Once upon a time in a land called Michigan, there lived a boy with hair the color of the carrots that grew in the garden on his family’s farm. Even as a young child he learned to coax food from the soil from his father and helped his grandfather relieve sheep of their wool. At the tender age of thirteen, he began buying livestock of his own and gathering accolades for his animals at various livestock shows as well as state and county fairs, culminating in the title of “State Champion Showman.” But he wasn’t satisfied. At the age of seventeen, along with his animal husbandry, he bought farm equipment and began leasing farmland and raising crops. He grew corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and hay, all while he was still finishing high school. He continued tilling the ground and raising sheep, but it was a tough way to make a living. He tried his hand at other things, but alas, farming was in his blood.
Then one day, a fair maiden from the land of Nashville, moved to his charming hamlet, and as they say; “The rest is history.”
Why do I tell you such a tale? Because my husband is that ginger lad and I am the grateful recipient of all he knows about farming and growing wholesome, nutritious and delicious food.
Every spring he starts thinking about the weather, the soil, the condition of his tools and of course the yield, a.k.a. the harvest. Now, he hasn’t been in the farming game for years, but he still loves to think as though he is. That’s why I call him a “Gentleman Farmer.” By definition, a gentleman farmer is “a man who farms for pleasure rather than for profit.” So, I decided to ask him a few questions about growing crops on our two “green acres” in Brentwood, in hopes that it will encourage some of you, with latent green thumbs, to give it a try!
- PICK A SITE – Choose a piece of level ground that gets full sun exposure, away from trees and shrubs. Figure out how large you want your garden to be and stake it out.
- TILL THE SOIL – For a small garden, you can just use a shovel and hoe, but for a large vegetable garden, you’ll want to use a roto-tiller. Be sure to turn up the soil anywhere from 8-10″ to make sure the roots have room to grow. Then remove all the grass and weeds from the site.
- TEST THE SOIL – A fairly inexpensive soil testing kit can be purchased at your local hardware store or garden center. If you follow the instructions, you should get insight as to what type of soil you have and the fertilizer that is needed for best results.
- FERTILIZE THE SOIL – Fertilizer will add nutrients to the ground to optimize your plants’ health and growth. There are many types of fertilizer, but Kent prefers to use “mushroom compost” because it’s made from chicken manure and composted straw. Make sure you work it into the soil by tilling it again.
- PLANT YOUR SEEDS – Whether it’s corn, green beans, tomatoes or cucumbers – you can find seeds or starter plants at the local garden center. Place stakes at each end of the garden and stretch string between them, this will help you plant the vegetables in straight rows, a point that will come in handy when the time comes for eliminating weeds.
- GIVE YOUR GARDEN PLENTY OF WATER – We can have some hot and dry weather here in Tennessee, so don’t ignore your garden. Make sure you give it a good drink. Remember a healthy plant produces a better yield.
So, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice that has always wanted to get her hands a little dirty, please know that the rewards of your efforts are bountiful. It can save you money at the grocery store and what you don’t consume, freeze or can, could just be that catalyst for a life-altering conversation with a neighbor or someone in need. I myself know little to nothing about this gentile form of farming, I’ve learned a lot just writing about it. But, I’ve seen smiles erupt and hearts warmed as we’ve offered someone something home-grown from our garden. Now that’s what I call “growing” and “going”!
Unlike Eva Gabor in the classic sitcom “Green Acres”, I don’t have to say goodbye to city life! I just have to look out my back window and see the ripening corn crop to know; “Green Acres we are there!”
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