How does my garden grow?

Filed under:General — eric @ 10:35 am

I’ve been asked recently, “How does your garden grow?” Well, I’ll show you…

Right now, only half of it is actually growing. I’ve doubled the number of beds from last year, from twelve to twenty-four. Each of them is sixteen quare feet, so this gives me plenty of room. Even if I was feeding a family of thirty, this would give me plenty of room. I finished preparing the new beds yesterday, so they’re ready to plant. The other have been happily growing something or other for the last couple months (and a few of them since last Spring).
The older beds are growing their cool weather crops. Mostly, members of the Brassica genus, members of the cabbage family. These include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. There’s also their more distant relatives, the lettuces and rutabegas (which are a cross between cabbage and turnips). Along with those are turnips, beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, various greens, and pansies. Did you know pansies are edible? The taste blends right in with the other greens, and there’s no prettier way to jazz up a salad bowl.
Ordinarily, pansies wilt and die as soon as the weather heats up, especially here in Georgia. But I planted them in between the taller and leafier Brassicas, so they stay cool long past their typical prime. Last year I was harvesting pansies until the end of July. By then, there were plenty of the spicier nastertiums to take their place in the salad bowl.
We started letting the chickens out into the garden last week. I’ve never met happier chickens. They’ve been doing almost all my weeding for me, and I’ve seen them chase many a leaf hopper. They fertilize where they can, and they fight over the root grubs I’ve dug up for them. It didn’t take too long to train them what not to eat; they really loved the spinach at first. They’ll have to stay out during the next round of planting lest they find and eat all the seeds I put out.
I wondered at first how much trouble it was going to be to get them all rounded up and put back in their coop, but it turns out it was no trouble at all. As soon as the sun went down, they knew it was bedtime. They went on their own back to the coop, eager to score a coveted spot on the top step of the ladder they’re currently using for a perch. Next week I’ll build them more permanent perches, along with nesting boxes (which they won’t use for nesting until at least July).
My garden is a purely organic garden. Everything I put in the soil has been certified organic. The seeds I used, when available (and most were), were organic. I did buy a few seedlings here and there that were raised in modern greenhouses, but they are the exception. In addition to being organic, I’ve used heirloom varieties when available. Heirloom means the seeds are traditional varieties created the old way by cross breeding. Before genetic manipulation. And the seeds they produce are true, meaning they grow into the same thing as the parent. Many crosses are either sterile, like mules (a cross between a donkey and a horse), or produce seeds that revert back to one of the parents. The picture to the left is an overhead shot of my salad bed, which is a mixture of many different heirloom greens from Seeds of Change, my favorite organic seed source, based out of New Mexico. Last year I experimented with what species I could grow here in Georgia (answer: most everything, including the Andes mountain grains quinoa and amaranth), so this year I’m playing with varieties. I don’t have one type of eggplant ready for planting, I’ve got seven. And that’s the story for most of what I’m growing.
Creating the new beds was a lot of work. Chris helped considerably. The year had to be tilled up. The beds had to be made, by hoeing in dirt from the three-foot-wide paths into the bed areas. I mixed in soil conditioners to make beds the plants would enjoy. The white stuff is perlite, a rock similar to vermiculite. If you’ve seen white specks in potting soil for houseplants, it’s the same stuff. The rocks are like natural styrofoam. They were created by volcanic forces injecting super hot steam into the mineral, puffing it up like popcorn. It helps clay soil drain better by creating tiny pockets for the water to escape. Over 90% of the perlite in North America comes from a single tiny mine in Socorro, New Mexico, where I went to school. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the stuff, but take it from me, it’s an ecologically friendly mine. The black stuff is an organic blend of composted peanut shells (a surplus waste product here in Georgia) and aged horse manure. The plants will love it!
The end result is raised beds (with no border material) full of the stuff plants love. I’ll add trellises made of pvc or galvanized steel along the center path for climbing plants in a few weeks. I hope to have everything planted by the end of the weekend. Then there’s naught to do but keep the plants happy and stuff ourselves silly with vegetable goodness.


  1. We love your garden and pictures! The chickens have grown considerable since we have seen them last. Interesting that they know when it is time to return to their coop. What a great page to read!

    Comment by Bonnie and Tanya — 4/28/2001 @ 4:01 am

  2. I’m absolutely GREEN with envy. I would like to have a garden (though a more modest one), but don’t yet have the living space to do so.

    Comment by Kristie — 5/2/2001 @ 12:41 pm

  3. I have a little garden here in Hollywood, and my neighbor has chickens. How did you teach the chickens what *not* to eat? What a sweet page this is; so full of joy and respect for living things. I really enjoyed it.

    Comment by Judy — 5/7/2001 @ 12:40 pm

  4. I hate to ask the same question as the lady from Hollywood, but I don’t know how to see your answer to her. So — how doo you teach the chickens what not to eat?
    Thanks and best,

    Comment by Jan Siehler — 3/30/2003 @ 8:36 am

  5. I, too, hate to ask the same question, but how do you teach your chickens what not to eat?? Mine are eating my radish greens, beans, peas and corn!!! Any help you can give me would be appreciated. I really enjoy having them in the garden with me, but spend alot of time shooing them away from plants!

    Comment by connie — 6/23/2003 @ 11:29 am

  6. How does the manure help your garden grow?

    Comment by connie — 9/24/2003 @ 9:45 am

  7. how long does it take for radish plants to grow

    Comment by nicki — 11/16/2003 @ 6:53 am

  8. This really is a sweet page. I was wondering about your cabbage. I am trying to find out “how” they grow and produce seeds. Your page came up when I used the search engine, but can’t quite find what I’m looking for. Are the parts we eat the “petals” of the flower? and is this the same for spinach? Hope you can help. I enjoyed your page. Thanks for your time!


    Comment by Becky — 4/21/2004 @ 11:27 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.