During the past month I have learned a lot of about gardening. This requires a quick qualifying statement: I knew next to nothing about keeping plants alive when I arrived at Better Farm, so the knowledge that I have acquired is completely relative. That being said, I have picked up a few useful tips along the way:
- Never trust a weed-wacker. It will always let you down. Just as soon as you start to get comfortable with it, to trust it and to rely on it, it will disappoint, fall apart, or simply stop working. This leads me to the next point...
- Scythes are fantastic. Using one gives you a great arm workout (although if you are hopelessly right-handed like me you’ll end up with a super buff right arm and a lame left arm). They are also great for releasing any pent-up aggression. Just be careful not to chop your legs off in the process.
- An overactive imagination is a blessing and a curse in the garden. It allows you to get lost in the work, leads to creative solutions, but also leads to unreasonable fears of what is hidden behind tall weeds.
- Weeding, by the way, is exhausting and boring. It never ends. There is no light at the end of the tunnel with weeding and leaves me feeling like Sisyphus. Mulch gardening, however, has proven to be a good method for preventing excessive weed forests. We’ve jokingly talked about covering the entire garden in cardboard to keep all the weeds down and more seriously about using a natural herbicide that combines vinegar, dishwashing liquid, and oil. Oh and don’t worry, we’ll be sure to keep you all posted about the herbicide.
- The garden is no place for squeamishness. If you are terrified of bugs, snakes, and Jumanji-esque plants, then reconsider a career in gardening. Although, to be fair, I wasn’t a huge fan of any of the aforementioned upon arriving here and now have learned to tolerate them all. Additionally, there is no room for fussiness in the garden. You will get sweaty, dirty, smell like manure, look like a scarecrow, and ruin your nails. As long as you can laugh at yourself you’ll have a great time. Besides, we have a claw-footed tub here that is perfect for long, relaxing, cleansing soaks.
- Wear tons of sunscreen and bugspray (the real, heavy-duty industrial kind, the mosquitos seem to get a high off the natural kind), and drink lots of water. Gardening is serious work and I’ve developed some funny tan lines and bug bites that I won’t be able to get rid of easily.
- Gardening is all about trial and error. It is not for the persnickety—it requires great flexibility (physical and emotional). We have had to re-plant, dig-up, shift, re-think, re-research a lot. For example, Liz and I are staple gun experts now after a day spent trying to figure out how to take the staple gun apart. One could say we wasted a lot of time but we prefer to call it a learning experience (in humility and staples).
- Always carry a camera. Seriously. We have seen some pretty crazy things out in the garden and a camera helps convince people that we’re not crazy... most of the time.
- This is perhaps the most important: there is never enough soil, compost, or manure. We go through mountains of all three and yet there is never enough. Although, on the plus side, this does allow us to visit dairy farms...