Garden Diaries: Stephanie Stewart, Part 2

by Stephanie Stewart




Lots of progress has been made since my last entry here for Farmfront. Starting with expanding our gardening space! It seems my ambitions have outgrown my original amount of space. So with that and the seedlings quickly maturing, we doubled our overall tilled ground.




Tilling is hard, man.

I always thought that tilling looked easy. Grandma always made it look like no big deal. You just push the heavy turning dirt blades around. Not true at all. As can be seen, I do not think the large amount of red rock present in my soil is doing me any favors either.
After a few failed attempts at trying to get more chicken litter tilled into the new addition to the garden space, I declared that what I had done was as good as it was going to be. Time to move on. Now that I had my extra square footage, I could plant some of my seedling babies!


Seed babies! Moment

One little issue arose though. Since I transplanted my small seedlings from peat pods to a smaller plug tray, I had an assortment of squash and zucchini all mixed together.
While this will not be such a problem for myself, it makes it difficult for me to now get rid of the rest of my seedlings. I cannot distinguish between the two to give away. Just a beginner’s mistake!
The squash and zucchini proved to be the easiest as they proved to be easy to grow from seeds. Brussels sprouts were also not too bad, other than they were frail. I had accidentally lost a few along the way. My cucumbers seemed to be stuck at a point where I was hoping that getting them into real soil might do them good. For the life of me I can not get okra to grow in the plug trays, but planted a few anyway. With everything now in the ground, I am seeing slow, but consistent progress. I am even beginning to see some small heads of broccoli, and tomato blooms.
I continue to go through and hoe up the soil weekly around my older plants. I always want to get rid of any sprouting weeds and aerate any packed soil that is on the surface. We have had quite a bit of rain in Western Kentucky this spring, with even more cloudy days. I am hoping that with some more sunshine, my plants will really begin to take off. Maybe I will finally have some produce to share with friends.

Lessons I’m learning

My one largest failure so far is forgetting the fact that my strawberries exist. I have three hanging baskets of them off my deck railing. I can never remember to look at them daily. Unfortunately many of my berries have rotten spots on them when I do find them. Oh well! I guess the many birds I have hanging around will like the treats I leave them in the yard!


Garden Diaries: Amanda Deplewski, Part 1

by Amanda Deplewski



Why I Garden

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I love so much about gardening. I’m not an “outdoorsy” person. I don’t camp or mountain climb. Hiking with me isn’t much fun. After my blood sugar drops to a certain point, I’m a nightmare person. Just ask my partner.

I garden because it’s a given. Some of my earliest, fondest memories are of the tomato patch we had behind the house I grew up in. The first plant I ever grew myself was sprouted from a cherry tomato I bit in half as a toddler and threw into a patch of rocks that bordered our deck. The next year it grew into a monstrous tomato plant that my parents were too amused to move.

I garden because it’s good for my mental health. Gardening is filled with tiny miracles. Living things transform from an inert seed you shoved into the dirt. Sprouts germinate indoors under the psychedelic purple glow of lights in the middle of lifeless winter. A watermelon exists and is eaten because it was grown by you.

It all brings a sense of purpose, and a deep satisfaction to my life. Maybe it’s just being outside doing something physical instead of sitting on the couch staring at a screen. Perhaps it’s the extra Vitamin D I get from being out in the sun. It could even be the illusion of control in a world that seems to be spiraling out of control sometimes. In any case, it makes me happy.

Prep Work

The house we currently live at came with two pre-made raised beds. Each are approximately 4ft by 16 ft. I use one for food crops, and the other as a pollinator garden.

The Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Bed (left) and Food Crop Bed (right)
Pollinator Bed (left) and Food Crop Bed (right)

The pollinator garden prep mostly involved winter-planting my seeds. Native species that thrive in 6a tend to need a cold period to sprout. This can either be done by cold-stratifying them in the refrigerator through 

various methods. I’ve used the paper towel method in the past.

The easiest way I’ve found is to plan ahead and plant them in November. I also amended the soil just slightly by adding peat moss and aged manure on top of the soil that was already present. Wildflowers don’t really need soil amendment, but I was already doing the same to my vegetable bed and I figured why not.

In addition to drawing in pollinators for my crops, this bed also serves as the stress-free and worry-free area of my garden. There is no weeding because wildflowers pretty much are weeds. I fuss and fuss over my food crops almost to the point of neuroses. So wild beauty that is completely out of my hands is a nice change of pace.

