Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~Adaptive Gardening

Here is the southern US of A the weather grows warmer. Actually it's barely gotten below freezing a couple times this winter. We're in the tan-orangy colored section. I've missed my garden since my stroke. Being a prepper and survivalist since birth, it seems an insult to injury not having fresh produce outside my back door. But this year by gosh and begorrah, I've started gardening again.

I've had higher grocery bills and allergy attacks galore since I lost my garden last year with my stroke. What I've paid out in doctors, medicines, ointments, shots, inhalers, and oatmeal and baking soda since I had my stroke in allergy relief made me have to try.  For our financial health if not for our physical well being.

Before, I religiously practiced the three-sister method of gardening (an old American Indian method)- corn went in first, pole beans or peas climbed up the stalks with squash planted underneath. No need for nets or back breaking weeding. Three crops in one two-square foot of space. It saves time, saves space, and saves in labor since each crop will pull different nutrients from the soil to grow. In between each planting grew marigolds as a pest deterrent and it looked pretty. You see I organic garden. No pesticides other than organic or homemade and no commercial fertilizers even if they say they're organic. I also plant heirloom or certified organic seed. No GMO nothing for my family.

When I wanted to break new ground for a garden bed, I would buy bag of potting soil. I use Jungle Growth Mix for commercial soil because it's organic if I don't make my own. I came across this idea watching this youtube video and thought what a novel and productive way of clearing a new space for my ever enlarging garden. I started five or ten years ago with a 6' x 6' square (approx. 2 meters square for you non-American folks). The grass underneath dies while you produce crops. No longer would I have to cut through sod before I hit the rich, good earth and promote the earthworm population at the same time. Grass would always muck up my tiller blades making a mess. I thought it was kind of a neat idea at the time so I tried it.

Since my stroke, I can't use my tiller. It takes two good working hands. So the prospect of having my half acre garden would have to wait until I got my arm back. Meanwhile, I have been suffering allergy attacks from store bought foods and the all over my body outbreaks of hives because of the chemicals commercial farmers used. I've been miserable these past months since we've gone through most of the frozen food stuffs I've put by in stores. We do love our veges.

My nephew offered to build me some raised bed planting boxes, raised bed types if I supplied the materials. Now you know me, I'll squeeze two cents into a quarter with it kicking and yowling all the way. There just had to be a cheaper alternative. It wasn't just the wood and nails, but the dirt needed to fill these boxes I was balking at. Plus they were permanent. I don't know about the rest of you stroke survivors out there, but I feel the deficits I now face are only temporary. A bump in the road of life. Nothing should be permanent when adapting.

Granted, we could get the dirt from the fish pond we are digging on our property, but then I'd have to have multiple trucks loads of it brought from the property to my home. For something temporary? Because it was convenient for me? Nope, I figured there had to be an easier and cheaper way.

I found one. Milk crates. I had used them previously to build a potting bench out of them. Why couldn't they work for a raised bed garden. Most large restaurants (schools & hospitals) have large amounts of them just stacked up just collecting dust. The milk companies forget about them and just bring more. The same thing goes for those large plastic racks for bread. They'll give them away for free if you ask for them. This is where being a former chef paid off. <g>

I'm talking about the commercial grade, heavy duty crates not the dollar store knock-offs. The knock offs just can't handle the weight. For single patches I used an inverted, large, plastic trash can as "legs." for seedlings and shallow rooted crops. The bare spot underneath where the grass dies, will be cleared for planting roses because I love teas with rose hips, a huge source of vitamin C.

I stacked the milk crates three high and placed them off to one side of my back patio. It's mobile and can be broken down into nothing. The grass doesn't die underneath so no harm no foul. When and if we decide to sell this property, no one would be the wiser except for my neighbors. Yes, I'd still have to buy bags of Jungle Growth Mix but I'd do that anyhow for my lettuce patch or enlarging my garden. The soil after growing season is over is put into the compost bin for next year's garden fertilizer.

It works! Not on the scale of my half acre garden but it will produce, given the space constraints, fresh food and plenty to put up for later use. Can I still do my three-sisters method of planting? Yep or at least I'm going to try it. Now corn grows five to six feet high so harvesting it could pose some problems, but the stalks will stay in place until the bean and peas finish harvesting. I guess my bigger grandsons or granddaughter on a step ladder would work for harvesting the corn. I did plan ahead and made them only two crates high for this patch.

How do I make the soil deep enough? I stacked three bags on top of each other and just cut the plastic bag away in the center. It works for turnips and potatoes. Of course, there are always my handy-dandy 5 gallon buckets to plant root crops in. Placed on a milk crate, of course. That how I plant my horseradish anyhow. In case you didn't know, horseradish has an extremely invasive root system.

I tried out those planting bags and those Topsy-Turvy planters a few years ago with strawberries, and tomatoes so I'll do it again this year. They hang from my grandchildren's swing set my, now, unused clothes line, and my gazebo.The only problem I have with the Topsy-Turvy and tomatoes is that the tomato plants can grow eight feet in length. Unless I hang it from my will drag the ground, so much for ease in harvesting. Notice the picture to the right? The device in higher than the door frame in the background.

So for at least this year my garden is growing above ground in extra raised bed. I'll have to let you know the yield I get.  For my raised bed garden I did place my bags onto a bread rack for more stability. I used 21-1.5 cu. ft. bags of Jungle Growth Mix, 36 milk crates, 4 bread racks for my mini garden. The seeds I culled from my garden from an earlier harvest. For any stakes my neighbor has a mini forest of bamboo. For the cost of the growing soil about $100. I'll get possibly a 150% of my investment back.

How much would I pay for a gym membership in a year to use their exercise machine? Gardening is an excellent form of balance and physical training plus the meeting my nutritional needs to boot. It also saves me in more doctor visits and prescriptions. It's a win-win situation.

Now for the video I watched to learn how to garden in a bag. I didn't use the frame or string and used a screwdriver to poke the holes. :o)


  1. Very clever! Glad you're getting back to gardening! :)

  2. Your creativity is amazing. I plant impatiens where I get to see them every time I come home.

    1. Rebecca, I plant flowers too but they have an alternate purpose, I can eat them. Rose petals are great in salads as are Nasturtiums and pansies.

      I tend to think outside the box when gardening.


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