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Gardening for Gains & Companion Plants

Gardening for gains began with my first attempt at a garden. It wasn’t all that bad in the beginning of the season; harvested 10 pounds of spinach, had a few strawberries, yukon gold potatoes, way too many chili peppers and a head of broccoli. The name Gardening for Gains came from my brother when we were in the garden after a lifting session and it just stuck from that point on. I may not be quite as hell-bent on bodybuilding as my “little” brother, but I’m still dedicated to lifting & healthy-ish diet, I love gardening, and so the name fit on that level as well as a philosophical one.

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Columbus hops climbing all over the bamboo & starting to bud

Like bodybuilding, gardening has no instant gratification – what you put in is what you get out. It takes patience, perseverance, and passion to endure the slow-moving process of cultivating gains. It takes a lot of research mixed with educated guesses and experimentation once you get a feel for what you’re doing.

The first year I started gardening, which was last year, I planted a few things in the ground but planted a lot of things in Root Pouches. A Root Pouch is a fabric pot made from recycled water bottles that are then spun into fibers and manufactured into a nursery container. The main benefit to the plant is that it air-prunes the roots, creating a dense fibrous root ball. Not sure if it was the best choice for spinach (although it grew amazingly) but the tomatoes looked great – grew really tall – but I did not fertilize enough & it rained all summer long which caused a lot of disease and fungus since the garden area was slightly sunken since it was our old swing set area.

This year I brought in topsoil in the fall and then covered that with leaves from my Grandpa’s woods – about 4 pick-up truckloads for my 28’x30′ plot. I brought more dirt in the spring, tilled it into my clay-packed soil & then come home one day to my Grandpa in my garden, “You wanted manure, I got you some manure buddy!”. So I tilled it in twice around and came out with a healthy soil mixture. It only took about 6-8 truckloads of soil and a truck of manure haha!

But the whole point is that even though the first garden was not as big a success as the current one is, I learned more and wanted to learn more so that I could be as successful as possible – but it isn’t even in the sense of success that I thrive, but in the sense of the passion. I imagine that my passion for gardening is similar to my brother’s passion for bodybuilding – and I do have that passion, but not to the degree that he does. It is something that pulls you from within your soul towards it and the point is that you are meant for it and it for you because it is a symbiotic relationship where both enhance each other.

So I garden for gains; it is a passion of mine & it enhances my life physically, psychologically & spiritually. It’s a little bit of science and a lot of faith; a lot of hard work and the curiosity to think what-if and to Google every single aspect of planning, planting, pruning, fertilizing, pest management & everything in-between. I planned my garden out in excruciating  detail, but not everything survived that I originally planned for and the spacing didn’t completely translate from paper to reality.

Here’s how it looks right now:

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The Garden of Gains – all summer ’16, playing dirty not clean.

I really did pack as much into this space as I could. Really felt like I could’ve done better last year, so this year I made sure to!

A lot of my garden was planned around the concept of companion planting, though it didn’t always work out. I had to have both tomatoes and potatoes but they aren’t necessarily good to plant next to each other due to the fact that they can share the same blight. The rest of the garden is planned more appropriately.

  • Sunflowers & Cucumbers – they are great companions, the theory is that the cucumbers provide shade to the roots of the sunflowers which reduces weeds & helps retain moisture, while the sunflowers provide a natural trellis to the cucumbers.
  • Corn – excellent companions with cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, & beans (which I have sprinkled in next to the corn, but didn’t list on the plan due to space). Also, placed the tomatoes far away from corn because they share the same pests/worms.
  • Carrots & Onions – also good companions, and root crops so that’s why I put them in the raised bed and they get along with all surrounding plants.
  • Pumpkins & Watermelon – from the same family and good companions with corn.
  • Tomatoes, Peppers & Onions – all good buddies in the garden and once I harvest them and throw them together in a nice spicy salsa!

