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Regaining My Gardening Sanity

By mid-August, thanks to this year’s drought, I was ready to give up on gardening. Then I found out about Larry Hall’s self-watering container gardening system, and began to make the transition toward doing that next spring.

In essence, I was going to throw out all my principles and long-held beliefs about natural vegetable gardening and instead spend gobs of money on pond liners, float valves, and soil-less potting mix ingredients. I was going to go against much of what I teach in my book, How To Grow Vegetables Without Losing Your Mind.

I believe I had lost my mind.

Don’t get me wrong. If you often travel or live in a place where gardening in the ground just can’t happen, Larry Hall’s self-watering system can allow you to grow an abundance of your own food, regardless. But two things kept bothering me as I set out to prepare my garden for the switch – no, three, because whenever I have to spend money I am bothered.

The other two things were first, I knew that if I would just be patient, the garden soil would eventually be amended to the point where it would hold water and nutrients; and second, even using Smart Pots the potting mix in containers dries out much more quickly than the soil in the ground. Sure, peat moss retains a lot of water, but things are not pretty if you let it dry out, and to not let it dry out requires – what?

More water.

In the meantime, as you know if you are one of my avid readers, I discovered Paul Gautchi and his wood chip mulch method. And I volunteered to be a guinea pig.

Guinea pig no more

Regardless of how I was going to grow my summer vegetables, I’ve been determined to become self-sufficient in greens once again, as I was when we lived in Plano. Thanks in part to breaking my arm last fall, in part to living in a tiny house, I had no greens last fall and winter. This year, I decided, was going to be different.

So while I continued to ask God to guide me about what to do with my summer garden, I spent a good week digging my Big Bag Bed Smart Pots and landscape fabric into a few spots in my garden in order to mole-proof my greens beds. I kept watching more Paul Gautchi and Back To Eden garden videos.

I began to lean toward transitioning my garden to wood chips whether or not the method would allow it to be “irrigation free.” At the very least, I would not need to irrigate it nearly as much as I had to this year.

A couple of days ago, something happened that took me completely over to the “Back To Eden” side of the fence. A friend (shout-out and public “thank you!” to D.G. here) e-mailed me a link to a video confirming my decisions.

I don’t have to be a guinea pig. Angie Hepp, who lives in NORTHeast Oklahoma (we live in the southeastern part, in case you’ve missed that) volunteered before I did. Check out these two videos, shot within a month from each other. During the first one, we were still in a drought. Tell me if her garden looks like it’s in a drought.

During the second, the drought had ended but its end had not brought anything close to an abundance of rain.

The Hepps live only a couple hours north of us. They have the same kind of soil, the same kind of climate (perhaps their USDA growing zone is ½ to 1 down from ours, but it still was in the upper nineties and higher with no rain for at least a month this summer).

Angie only watered the seeds to get them germinated. After that, she did not irrigate one time. Not even during the drought. She saw only a handful of pests the whole summer, and got an abundance of delicious food without having to fertilize.

For us, the orchard will still be priority. If the next six months we can only obtain enough wood chips to put eight inches in the orchard (that’s a lot of wood chips, folks!), then I am going to be satisfied with doing lasagna gardening (more on that in an upcoming post) in my vegetable garden next year and transition it to a “Back To Eden” garden as we are able to obtain more wood chips.

Nevertheless, the day is coming. Angie Hepp’s videos got me so excited, that I dreamed about Back to Eden gardens that night. I did. For real.

I look forward to the summer when, in the miserable heat and humidity of mid-July through August, I will continue to enjoy gardening because I won’t have to do much work during that weather.

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