I live in the South, so my discussions about gardening and livestock will relate to the challenges, opportunities and specifics of southern homesteading. That being said, a chicken is pretty much a chicken, whether in Georgia or Maine, so a lot of what we discuss will be useful to anyone.
Specifically, I would like to break the old-school way of gardening that has tried to mimic other areas of the country but really doesn't work well for us Southerners. For instance, the common practice is to 'put in' a garden by having a huge area tilled up and then plant long rows of things like pink-eye-purple-hulls and crowder peas. Of course, there would be a long row of tomatoes (probably the only reason Mom stayed motivated enough to do this more than one year) and possibly there would be some peppers. Here's the problem(s) with that...
- Most of the soil in the deep south is extremely poor. I have gardened in Alabama, the Gulf Coast and now in north Georgia. In Alabama, I had a red clay that vacillated between a brick-like state when it was dry to play dough when it was wet. On the Gulf Coast, the problem was sandy soil that had no ability to hold water or nutrients. Here in Georgia, my garden area soil started as something akin to grey baby powder. Never quite seen anything like that before...
- We live in an area of the country with invasive (read huge, nasty, overwhelming, jungle-like) weeds. I am a science nerd at heart, so my interest in gardening and homesteading has taken up a lot of my reading list. Books from other parts of the country will say cute things like, "keep grass growing between your beds to allow earthworms to live there". Ha! Can you imagine wading through grass and seed heads as high as your pepper plants? Can you imagine even being able to find your pepper plants?
- So many of the traditional garden choices grown in the South are labor intensive. Shelling peas and beans took hours. Maybe that was fun when there was no air conditioning or electronics or moms working outside the home or soccer practice or (insert your busy choice here). Then again, it probably wasn't that much fun even then. And what did you get for your labor? A product that sells for $1.69 for a three pound bag. That's not going to make the cut for a busy mom or dad with a full time job and today's busy, busy lifestyle.
- And here's the big one... Southerners rush to put in a garden of heat-loving vegetables first thing in the spring. Why? Because people in Wisconsin have a short growing season and have to put transplants in as soon as possible in order to have any hope of getting a harvest. When's the last time you met an old-school southern gardener that grew cauliflower? celery? broccoli? even cabbage? Maybe never. Let's take advantage of our long growing season and mild winters, garden year round and eat a delicious variety of fresh vegetables straight from our own yards.
- I could go on and on, but this is plenty to digest today. What did Mary Poppins say? "Enough is as good as a feast." Don't worry, there will be a lot more.