So this is my passion and I will be writing more about Gardening for Gains tips on companion planting, fertilization, irrigation, pest management, & anything else that can help you make gains in the garden! Follow me on Instagram @gardeningforgains to see more of the current garden and the new plot coming in August!

And in case you’re wondering what’s in the garden plan above: carrots & green onions in one box, strawberries & broccoli in the other, and then left to right: sunflowers, cucumbers, pumpkins, Silver Queen sweet corn, garden beans (not pictured), pumpkins & watermelon, red, blue & purple potatoes, Big Boy, Roma, Purple Cherokee & some rogue Cherry tomatoes, jalapeños are the dark green chilis, bright green are Thai chilis, red chili peppers, orange are habaneros, the white radish is garlic, bell peppers, cilantro at the top, dill at the top right, and the flowers by the carrots are Columbus hops.

-Danny

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On Love & Gardening for Gains

“You’re going to love your birthday gift, I think it’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten anyone. You’ll find out this weekend because you have to sign a waiver.”

I thought for sure this girl was trying to kill me, but was excited to find out that I was going to a ropes course for my 26th birthday. The pure excitement of going and doing something adventurous and extreme with a girl – with my girl – was enough to blind me to the imminent fear of being 30-60 feet up in the air.

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We get to the course, go through the safety training, and as we are walking up to the course we realize the shear height. Despite that, I stayed pretty positive because nobody seemed phased by it, they were all the adventurous type and Kyla seemed pretty chill too. After we get all our gear on and start walking to the point where you climb up to the first platform, she turns to me with eyes huge, watery with fear, and beautiful as could be, and she says, “I’m really scared of heights”. All I could do was laugh and say, “Are ya [freaking] kidding me?”

And in that moment I felt what true love is – I felt the sacrifice and the willingness to go beyond her own fears in order to make me happy. When I think she can’t get any better, I’m always proven wrong.

She took the more difficult route up to the first platform, climbing the staples. I followed after she got up to the top and felt good until I was realizing how high up we were going to be. We sat on the first platform for at least 15 minutes trying to get the courage to adventure out, but she just couldn’t do it, so I went out on my own – I was just happy Kyla was up there and faced her fear that I didn’t know she had until a few minutes before the climb up. Oh, and the head instructor said that this sort of thing happens all the time and 9 out of 10 relationships do just fine afterwards.

I’m not exactly sure that I can say I enjoyed myself, but glad that I at least gave it a shot. My thinking was that this was going to be a physical challenge, not such a psychological one. Everything is connected by wires – wires secure the poles to each other, to the ground, and the wires all pull on each other; the tension between them creates the balance that holds everything together. The problem with this is that everything sways a little and nothing is really stable. The platforms, the ropes, the elements you’re climbing on are all connected by wire and your weight causes them to sag slightly – basically it was just really nerve-wracking because nothing felt safe because of the slight wobble and play in the lines. I walked on wooden platforms that were on wires connecting platforms, then up the Stairway of Heaven, over 2 parallel telephone poles, through rope loops, then back through the loops and telephone poles, where I then walked the plank 60 feet above the Earth to the final platform where I met Kyla to zipline back to safety, security and sanity.

Poor Kyla had to climb up to that top platform and was even more terrified about zipping down. She looked so cute as we finally got her talked into going down. They say that couples usually look at each other as they’re going down and that helps – she looks at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes full of tears of fear, we count down and as she starts zipping she says, “I love you!” and I was in such shock that she zipped and I had my mouth hanging open and had to catch up to her to tell her I loved her too! I know she didn’t take it as me snubbing her, but she just opened up in such a way I was in pure shock.

After we pulled the lines back to the platform, we wrapped our arms around each other and kissed like we were on the brink of death, with thoughts that we would never see the ground or each other again. Neither one of would have done this ropes course if we realized what we were getting into, but we Gardened for Gains. We made gains in our lives by uprooting ourselves from our conventional ways and taking a leap of faith. When you lift your roots from the Earth it may be a shock to your system, but you may just find yourself planted in a much better place when you return.

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