried. Long green cucumbers were pickled on the countertops.
Those were, as we like to say, “the good ole days.” Daddy is no longer living, and Mama’s refrigerator screams “table for one” with only a few bags of frozen garden delights at any given time during the year. But, oh, the memories of our family gardens!
My brother, one county over, grows a much smaller garden now, and we all share in the growing and harvesting and freezing. It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to gardening prep work. Are you garden-ready? Check out some of the tips my family learned during our years of gardening, and join me in getting started.
Each seed turns into a miraculous display of God’s glory and provision! Don’t wait until the yield of produce adorns the table to give thanks—thank God for His graciousness before planting and enjoy His goodness with the bountiful harvest throughout the season. Happy gardening!
- Before planting, perform a soil test to determine the garden spot’s pH and nutrient levels. Research online how to take a soil sample, and then employ the help of the local extension service to test and determine, if necessary, any recommendations to improve the quality of the soil.
- Compost needs about two weeks prior to planting to fully integrate the soil. Allow adequate time for compositing and application before adding seeds to the ground.
- Match plantings with USDA zone recommendations. These zones are identified online and take into account temperatures of the area—either extreme of temperature—as well as such properties as day length, humidity, rainfall, soil type and specific plant hardiness.
- Plant seeds at the right time to maximize optimum germination. Some seeds won’t germinate if the soil hasn’t warmed up to an adequate temperature. Again, various sites online list an alphabetized list of plants and optimum soil temperature ranges.
- Water the garden in the early morning before the heat of the sun causes moisture loss due to evaporation. That time of day allows the water to soak into the soil and reach the roots. Avoid watering in the late evening, because pooling water on the leaves or standing water around the stems encourages fungal growth and damages the roots.
- Use natural and organic fertilizers when needed. Not only will plants benefit, but earthworms love them! Earthworms aerate the soil with underground tunnels and movements and break down grass and leaves so that plants can use them. And, earthworm poo makes great fertilizer!
- If using chemical fertilizers, be careful with distribution. Fertilizer should go on the soil only. Fertilize when the plant is dry, so that dustings won’t collect on dew-covered or rain-dripped leaves and plant greenery. Over-fertilizing can scorch or kill plants.
- Companion planting—the technique of growing certain plants in close proximity—helps repel insects and certain damaging worms like nematodes and enhances the growth of garden varieties. Insects dislike garlic, onions, chives, asters and chrysanthemums, and marigolds deter nematodes.
- Monitor the garden’s progress daily. Creeping critters like caterpillars, and larger ones like deer and rabbits can wipe out a garden almost overnight. Tomato hornworm caterpillars can ruin entire tomato fruits in a short amount of time. Relocate the harmless caterpillars by picking them off one by one. And, add a fence, if necessary, to keep deer and rabbits from nibbling away the harvest.
- Overripe vegetables attract pests, so be sure to harvest the produce when ripe and remove overripe ones as soon as possible.
Enjoy God’s garden blessings! Be sure to give thanks for His provisions, and make a point to share the harvest with someone less fortunate!
Julie Lavender is a journalist and author whose previous hats also include public school teacher, Navy wife and homeschooling mommy of four. Julie and her husband David live in Statesboro, Georgia, and are the proud grandparents of a precious fifteen-month-old grandson. Julie freelances for her hometown newspaper, writes for Guideposts Publications and other magazines, and is the author of a parenting book that releases in October: 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories.
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.