It’s been a good year since I’ve moved into the house in WV. Even though I’ve had a flood in the basement twice, one dog having a personal dance with a skunk, and other tiny mishaps, I’ve made progress. The garden did get started and I built nine raised beds. I have three rain barrels connected to two downspouts and several more to set up. I’ve started drawing up designs for them and hope to get around to painting this winter. I used no city water on my plants; only natural rain and harvested rain water. And now I need to figure out a better way to get the water closer to the garden. With fall and winter just around the corner, I will have time to think of a good plan.
My first year’s crops included three types of strawberries, gourds, melons, swamp milkweed, sunflowers, zinnias, heirloom tomatoes (German green, Mr. Stripey and Cherokee Purple), Roma tomatoes, purple bush beans, lemon cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, kale, purple potatoes, German butter potatoes, carrots, corn, and beets. During September I will harvest the mid-summer plants, and there’s a late planting of carrots, kale, beans, and beets for late fall. There’s also some medicinal Echinacea, lemon balm, rosemary, chives and three types of basil.
I don’t believe many of the strawberries ever made it into the house. Most times I just picked and immediately ate them right from the garden. I did harvest some garlic and had mixed success on my second year of planting.
In the front of the house, I planted a large bed of wildflowers, tomatoes, sunflowers, corn and hops. The hops did not do as well because it’s not in a good site. I will transplant it to the back for next year, along with more roots. I have more plans for the front that will include some landscaping of edible shrubs, trees and more wildflowers.
The garden had many nefarious insects this year, but no real devastation. A few japanese beetles showed up, and yet no stink bugs. I’ve had a number of pollinators show up, such as honey and bumblebees, and some butterflies. I found a Black Swallowtail larva earlier this summer on dill planted outside the kitchen door. And yesterday, while looking over the garden, I spotted a Monarch larva on the swamp milkweed plant. After looking much closer, I found about 18 larvae between the two plants that I have. I was so excited, I took a short video of one munching away and reported it to The Journey North.
The deer have not ventured this close to the house. But I’ve seen them in the very back of the yard where there is an old apple tree. Many rabbits are enjoying my garden though and they’ve been munching on the gourds and the vines.
I was able to can 7 pints of bread and butter pickles, and 7 pints of tomato sauce from Romas I bought at the Charles Town farmers market in West Virginia.
This time, I did not start a fire in the oven and the sauce turned out just fabulous. The only other canning I plan to do this year will be applesauce. I’m now looking for orchards that are either organic or use Integrated Pest Management and very little to no spraying. I plan on using my grandmother’s food mill that I remember being able to use as a young girl when my mom was making applesauce. There’s some good memories there that I remember. And I can still see the kitchen table, the large bowl with the food mill placed over the bowl and my mom at the stove cooking the apples.
Next year I hope to have a dehydrator in my arsenal so I can put up more goods. I plan to double the size of the garden and plant more varieties of vegetables and fruits. There’s a hedgerow plan in mind that I’d like to plant down the long side of the property and along some openings on the other side, too. This will be much better than building a fence.
One cherry tree didn’t make it, but it followed me here from Colorado after being shipped there before I moved in 2013. It was a Christmas gift from my sister. I had it in a large pot at the first house upon moving back, but it didn’t seem to take to the last transplant into the ground. I also planted two choke cherries, two elderberry plants, a red oiser dogwood, cranberry viburnum, two apple trees and two cherry trees and next spring I want to plant blackberries and raspberries.
The front yard will need a lot more of something to cut down on the amount of grass. I used MapMyWalk while cutting the grass with a push mower and the total distance came to 4.77 miles. I’ve hired someone to help me with my outdoor chores such as mowing and digging holes which helps me tremendously. Eventually, I’ll order about 10 yds of topsoil to fill in places, mix with compost for more garden beds, and build up the front yard where it has nothing but shale. I’m thinking of planting a mix of white and red clover in the front yard. It needs the nitrogen and will bring more pollinators too.
So, I’m slowly making progress. It’s not what I was hoping, but then it is pretty good for the first year. While it may seem like a lot of work, it gives me a lot of pleasure. Most especially when I see Monarch caterpillars munching on the swamp milkweed and smell the light scent of a night-blooming moon flower!