If you are considering having a Garden this year, due to the increased Cost of Living or a desire to be more self-sufficient, you may find this Post beneficial. This is a long post, so eventually I will break it down into bite size pieces, for those looking for specific Topics.  In the meantime, for future reference I offer several links for your convenience. Some I have personally used as my skills were honed over the years, others I have added so the Reader can better understand what I am referring to.

As a whole, I find Gardening to be therapeutic and a sacred time of prayer where I commune with our Heavenly Father and He communes with me as our Master Gardener. For me this is likened to moments of tending the Garden of Paradise, enjoying the process of creativity and nature about us while conscience of our Creator enjoying these moments with me. 

Each season is unique and brings with it its own set of lessons, both spiritual and natural. I will be sharing some of them on this Blog by way of Practical Tips as well as examples of how the Holy Spirit taught me what it means to us to 'walk in the Spirit' as He Teaches and Guides me according to Father's will for my life, day by day, season to season. 

For example, one year I sensed Father telling me to allow some of our Beds to lie fallow and not to grow to preserve or eat fresh that year, (I Can, Dehydrate, Freeze Store Produce, as well as share) At the end of the Season I could see why and was delighted I listened. My efforts would have been in vain due to the combination of what at that time was a rare Weather Pattern and a broken wrist I carelessly brought on myself. At the end of the season, as usual, I planned on winterizing the Garden. So, before the injury I sought the mind of our Lord as to whether lying fallow included excluding those chores as well. 

At the beginning of each Veggie and Fruit Season, previous winterizing enables me to pull back a layer of straw mulch and put in a plant and top dress it with compost; refreshing the straw as needed. Mulch not only keeps in moisture and enriches the soil as it decomposes, but helps keep the weeds down making spring clean-up easier.

The first time I was inspired to do this Hubby tilled and raked out the weeds. I put down a layer of recycled cardboard and thick newspapers near where the plants were to be and in the walkways, before putting down a thick layer of straw. After that, at the end of the season we would add extra straw once we cleared the bed of non-beneficial debris and weeds, for the winter. Cardboard and Newspaper can be found at Recycling Centers.

Bulk Straw is found at a reasonable cost via Craigslist or through word of mouth. You can also find it at Lowes or your local Farmer's Cooperative   (Bulletin Board) for a little bit more. Make sure it's straw and not Hay, as Hay has seeds. Decomposing Straw is fine too, and some Farmers will give it away free.

If possible, I try to stay in the walkways and thus not pack down the soil. Now that our Beds are established, I have learned to take advantage of Companion Planting and rotate our crops to avoid diseases and destructive insects as well as depletion of the soil. 

Creating Beds in this way helps immensely ...  I remember the first year I was inspired to mulch with straw, our area had its first serious drought. While Neighbors lost their plantings, we had food.  The drought was so severe the State trucked in water.  The local Restaurants had to have Portable-Potty’s, could only use paper and plastic Products, and bottled water.  Following our intuition, what we discern as the Holy Spirit's leading, even if we do not always understand why we are being moved in a certain direction had definitely worked for us. I encourage others to try to see if it works for them too, if you have not already done so.

It saddened me to leave some of the potatoes in the ground, and to leave our final harvest of Green Beans to dry on the vine one year, because we had more harvest than I could handle and no one available to help us harvest or preserve it. I assumed that because the frost hit them they would not germinate, (I learn a lot from trial and error). To my amazement, the Green Beans self-sowed after I pulled the vines down and by way of composting, put straw on top of them as I readied the bed!  Joy… Green Beans need warm soil to germinate, so they can be planted later; they only take 60 days to harvest.

To our surprise as I inspected the Beds the following spring, we discovered some crops (potatoes, beets, and missed carrots and parsnip) overwintered. I decided to let the Carrot and Beets go to seed and let the Potatoes grow, keeping an eye out for late Blight as they do. Since then, I have discovered Potatoes produce seed. With that in mind, I decided to do some research and find out what crops actually will self-sow and or come back the next year.

Over the years I have added on the delightful chore of  seed saving (flowers too). I knew from research some flowers self-sow and have taken advantage of that knowledge when I have made my choices of what to plant by way of Companion Planting and for the sake of bringing in beneficial insects and pollinators. As I cleaned up the Beds during spring, I discovered other flowers that self-sowed as well. What a thrill, no need to save so many seeds at the end of the season!  Works for me!!! Not only will I save time but storage space, (we live in a small cottage on an acre in the country). In addition, there will be less work to do next season if properly managed. However, I do suggest if you have the space, that you save seeds, for some remain viable for several years.

One spring, due to another unseasonable Weather Pattern and my Hubby extending our main Fruit and Vegetable Bed for us, I was late getting in most of our starter plants. This was not a problem, as they kept well in the small Greenhouse Hubby build us the previous fall.  Had they all been planted, some could have died in the unusually late frost that took place that year.

That gave me the opportunity to try out what I learned about emergency Frost Proofing  our Garden.  I covered two tomato plants with tall wooden fruit bushel baskets. I temporarily put extra straw over the sprouted Green Beans and Lettuce. I covered some flowerpots with Pillow Cases; clear large Trash bags work equally well.  

If you want to extend the Season, early or late, used lightweight sheets or sheer curtains will do nicely, as will turned over large vases or plastic milk jugs, clear totes or buckets for Cloches. I found the sheer curtains draped over bush beans or greens will keep the Deer from consuming them. If you are concerned about the look, dye them green. Old Windows can be made into Cold Frames. There is a lot that can be grown throughout the winter. Having chosen to live a frugal life, we do not mind if the Garden does not look perfect.

The cool weather and root crops were fine … most of our Fruit Trees had already bloomed and had fruit growing. The frost did not affect them, as it had in previous years. For that, we were grateful. Any concerns we had about getting our plants in late lifted. Planting later than recommended in our zone also seems to bring in less of the harmful insects; it seems to be they have already found other food gardens to eat. 

In the meantime, I had plenty to do by way of transplanting and working on the other Beds while Hubby was busy with other gardening chores. I learned a longtime ago it is usually necessary to transplant or pot up something and find while I enjoy our permanent Beds, I also like creating new ones or redesigning old ones with those that need to be divided up or transplanted, that I do not give away.  I can see though, as I age, in days to come I will need to forego that pleasure. I have too many Beds to maintain well now and the price of that is, my Beds are not perfect in appearance (never have been actually, but I like the Cottage Garden look) and are not always as successful as I intended. However, that is not a problem for me ... I've learned to be content and do the best I can and enjoy the moment, letting go of expectations; as ultimately I am not the one in control of the outcome, too many variables that take place has proven that to be the case on numerous occasions over the years. 

In my early days, I was pleased to find some Medicinal Herbs and added them alongside a larger variety of Culinary Herbs. Several of them were self-sowing or spread, which kept me from having to reseed them or fill in the spaces the next season. I enjoy preserving these as well, using and sharing them all year. 

OK... enough for this Post. As always, your Comments, additional Tips, Questions, Links and Suggestions are encouraged, not just for my benefit but also for other Readers, so do not be shy.
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