Scaling Back

When we moved to Happy Acres back in 2007, I couldn’t wait to work up a spot for a vegetable garden. Due to the heavy deer presence, it had to be fenced. The area is about 40 feet by 45 feet, which I have divided into 10 beds. We can grow a lot of food in there, enough for me and my wife and some to share with others. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of time and effort to manage a space that big.

vegetable garden

I always knew as I got older I would eventually cut back on the amount I planted, and that day has finally come. I’m having a hard time keeping up with the demands of the large garden. Partly it’s because I have other interests, and partly it’s because I don’t have the energy I used to have. Whatever the reasons, I have decided to reduce the size of what I plant next year by at least 20%. My wife sort of rolled her eyes when I first told her this, since she has heard me say it before. I managed to convince her that this time I meant it. I seem to be working in the garden more and enjoying it less, and I have no one to blame but myself. I can idle two of the ten beds, and plant them in green manure cover crops like buckwheat, oilseed radish and oats.

sweet potatoes planted

Yesterday I got the last of the summer vegetables planted. I tilled, hilled up a 45 foot long ridge about 10 inches high, then planted 34 sweet potato plants I had potted up in 3.5 inch pots. I started most of the slips myself, though I bought a couple of varieties to trial here this year. All that took me about two hours. That’s typically how much time I spend in the garden each day this time of year, at least until everything is planted, weeded and mulched.

vining squash mulched

I still have quite a bit of mulching left to do. My mulch of choice is straw over newspaper or cardboard. I use cardboard to cover the bigger areas, and paper to go around the smaller spots. I also use shredded paper around many of the plants. All that mulch eventually breaks down into organic material for the garden, and that has helped keep the content of organic matter in the soil in the 7% to 8% range according to soil tests. I also add quite a bit of homemade compost to the soil at planting time.  I hope to get the rest of the mulching done in the next few days.

partially mulched peppers

And that will be just in time to start seeds for a fall garden! Actually, I already have seeds started for collard greens and some of the sprouting broccoli. I will start the rest of the brassicas after the first of July. I’ve already scaled back the plans for the fall garden, and hopefully that will leave me more enthusiastic about gardening than I am right at the moment. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres.

This entry was posted in Gardening and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Scaling Back

  1. Ann Ryder says:

    Dave, it comes to all of us eventually. I gave up my big garden this year, but the little one will give me more than I can use. Thought I’d feel sad, but I don’t. Gardening is a wonderful, soul-satisfying pastime, but so are a lot of other things.

  2. I’m always thinking about expanding. But thats because I have a dad that is pretty down with the whole thing and helps in realizing my ideas and whzn I’m at work he’ll pick some weeds between berry plants, or sideshoot the tomatoes… cleans the stable… things likz tbat. But i can imagine when i’m alone and older, the joy would soon turn in to a chore.. it should stay fun. Else you’re a slabe to your “fun” hobby

  3. I don’t blame you for thinking about scaling back. But don’t give it up. I LOVE your garden and your blog.

  4. Lorraine Barnett says:

    I am either thinking of how I can expand my growing space or I’m wondering how in the world I’ll ever keep up! At 69 years old I know that my energy level is not what it used to be. I keep at it, though, and hope that all the physical labor will help me stay energized. I am looking more at perennials these days, like sea kale, berries, greens that self-seed, etc. Maybe those will begin to take over more of the garden space and it won’t feel like I’m scaling back… But, you are right. we gotta be practical!

  5. Sue Garrett says:

    There’s little point doing something that you don’t enjoy or you may as well still be going out to work every day.

  6. I know exactly how you feel Dave. The last role I had before I retired was as a strategist, so when I set up the allotments I was already thinking about scaling back. We have the three allotments in our family and the back garden. I decided that while I had the time and energy I would put the effort in to create low maintenance growing space and grow as much food as possible for as many people. Over the next few years we would gradually transition some of them to perennials and grow a wider variety of food, for more of the year, but for fewer people (as we learned to be better growers). Then each decade ( roughly when I get to 65, 75, 85) we would give up a plot, eventually having only the back garden. We’ve put some money aside to transform the back garden, adding a big greenhouse, digging up the lawn and replacing it with high raised beds (no bending). Taking this approach allowed us to stay in our existing house, which is perfect designed and positioned for getting older. Whether I follow this strategy or not remains to be seen. I changed jobs every 2 years for 30 years while working and I’ve been growing veg for three years now, so I’m already over-due for a change, but I’m still finding it rewarding and challenging, so it might be the long term passion that I’d hoped for! Like you though I’m particularly focused on retaining and nurturing a wide range of other interests : All the best – Steve

Thanks for leaving a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.