So what happened to the business?

Nothing, and that’s the trouble of it. I learned—or relearned—several things about myself through trying to create a small business.

First, I learned that I don’t think like an entrepreneur, and I don’t really want to. Second, I learned that I may not have the talent, personality, or strengths needed to be a natural at being an active go-getter and driver of commerce. Meh, I say.

Meh

And “meh” is the root of the problem. I lacked the mental discipline to overcome those other things. I did nothing much, and nothing much was the fruit of my lack of labor.

It’s ok to not be an entrepreneur. But it’s not ok to go about life without discipline. Other things took priority, and that’s ok too. Things like making enough income to provide for my family. I became a staff member at my church, and that work took precedence. I worked at a startup for a person who is actually driven to be a good entrepreneur, and that took time.

Watson Abbey Farms isn’t dead though. It still represents everything about my faith, family, community, and ministry calling. I hope to homestead someday, and that starts with my backyard now, but I may never have a market garden and sell my produce at a farmers market. But I will make disciples through the work of the abbey, come hell or high water, as they say.

So thank you to my three customers, all from my church, who loved me and wanted me to succeed. The Ackermans, The Loves, and Randall. It means a lot to me I got to build a BackyardPantry for you.

Onward!

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When to nuke your garden

San Antonio has two growing seasons with some overlap in winter: Mid-March to July, and August to Mid-Nov. July is mostly a break because it’s just too dang hot to have germinated seedlings try and survive into viable plants. This is when most farmers and gardeners in this area take a break.

For now, let your plants keep going but don’t worry too much about maintenance like pruning or keeping control of anything. Pick what fruit you can, and otherwise just let your plants die off. Those of you with shadier gardens might have a little bit longer period of gathering fruit. For those in full sun, don’t be surprised if everything other than tomatoes and peppers look like this:

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Your lettuces = Sarah Conner’s nightmare from Terminator 2

When to clear
After the July 4th festivities, go ahead and nuke it (except the plants still producing). Clear out the heat stressed and dead plants, the stuff trying to go to seed, the pest-ridden, etc., and put it in the compost if you have it. After that, give the garden a good weeding and make sure you do that early on, like first or second week of July. Try not to disturb the soil too much; just pull unwanted stuff out. Go ahead and turn off the irrigation too. No use in wasting water on bare soil.

Fall bed prep
Fertile soil is productive soil. I apply this organic fertilizer before planting. You can get it at any big box hardware store or one of our amazing family-owned nurseries for around $10. This is also the time to apply any finished compost (if your personal compost piles have not broken down enough you’ll just be adding weeds to your topsoil). Mix the fertilizer and any compost into the top two inches of your beds either by raking your hand across the top or using a small trowel. You do not need to turn the whole bed over.

Next, get a hose or water can and wet the soil. This will help germinate weed seeds already existing in the soil. After a couple of weeks before replanting, pull any sprouted weeds out. The reason you do not want to disturb the bed more than this is so that you do not help germinate too many weeds, which happens when the soil is turned and oxygen and moisture gets to the seed. It also destroys the soil structure.

 

Next post we will talk about fall planting and how to plan out the garden.

What’s Growing: Updates on lettuce

A lot of time has passed since we last updated what was growing. Our backyard is a test garden, where we try out different seeds and varieties, as well as various methods for farming. This is where we fail forward, learning what works and doesn’t work at any given time. Sometimes that is intentional, and sometimes not.

First update is lettuce. We planted this special, and expensive, variety of Salanova lettuce. It grew! At first slowly, and then when I finally locked in our irrigation for that mini-bed and decided to actually weed out all the chickweed that tried to smother it, we got several nice heads of lettuce.

Here is what we learned while growing this crop:

  • The window from maturity to “oh GAWD WHY IS IT SO HOT” is quite narrow, and if you aren’t ready to be on top of it to harvest it and eat it, it wont do that well.
  • That also means you have to want to eat it. Squash and green beans have a variety of culinary things you can do with them. Lettuce has one: salads.
  • Caterpillars love it.
  • Site prep and timing are important. We may need to solarize the soil in the future to help deal with weeds.

Since we aren’t growing for commercial production, and since I commandeered my parents’ landscape beds for this project, we didn’t have the ability to use plastic mulch common with cabbage and head lettuce. However, I also didn’t use any mulch, and the grasses and chickweed that germinated after my initial hoeing certainly threatened the crop.

One of the most difficult aspects of gardening with organic and natural processes is chemical free (or chemical-“reduced” depending on your understanding of organics) integrated pest management. I intentionally didn’t touch the lettuce to see what would happen, for how long, and by what species. No neem oil, no soapy water, and no mechanical removal. While we got several heads of usable (i.e. edible) lettuce we definitely would need to plan ahead and explore options for pest control if we want to move forward with this as a production crop.

 

 

 

Grow Your Own Food: Backyard Pantries

Whether it is a small patio that holds your grill, a large expanse of turf for playing catch, or a landscaped garden to enjoy just being outside, backyards are excellent resources for family. They are also under-utilized resources for food production.

If you have some sunlight, access to water, and a small amount of space, then you have the ability to grow your own food. This is true regardless if you have a small balcony, condo patio, or a large yard of turf.

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Watson Abbey Farms is happy to announce the Backyard Pantry: a raised bed garden kit available to customers in the San Antonio, TX area which include organic soils and fertilizers, plants and seeds from reputable local nurseries and suppliers, water-saving drip irrigation, and installation, available in 4’x8′, 4’x4′, or 2’x4′ sizes designed to fit your growing space.

These kits can supplement your grocery budget by providing affordable and accessible HYPER-local foods, produced using natural practices, right in your backyard. Go grocery shopping by stepping outside.

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And for the many who do not have the bandwidth to maintain a garden along with their work and personal lives, we offer service plans for the spring and fall growing seasons comparable to the cost of lawn care so we can help you grow food where you normally grow turf.

Contact us today at info@watsonabbeyfarms.com, or send us a message on Facebook at facebook.com/watsonabbeyfarms/ for a free consultation and personalized garden plan.

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