Mr. Gardener (aka-Hubby) and I bought our tiny 3.04 acres thirteen and a half years ago with the dream of setting up a tiny, self-sustaining, all-natural farm/garden. We knew it was necessary to become more educated on the subject so I registered at our local Community College and became a student of Horticulture. I learned plant propagation techniques, seed germination, a little about greenhouse management, how to read a soil test, soil nutrients (macro & micro), and bush and tree identification. I also learned how to add nutrients to the soil through the application of synthetic fertilizers and chemical enhancers, the benefits of planting treated seeds, and how to mix ‘fake’ soil. I really learned a lot, but it just wasn’t quite what we were looking for.
The next year, after dropping out of Horticulture classes, I registered for the Master Gardener’s program through our local Extensions Office. The main focus of these classes were floriculture, identifying wild flowers, learning various landscaping designs, the importance of getting a soil test, and how to choose plants (trees & shrubs) that grow well in our region. All important topics and very interesting, but still not quite what we were looking for. I eventually dropped out of the Master Gardener‘s class too.
We were very disappointed in the things being taught and eventually became side-tracked. Our homestead sat untouched. Our dreams quickly became fleeting thoughts as we floated through life’s may rivers – sometimes at a leisure and sometimes in a rush, but always twisting and turning. Our dreams were almost completely forgotten, and then last year something snapped.
Last year we decided that it was time to either do it or forget it. So, I left my job and began to focus all my energy on learning sustainable gardening/farming techniques. Mr. Gardener has to work off-farm so he gets all his learning through me. We’ve learned a lot about sustainable agriculture, the french intensive and biodynamic gardening methods (which combine to make up the biointensive techniques), open-pollinated seeds and plant varieties, soil fertility, permaculture, beneficial insects, composting, what makes an organic farm organic, organic pest management, green manures and winter cover crops, crop rotations, etc, plus record keeping and marketing. You name it, we’ve been learning it. Our heart’s desire is, and has always been, to work with nature in all phases and care for the earth in a way to preserve it for future generations – with God as the boss. We wanted to learn about organic gardening thirteen and a half years ago but no one could teach us because no one knew anything about it. Do they now?
Last Wednesday Mr. Gardener and I were strolling through the agriculture building at our County Fair when we came upon a Master Gardener’s booth. I began to question the lady behind the table about organic gardening. I thought she would have some wonderful experiences or ideas to share with us but right away it was obvious that she didn’t. The subject almost seemed new to her. She said, “no one really does that [organic gardening] in the south because our soil here doesn’t freeze solid enough over the winter which causes the compost and mulch to break down too fast.” Then she went on the say, “There are too many bug so no body really wants to fool with it.” She also said, “There’s a bunch of people interested in it but it takes too long to get it going.”
We know that the Master Gardener’s class has a strong focus on floriculture but it does teach some about small vegetable gardening techniques, managing a hobby greenhouse, and bug control (chemically, of course). We really didn’t see any need to tell her that we just finished our first year of organic gardening. Yes, bugs are horrible but they are manageable. Yes, compost piles break down fast in our heat but that is good because the compost becomes usable within just a few short months. We didn’t see any reason to tell her that clay soils actually help protect organic matter from breakdown by either tightly binding the particals together or forming a barrier which limits microbial access and oxygen flow.
The more we spoke with the lady behind the table, the more we began to realize that ‘organic gardening’ still hasn’t quite reached our area yet. We’re considering signing up for another Master Gardener’s class. It would be nice to share our own experiences and ideas with folks in our community. It seems that if a lot of people are interested in organic gardening that its time for someone to step up and take the time to get it going.