How we improved our soil in a subdivision in North Carolina

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

It was evident that we needed to do something about our poor yields. Mike realized that we had to cut down some trees and move the garden. We hated the sweet gum balls that clogged the lawn mower and became lethal weapons whenever the mower hit them, or worse they embedded themselves in the dirt waiting gleefully for the barefoot person to step on them. They wound up in the garden, on the deck and all over the yard. More sweet gum trees were coming up in the yard and we were faithfully cutting them down.

A friend helped Mike cut some of them down and saw them up. We hauled and stacked wood and placed it inconspicuously out of sight of the neighbors. Next we ripped up the raised beds we had built in our little bit of sunshine and moved them down the hill to a more level spot. Again we hauled horse manure, created raised beds and planted again.

There was a wonderful brochure from a local seed company that told me what varieties were best for our area of North Carolina. A nursery in downtown Raleigh became my “go to” for seed purchases and plant starts. I would drool over the fruit and nut trees, but knew we really had no room for them. I had grown strawberries in our flower bed in Houston for both ground cover and berries. However, our yard was just too shady for the berries. I really missed fresh strawberries!

The key here is that varieties may look beautiful in a seed catalog, but if they do not grow well in your area, then you should not plant them unless you are willing to spend the time to baby them or the plant is something you simply cannot live without. Green beans were a problem for us. For years I planted the wrong variety and yields were poor. The same was true for broccoli. I began planting only what was suggested in the brochure from the local seed company and things were much better.

I learned that corn may grow in a small area, but its yields are poor. At the time, local farmer sold Silver Queen Corn cheaply at the farmers’ market and was much better than what I was able to grow. Tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes from my garden became our best crops. My dad called them our “money crop.” In many ways that was true. I did not have to buy tomato products all year and spring and fall buttercrunch lettuce made sweet salads. Purple hull peas were and still are some of our favorite but require lots of room to grow enough for a family. We grew them and ate them fresh, but for storage, we bought them by the bushel and canned them.

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