Building Our Homestead Garden
When we look at the results we are awed by the transformation. One of our greatest homestead accomplishments is the establishment of our first garden. It has been incredibly time consuming, but equally rewarding.
Though many of our experimental plantings were unfruitful, we've managed to grow a plethora of green beans, vine ripened tomatoes, as well as watermelon and cantaloupe. I've done a fair bit of experimenting with companion planting and we have not used any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Our soil is built from local sand, straw, compost and goat manure. We've grown mostly open-pollinated and heirloom varieties this year and also seeds that were cultivated and saved on the Navajo reservation. Our prized garden vegetable of the year is the Hopi squash. It is a long keeping winter squash, whose dark green fruits grow to be 20 to 30 pounds each. It tastes a lot like an acorn squash and its seeds have a high protein content. In addition we are considering the Hopi squash as a source for homegrown animal feed.
I am already excited about next year's garden and have begun planning our new beds. I have gained a lot of knowledge from this year's gardening experience, but I can see there is still much to learn. In the meantime our garden is growing and our chickens are clucking happily. We are eating farm fresh eggs every morning and home grown veggies with our meals.
- Constructing Raised Garden Beds
This spring we constructed several raised garden beds and we are currently in the process of constructing more. We plan to do most of our gardening in raised beds because they can be configured to protect plants from the extreme desert climate. We will be attaching a variety of materials to the garden beds such as shade cloth to minimize sunburn and clear plastic cold frames to increase our growing season.
Click here to read more about our process of constructing raised garden beds.
- Building Our Garden Fence
Another major component of our garden is the fence. When we embarked on our gardening project we also had to learn how to build a fence. Our fence is designed to keep out a variety of pests; rabbits, dogs and free range cattle are our primary concerns. In fact, after installing the first part of the fence we raised the height of the top strand of barbed wire and added additional t-posts to stand up to the unusually aggressive cattle that have destroyed a number of homestead gardens in the area.
Soon we plan to fence the entire 2.25 acre property with three strand ranch fencing (barbed wire). Our goal is to protect our entire homestead from roaming cattle, whose grazing and blundering steps destroy flower beds and native vegetation.
Click here to learn more about our garden fence.
Sustainable Gardening Books
I own all four of these books and wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who is interested in organic gardening, seed saving or root cellaring. I found the companion planting book to particularly useful, especially since I have minimal experience with garden planning. The desert gardening book also provides useful information and is specific to dry, hot climates. I used each of these books extensively when planning our garden and also when troubleshooting problems.