Adventures in Urban Farming – The Second Season

Last summer I had my first chance to plant a vegetable garden (as an adult and without supervision). I wrote about it here. Some of you might laugh at the silly misadventures I had, but hey, I had fun and I learned a lot. Of course learning only showed me how much more there is that I don’t know. But that’s never stopped me before. It’s not stopping me now.

This year I have all four of the planned beds installed in the back yard. That means I can try my hand a more vegetables (I’m so not a flower person).

I also found some new seeds to try, well really they are just packaged differently – seed tape for the tiny seeds of carrots and lettuce. The tape is suppose to dissolve underground ensures that the seeds are laid out properly with – according to the package – no need for thinning later. Sounds good to me.

Other changes based on what I learned last year include: 1) keeping the beans and carrots apart. Last year’s carrots had lovely 2 foot greens on an inch and a half of carrot. The beans had grown over the carrot section and deprived them of vital sunlight. 2) Onions take a long time to get to harvest ready – start them early indoors or better yet buy bulbs that are already started. 3) Tomatoes must be controlled early and often. Last year’s Cherry tomatoes rejected the cages I bought them and spilled all over the lawn. Also they produce a lot more than I expected so I have to be ready for that come harvest time – spaghetti sauce here we come. 4) deal with pests as soon as you become aware of them. If one beetle likes your garden they’ll invite their entire extended family.

I can already see some lessons coming this year. Like, don’t wait for summer to get here before starting seeds indoors. They need the time to grow and Mother Nature doesn’t live by our calendars. Along the same line, don’t wait for the end of the school year to plan the garden. For one you need to know what to start indoors and for two you need to buy the seeds before you plant them (yeah I know that one should be fairly obvious but I missed it this year). I should also know by now that gardening isn’t a free hobby. There are costs associated with keeping the garden in working order and I should have budgeted for that. They are all on the “to-do” list for next year.

Some of you may be wondering why I am writing about farming when this blog is supposed to be about writing. Well here’s the writing part. In part the garden is about research. My characters, both in the science fiction and fantasy worlds encounter farms from time to time. Some of them even take the time to learn a little about it like in my upcoming novel “Daughter of the Revolution”. Or if you are a green skinned alien living in a high fantasy setting, most of the people you meet are going to be farmers – at least as I write them. As the writer, it’s usually a good thing to have some experience with these things. It lends depth to the writing. I suppose that I could have kept this research in the library or on-line reading about other people’s experience with farming on various scales, but non-writers rarely tell you the important details like what it feels like to watch the rain fall so hard you fear for the little seedlings you just planted. For me the failure of the carrots was a laughing point, but the disappointment was real. I just need to amp up that feeling for when I have the whole crop fail just in time for the worst winter in living memory. In the same way that I amp the feelings of flying to describe a shuttle take off. Or how I convert the sensation of being in a mall to that of being on a space station or large craft. My childhood summers spent camping and my teen years traveling the BWCA inform my descriptions of travel before cars.

They say you should “write what you know”. It’s true, but there are so many ways to “know” something. Gardening, for me, is just one of them.

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