I grew up on a small family farm and we always kept a garden that managed to provide most of the veggies during the summer. Some people kept a root cellar to have some veggies like potatoes, carrots, and squash through the winter, which seems like a great idea to me. Winters in Michigan freeze everything and kill off the majority of garden pests each year. Having a farm we always had plenty of free fertilizer and chickens to peck the bugs and small weedlings. You could even make a temporary pig pen and have them do most of the tilling and aeration of the soil. They add to the fertilizer and eat grubs too. Our soil was so fertile that tomatoes and pumpkins would volunteer to grow all on their own from spoiled produce from the year before that had simply been thrown back in the garden bed. Well, now I’m in coastal South Carolina and things are different here to say the least.
The soil on my plot consists of about 6″ of decomposing plant matter, which is mostly pine needles, and then at least 3′ of sand. Every time it rains the sand drains away the water and nutrients, resulting in very acidic soil that is not suitable for many plants. In addition to this problem there is also a pest problem, which I am already witnessing in my yard and garden. Having had an especially mild winter, the bug populations are insane right now. The fleas are insane, there are so many cockroaches hiding in my mulch that it seems to crawl away when disturbed, and the caterpillars nearly took out my 3 tomato plants, not to mention putting holes in my herbs. Another major problem down here is fungus. It is very humid and rains quite often. I think the moisture in the air keeps the leaves from really drying out, promoting mold and fungus growth on the plants. For now the garden consists of 3 tomatoes, a container planted with asparagus (which I plan to put n the ground now that I actually have my own ground:) ) and a variety of herbs including basil, greek oregano, 2 types of lavender, sage, chives, and rosemary. I tried tomatoes in containers last year and they didn’t do well and never produced a single tomato. I tried a container with corn also, but my bad little dog kept chewing on them and tipping over the pot so they never got over a foot tall. As I develop my plot I plan on using raised beds in order to be able to build up the soil for the plants in the beds so it won’t be too acidic. I also plan on using plants that are suitable to the soil I already have, like blueberries, which don’t do well unless the soil is acidic.
Once I get things going on my own land there will be chickens to help with weeding and insect control but for now I’m stuck picking the pests by hand, spraying dish soap solution on the leaves, and sprinkling tobacco dust around my small garden. I also had to buy “garden soil” and bags of manure. Gardening is a whole different ball game down here and it is going to take some time to adjust my methods but the long growing season makes up for it (mostly anyway) and I look forward to the challenges.