The Food Gardenpurple grow lights

For the food crops bed, my prep was a little more involved. I had an incredibly bad weed problem last year. I’m guessing this was caused by tilling established garden soil and bringing dormant seeds to the surface.

Around February of this year I put down a layer of pre-emergent weed killer. Over that, a layer of newspaper smothered any sprouting weeds. Finally, I laid down the aged manure/peat moss mix that I mentioned using in the pollinator garden.purple grow lights tomatoes

I also attempted to start tomato and basil seeds indoors 6 weeks before my last frost date. I’ve previously been extremely successful with this practice. For whatever reason, the same conditions that produced too many seedlings last year produced none this year. This year only 25% of them sprouted though. Of those, every single one died from “damping off”, which is a condition due to lack of airflow and high humidity.

Due to tomatoes’ long growing season and the relatively short amount of frost-free days in 6A, I’m probably going to have to forego tomatoes for this season unless I purchase plants from a garden center. COVID-19’s stay at home policies will probably make this difficult to do responsibly. I’m confident though that the basil plants will do well if the seeds are planted straight in the ground. Those plants grow fast and have done extremely well in my soil in previous seasons.

What I’m Planting Moment

  • 3 carrot varieties
  • 5 tomato varieties
  • 2 bush bean varieties
  • 3 corn varieties (two flour and one sweet)
  • 1 variety of spinach
  • 3 varieties of basil
  • luffa gourds
  • various types of wildflowers and herbs for pollinators

Final Thoughts

I’m trying a lot of new things this year and will probably have both successes and failures. I’m trying to be pragmatic about the potential failures, as it will mean I have learned something (and maybe be able to pass it on to you all)

garden prep with newspapers



Garden Diaries: Stephanie Stewart, Part 1

by Stephanie Stewart



Why I Garden

I grew up gardening with my grandmother every summer. She always had a gigantic garden which she tended to mostly alone well up into her 80’s. I won’t pretend I retained a lot of knowledge, but I did like walking behind her tiller, and getting to pick the assorted vegetables we would get to eat later for lunch. 

Now in the present day, I have decided to make this year my first year planting my own garden. What can be better than relaxing in your garden after a long day and tending your plants, only to get to enjoy the fruits of your labor through the summer, share with friends, and even put some away for colder months. After living in this house for nearly three years and every year debating whether or not to jump in, the current situation of no socialization seemed like the perfect time to begin a new hobby! So, join me on my journey into becoming my own Martha Stewart.



Prep Work

Step one was picking the perfect garden spot. A lot of discussion went into this between my boyfriend and I, and it also proved to be a point of contention in previous years that led us to putting the goal on the back burner. Finally, we agreed that a small little plot of about twelve feet by twelve feet, that has plenty of full sunshine, very flat, and in view of my kitchen window would be our best option. Following this came tilling. Since we don’t own a tiller, we were fortunate to have friends who live nearby who let us borrow theirs. So, on Saturday, March 28, we broke ground. After my boyfriend, Adam, tilled the dirt several times, we decided to take a rest for the evening. The next day, he went over the dirt twice more.

I spent the next week in search of some chicken litter. After some inquiry’s a good friend of mine was able to provide me a few buckets for the purpose of fertilization.

For anyone not familiar with chicken manure, it has an extremely high nitrogen content due to the ammonia it holds. This makes it extremely beneficial for plants that produce food. I also added a small amount of lime due to the high clay concentrated soil here in Kentucky. The following day, the plot was tilled twice more and was ready for planting!

What I’m Planting Moment

This began with some tray plants I had purchased, including, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeños and broccoli. I also began a small seed nursery where I can raise some of my own plants in small peat pods, in hopes I can transplant them later. My selections for this process incorporate yellow squash, zucchini, okra, brussels sprouts and a form of hybrid cucumber. Today, I am at a stopping point, where I added a few more tomatoes, and a cabbage plant, purchased on a whim.

Seizing the Opportunity to Learn

I am very hopeful that this endeavor will end in my favor. I am apprehensive about my skills. But it’s fun to learn! I hope anyone reading will take this as a bit of inspiration to dip their toe into some sort of gardening. I also hope that you’ll follow me along on my journey!