Bryce and I planted our first garden back in 2011 (I think...) It wasn't anything fancy, but we loved enjoying a cup of coffee in the summer mornings, watching our sunflowers bounce around in the breeze and pick off tomato worms off of our "Blueberry tomatoes."
We re-purposed an old redwood feeding trough that was lying out in the middle of a pasture on the ranch. It was about 20 feet in length that was raised above ground. It made a wonderful first small first garden and we still have it in the yard today minus the plants.. (We need to find a new purpose for the old thing.. Maybe as an actual feeding trough for our finishing steers?) We will figure that out in the coming weeks.
I was absolutely intrigued with gardening when I was in college. Bryce and I always talked about getting going on a functional garden, but as college kids living in trailer in a trailer park off the 5 freeway in San Diego.. It was last on the agenda. Until it suddenly became a priority in our busy schedule..
The gardening/heirloom endeavor mostly started at an internship I was working at during my time in vet tech school. One of the Registered Veterinary Technicians that I was shadowing, had been boasting about her community garden at her apartment complex. She had a little space she grew heirloom vegetables on and recommended using heirloom seeds. At the time, I had no idea what was so special about an heirloom seed. Her enthusiasm lead me to some research and shortly after, an online purchase of good heirloom seed packets.
Bryce and I bought seeds from an Amish seed business up near Michigan called Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. check them out https://rareseeds.com . This was that same company that my Vet Tech teacher had told me all about. We ended up ordering seedling trays off amazon and some starter soil from a local Home Depot. At the time, Bryce and I planted the seedlings and babied them like a newborn child. We had weekend jobs at a brewery/restaurant in our home town (about an hour & 15 minutes away from San Diego) and we would take our seedlings along with us. Our garden that year was a total success. We loved every bit of it.
What are heirlooms?
An heirloom seed is derived from an open-pollinated plant that can pass down it's characteristics obtained from the plant before them, to the next generation of plants. These plants are unique because you can literally recreate plants that have been around for hundreds of years. I love that you can have a little piece of history in your garden. As well, you can dry out the seeds from you current garden and save seeds for next year without much trouble.
Keep in mind that most of the time, heirlooms are organic. However, that may not always be the case. Organic and heirloom seeds are NOT the same thing. Just depends on the origin and background of that particular seed.
There are many benefits to growing heirloom vegetables and fruits.
Heirlooms can be passed down for hundreds of years.
I don't know about you.. But, this is a fascinating fact to me. You are basically preserving a piece of history in your soil. There is a story behind that plant and it's origin. That is something that I find a little pride in and I love consuming something and knowing that it is a product of history.
Heirlooms can adapt to their climate over time.
Another interesting fact is that heirloom varieties will adapt to their climate over time. So, when you collect and dry particular seeds, they will grow bigger and better than the year before because they have adapted to the location.
Heirlooms tend to be more nutritious and flavorful.
Many heirloom fanatics and gardeners rave that heirloom vegetables taste better and have more nutritional value. For example, old school tomatoes that date back to 100s of years ago have more subtle flavor that make a tomato so delicious. They are more acidic and carry on their characteristics as they should. The heirloom yellow tomatoes have a more sweet/mild distinction and red tomatoes are more acidic and bright. Many tomato recipes for salsas, canning and sauces from "back in the day" don't require additional ingredients like sugar and citrus juice because the tomato carries those flavors naturally.
Garden 2020 Plans
With some money saved, I bought WAAAAY too many seeds from several heirloom companies just as COVID started. I even accidentally doubled up on some seeds (oops..) I used several companies because some were sold out of certain varieties I was interested in. I think it will work out well so I can try a few small scale companies and try varieties that I never considered before.
The seed companies I used:
Annie's Heirloom Seeds https://www.anniesheirloomseeds.com/
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://rareseeds.com/
Johnny Seeds https://johnnyseeds.com
Territorial Seeds https://territorialseed.com/
I started my seedlings inside the house in starter trays and coconut coir. I got a chicken heating lamp to keep above the seeds to help them germinate. Once they started sprouting, I would take them outside during the day if it was warm and bring them in at night. As some seedlings got bigger, I transferred them to bigger pots and new potting soil. The tomatoes are going crazy and so did my peas. I will be planting them in the beds once I fill them all up with dirt!
As well, this year is our first year using garden beds that we built from scratch. We recycled wood that was left over from my in-laws house building project. All we did was slap together three sets of 2x4's into a 4ft by 8ft rectangular bed. We also laid in chicken wire to the bottom to hopefully keep gophers away (We have lots of gophers.) We built three garden beds and shoveled in some dirt we have around the house and top with some topsoil we bought at Tractor Supply. As well, we have compost I've been working with for the past few months that will be mixed in.
Once I have the beds filled and planted, my plan is to place some sort of mulch on top for a few reasons.
To keep the moisture trapped into the soil.
Mulch drowns out weeds and you spend less time pulling them.
hopefully my cats won't want to use the garden as a giant litter box... ew.
We fenced in our garden completely with pig panels we purchased at Tractor Supply. This is to hopefully prevent most critters, chickens and the goat from getting inside. We will also be putting chicken wire on the outside on the panels to keep it extra safe.
Well, those are my plans for this summer's garden. My goal is to create a jungle in my front yard so let's see if I have any success completing that task. So far, it's looking cute already. I can't wait for it to start producing veggies, flowers and fruit. Bryce and I placed a picnic table inside so we can enjoy it just like we used to with our first garden.
Stay tuned for garden updates! Hopefully this year will be a good year! Happy planting, people!