Let the Gardening Commence!

The weather has been absolutely crazy warm this year and I’m so excited to get my garden going. In past years, everything has been planted in May – usually on Mother’s Day. The last average frost date for my area (Eastern Iowa – zone 5) is around May 15. I have never started my garden this early before and I hope it means good things will happen – maybe I’ll actually get some sweet peas this year, perhaps? Since the weather has been so agreeable, we started the garden this last weekend.

First order of business was to prepare the site. We actually started this process last year. My old garden site was a poor choice – too shady and full of black walnut tree roots. Last fall we chose a new area and started by working the dirt. On Sunday, my husband disked the area and put up posts. I usually fence the garden to keep out critters.

I am super lucky to live in Eastern Iowa where I have full access to wonderful, rich black dirt. I have yet to amend my soil, but I am on the lookout for some manure this year to add at the end of the season. It can’t hurt, right?

My 5 super garden helpers did a fine job disking my dirt:

We are also lucky to have a lot of farming friends we can borrow equipment from. A good friend loaned us this old disk to pull behind my husband’s pride and joy – the Kubota tractor we bought last year. He says it’s my tractor, but I’m not so sure…

Last year, we made a lot of raised hill areas to plant everything in. It made weeding an easier job and my garden was cleaner than ever. My commercial farmer father-in-law is not convinced it’s the way to go, though. He thinks it may expose too much area and dry out faster. I’m not sure. It didn’t happen last year, as far as I know. My FIL has a huge farm and knows quite a lot about growing corn and soybeans, but he doesn’t grow veggies. So, we’ll see! My garden is a lot closer to the well this year so if we do end up with a dry summer, I will water it, for sure.

My two littlest garden helpers were convinced they needed to help me plant. The older one did a pretty good job. The baby was more hindrance than help (smashing my piles and wasting seeds) and I finally had to remove her to the tractor.

They sure were cute, even if they did just stress me out! We planted sweet peas, red onions, a bit of kale. And I transplated 7 green onions I found growing in my old garden – how fun that they over-wintered! I’m curious to see what becomes of them.

What I realized this weekend is that this garden is nothing like any garden I have ever had before. For one thing, it’s at least 5 times bigger than any previous gardening attempts. Maybe 10 times bigger. I really need to plan to see what the heck I’m doing. So last night I starting drawing a draft garden plan. This is it – and I’m not done. It’s missing quite a lot of things I intend to plant.

I have two big worries – I am never going to be able to keep up with this garden! It’s roughly 75 x 45 feet. ! The potential for weeds to take over is HUGE. And, I’m scared that the warm winter didn’t kill off the bugs so I am going to be in for a huge fight. Time will tell, but I’m in love with the idea of not buying a single veggie item this summer and being able to put up quite a lot of food (as I have in the past) to help sustain us over the winter.

And I LOVE the seeds I got from Seed Savers. Aren’t they pretty?

This week, I need to keep planning – need to read up on companion planting to make sure I’m doing it right – I’m sure my plan will change substantially. I also need to start a few seeds indoors. Finally, I need to get out to my garden and keep making dirt piles…

How about you? Have you started gardening yet?

Linking up: Tuesday Garden Party; Frugally Sustainable; Healthy 2day Wednesday; Wicked Awesome Wednesday; Homemaking Link Up; Rock N Share;

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  1. Your garden is gigantic--you will have all the room you need to plant all the vegetables you want--very cool! And very neat that you will be preserving a lot of your garden produce--well done! It must be warm if you are planting so much earlier than normal. Where I live, Pacific Northwest, it has been a mix of warm weather and snow! I have salad greens that can survive some cold weather growing under plastic, but haven't started any new seeds outdoors yet this season--looking forward to it, though! Hopefully next weekend. (My garden is not gigantic like yours--I garden in an urban single city lot, but it's packed out with different plants!)
    • I know...like I said, I'm a bit worried about the size. I may have bitten off way more than I can handle! My sister is in Seattle. I love the Pacific Northwest!
  2. I picked my first crop of lettuce yesterday! I plant in the fall and then cover it well for the winter, so we get an early spring crop. We have 1 plum tree in bloom and the peach trees are showing the first blush of pink. My new batch of 30 chicks will be arriving on Thursday, and yesterday my husband bought a honey bee hive! The kids and I have been watching all afternoon and the new bees have already found their way to the plum tree:) I'm wondering about the bugs too, another drawback to a mild winter and an early spring is that I'm already having to weed, especially the strawberry patch:(
    • Where do you live, Jessica? I really want to try my hand at more over wintering next year. It'd be just my luck, though, that the year I decide to try has a horrible, frigid winter. Oh well, wouldn't be out much, eh? And LUCKY YOU! Oh, I'd love some fresh lettuce. And I have been weeding the strawberries too. Not fun, but Yay for strawberries! Chicks are on the list as soon as we move to country. :-)
  3. I live in central Iowa and I have my spring veggies planted. Last weekend I planted carrots, spinach and broccoli. I planted my lettuce two weeks ago. Around here we usually plant these in April, so I'm not that early. It's been so warm I just had to take a chance on it. In May I will put tomato and pepper plants in and maybe pumpkins this year.
    • I haven't planted all of my spring veggies yet, but I'm getting there. I keep thinking it's too early. But maybe not! thanks for your comment.
  4. Your landscape is beautiful and the soil looks so healthy! I'm curious, when you say you are waiting to raise chicks until you move to the country, are you planning to make a permanent move somewhere else? Or do you have zoning laws that don't allow you to have animals?
    • We live in town right now - not out there by our beautiful barn where my garden is. We're working out details to build our house and move to the barn permanently. It's a work in process - need to save money, finish the barn, etc etc etc. :-)
  5. Well, here's the thing: you can always change your mind and cut back later, especially if you plan on doing succession planting during the season. For example, if you want to plant a row of beans every 2 weeks, change that to every 3 or 4. Just stretch things out a bit. As for the drying out, my suggestion is putting a layer of compost or some type of mulch around the plants. It helps enormously to keep the moisture in the soil, something large scale farming isn't able to do. I'm so excited for you! I can't wait to hear how it goes.
  6. Best of wishes for your garden this year! I'm anxious to get ours started but tonight we are under a frost/freeze warning so I am keeping everything on the closed in porch for another month. Thanks for sharing at the Rock 'N Share.
    • We had a nice reminder that it is still spring a couple days ago with highs in the 40s. But it didn't freeze. I'm watching that pretty closely. Hope we don't get another freeze.
  7. I don't know if you could do this or not, but one thing that I am going to do is lay about 3 layers of newspaper in between my rows and cover it with straw/manure or something like that to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in. My dad and my FIL are both commercial farmers and my hubby works for a commercial farmer, so I know how those guys are when you try to do something out of the box. ;-) Good luck! I am hoping to have my space tilled this weekend. It is about the same size as yours, but it is inside my fenced in yard, so I can't us the tractor and disk. :-( I want to get some peas, spinach, and potatoes in the ground SOON!
    • That's a great idea and one we have discussed. We'll see if I'm able to execute...but definitely mulching the plants. :-) I'm waiting on my potatoes to get here and I also need to plant spinach. Here's to good gardens this year!!
  8. Lovely Share! Spring season is about to come, this time I'm making lots of preparations for creating my new vegetable garden, however, I'm new to this field but trying my best to execute the whole process in the most effective way.

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