I had a great Saturday. We visited with Alex, who had recently bought his first house. It's on 5 acres with a barn and some fenced pasture in the rural outback of north central Alabama, and is a perfect a place for a young man in his 20s to begin. Alex has spent his whole life up there, surrounded by farmland and home gardens, but had never had one of his own. After my wife and I had a tour of his new place, he asked where he thought his garden should go.
We took a look around and decided on a spot, which was, coincidentally the same one his Dad had chosen. I told him we could lay it out and start working it with the broadfork and he could get some spinach started if he had some seeds and an old storm window to cover it on cold days.
Alex thought it would be a lot more complicated than that. He said, " So that's it?" I told him we could lay out a line with a garden hose to get a look at exactly where it should go. We looked at the shadow of his (very nice) barn and of the surrounding trees, considered the approximate angle of the sun in a few more months, stretched the hose out and started working. I always travel with a broadfork lately, and I showed him how to handle it, then he tried it out. The soil was a sandy clay soil and was very easy to work.
As we worked, Karen and I talked with him about the foods he liked to eat, and how to get them started. He'd never had fingerling potatoes before, and from the look in his eyes as we talked about them, I think he'll enjoy them a lot, particularly when he digs up his first basket with his broadfork. He's going to have some really good potatoes there.
He seemed a little surprised that he didn't have to 'till' the whole garden, but just the rows that would be the beds, and it would look kind of like earthen corduroy. I told him I'd be back with my scythe when the grass got up to show him how that works to make great mulch.
I left my demo broadfork with him to work on the garden this week, and I plan on going back next weekend to see how it went. I felt like something very important happened there in the warm sun and chilly breeze of the last day of January. Alex really wants to produce some of his own food, and now I believe he is going to do it. He's off to a good start.
I think demystifying gardening is part of the challenge in getting someone started. From the outside, it seems like so much work, so much equipment, such a miracle to get food to grow in the Earth. I told Alex that when we open the ground and put in a seed and water it, we are simply letting Nature happen.
Try to help someone start their first garden if you get a chance. You'll feel good about it, I promise.