2021 was not my first garden, but it was my first big garden. And of course, it did not go according to plan.
A little background. I had a baby in August of 2021. We bought our property in 2020, and the people before us had a beautiful garden that they had put a lot of work into. I just had to use it. I didn't want to waste all of their work, and this was my chance at the big, beautiful garden I really wanted.
I talked with several acquaintances about my plans. I was excited, I talked about it all the time. They all told me to scale back. That I was doing too much, I would be too overwhelmed, I would fail. It was really good advice, I just had no interest in listening to it because I had already made my plans. Now that I sit and think about it, I don't think anyone I really knew told me I was doing too much. I don't think that speaks to any kind of confidence they had in me; I just know kind people. That and they could probably tell I had already made up my mind.
I spent the winter dreaming about what my perfect garden would look like. It had rows of raised beds, with interesting trellises and arches worked in throughout. So instead of tilling and planting, like a normal person, we tilled, and then hand raked the dirt into elevated rows, 13 of them. I intended to do it myself, but it was taking me a long time, and Neal stepped in and took over like the hero he really is. He thought it was a little crazy to do extra work when I was already behind, but he helped me anyway. We didn't have the time or money to build raised beds with sides and fill them in right then. But I planned to make mounds, build them a little over time, and in the future if we want we can build sides. I told myself, when I was 5 months pregnant getting a little lightheaded and nauseous while raking, and raking, and raking, that I was doing all this work on the front end to make it so much easier in the future.
Neal bought a 2 year old bale of hay and plopped it down right next to my garden, and I spent the next... month? or two? spreading what I thought was a thick layer of old hay over each row. If that seems odd or interesting to you, look up the Ruth Stout method. Mine was loosely based on that, and this is already an incredibly long post. I didn't get it all covered, because we were well into spring by this point. My seedlings were getting too big inside in the makeshift grow closet, and I just needed to get things in the ground.
I started out behind, and of course never really caught up. It is so frustrating to feel like you're never getting anything done, because there's always so much more to do. For several weeks though we were swimming in lettuce. My tomatoes really took off, we had tomatillos, very late peppers, okra, basil, cilantro, broccoli, zinnias, ground cherries, marigolds, cucumbers, even a few carrots!
I planted less than half of my space. I didn't put the hay on thick enough, and I didn't pull the weeds that came up through it. It got hot, and I got very pregnant. I was busy with work, church, and family. All the things that people said would happen. And yet, even after my son was born, I could walk out into the thick of those weeds and find treasures. A bouquet to give a friend returning from maternity leave, a cucumber for my daughter to eat like a banana, peppers to cut up and put in the freezer.
Was everything a success? Obviously that's a no. But I LOVED it. And yeah, obviously I felt overwhelmed and frustrated. But I am so glad I made those big plans. I could have just tilled and planted a regular garden, and told myself that I would build my beautiful garden another year. But when would that other year come, really? I guess technically I did fail, but I am so proud of that messy garden. All of my rows are still there. I am in the process of covering them with more hay. This spring I won't have to till, or rake, I can just go plant. I've already pulled the hay away in one section and planted tulips, and let me tell you, the dirt is beautiful and so easy to work. So no, I didn't accomplish my goals. But I am so many steps closer to them this year than I was last year, and that's all I can really ask for.
So I say go for it. Make big plans and have big dreams. You may fail, but you may be ok with that, and you will undoubtedly learn as you go.