Overcoming Obstacles

Four years ago we moved from Fairbanks Alaska to Aberdeen Maryland. I was interested in gardening; loved growing (and sometimes killing) herbs, a potted tomato but no where near what we do now. I played around a tiny bit with aquaponics but I was like any other American who relies solely on the grocery store for my food.
When we moved into this house we were confronted with a soggy, muddy and mossy mess. Soil that consisted of a heavy clay mixture and was ridiculously difficult to work.  For the first year each time we tilled up our soil it would smell like a septic tank had dumped its contents into our yard.
Stinky muddy mess.

We didn't know what we needed to grow anything there, we just knew that if we were to make it for the next year or two we better try growing our own fruits and veggies because financially we were strapped. 
The first year, we believed that you either
  • A. Put seeds in ground, seed sprouts and grows. Sprinkle liberally with Sevin dust and Miracle Gro and later harvest fruits and vegetables
OR
  • B. Buy some plants at the local big box home improvement store, stick them in the ground, sprinkle liberally with Sevin dust and Miracle Gro and later harvest fruits and vegetables.
No surprise that our garden during the first year barely put much out but still, for relative "newbies" we didn't do too bad.
This is a lesson to any person contemplating starting a garden next spring.
See the improvement from one year to the next????
First; now is the time to do this.
Take the next few months and take note of where you get the most water standing after a hard rain, take note where the rain doesn't collect, take note of where the sun tends to stay in your yard.  Do you have mostly shade like us? Or are you lucky and have a yard that gets full sun all day long.  What is your soil made up of? Is it more clay or sandy? Go and buy a cheap soil testing kit at your local Home Depot or Lowes or Amazon.  See what your soil is lacking.  It'll do wonders later and save you tons of grief.  IT IS FRUSTRATING when you put plants that appear healthy into the soil and then they suddenly die so do your homework ahead of time.  I have some written here on the basics of soil testing. Now, come Spring time or any time after your frost free date, go ahead and buy some plants, pick out whatever it is you like to eat.  If you don't like tomatoes, well then for heavens sake, DON'T GROW TOMATOES! If you love strawberries, well then buy a flat of strawberries and EXPERIMENT.  If you find a plant that looks completely unusual and FUN well than do it! Gardening IS fun folks! Its fun to play around with different plants to see how they grow, what they produce and how they taste.
  
Awaken your childlike sense of wonder and amazement as you grow really UNUSUAL plants and produce that you would never see in your grocery store!  What's the worst that could happen? Your plant could die or just not produce. No worries though, because there is always next year.




For us, now, next year is somewhat uncertain.  We will be moving back into our home with a much smaller backyard.
Our yard in Fairbanks Alaska. Yup pretty small.
That backyard however small it may be is ours though.  We will be living in the City of Fairbanks proper so while I might not be getting my honeybees that I have wanted now for the past two years, we will most likely be getting the chickens my son wanted. I think my husbands tilapia or rabbits will have to be put on hold for a while too simply due to lack of room.
We have plans to build two raised beds and stick with heavy producers and use the most valuable lesson we learned here. Making best use of limited space. Teach your plants to grow vertical and you will maximize your space and output later on.
We also have yet another challenge that my husband has pointed out recently.  We will have to possibly give away some of our current seed stock to make room for the Alaska varieties.
 
Our area of Alaska has a very short growing season.  It lasts only from June to September, a month either way and your taking a chance unless you have a coldframe or cloches.  That being said though, Alaska gardeners have broken records time and again for growing the largest pumpkins, cabbages, broccoli and summer squash all thanks to the abundant sunlight. 
For our raised beds we plan to try to invest a bit more than we did here and actually buy the wood needed rather than scavenging them from used pallets at farm supply stores. We got those free by the way and they are just now falling apart. Good investment of time in my mind.
I might try and suggest cement building blocks to my husband if we can get a good deal at a local hardware store and I have to say here, I would love something taller than our current level.  It would be awesome to not have to stoop down to collect greens, tomatoes that have fallen and what not. I figure we'll have more than enough stooping and bending down if we manage to get our sons chickens.

Later we hope to expand and have the chickens, and the rabbits, and the bees, and the garden and the orchard but that all will be put on the shelf until we have a bit more room to work with. 
In the mean while we prepare. 
We are moving to Alaska on a leap of faith.  We are both uncertain of our jobs there so we work hard now to preserve as much as we can, put away food, build up our nest of acorns for the leaner times ahead much like our neighborhood squirrels do all in hopes that within four months all will work itself out. 
I've noticed, more times than not, it usually does.

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