The last couple of weeks I’ve been working hard in my backyard starting my summer garden. I’ve started one every year for the last couple of years…mostly in pots, then got ambitious and started one in ground. I have to admit, I have not had much luck with the in ground portion of my gardening experience. I really love playing in the dirt and growing things, I am always hopeful but usually disappointed. Because of this I have had such a love/hate relationship with gardening.
(last year’s garden started nice…then became very very sad…)
(my container herb & tomato garden…it’s the happier part of my gardening)
This year, I got a little bit more serious. Obviously after 2 years of breaking my back trying to grow veggies in the dirt I had in my backyard, something had to change. I was inspired by my friend Betsy who built a nice garden plot in her backyard (we both live in average subdivision sized lots) and had great results last year. The slightly raised garden idea appealed to me for a couple of reasons…being able to enhance the soil and hopefully control some of the weeds and grass that I had problems with in the past. With Betsy’s guidance I headed to Lowes and got to work.
I started by deciding how big of a garden I wanted. I decided on 8′ x 6′ and went looking for wood. I was told I needed to get wood that was “treated” since it would have to withstand outdoor conditions. Okay. But then I found out that pre-treated wood is not a good choice for gardens due to the chemicals they use to treat the wood. Okay. So what were my options? I could have painted untreated wood, or for a few dollars more purchase naturally treated wood like cedar. I figured the extra dollars were worth the cost of the paint, the labor of painting and the time involved in the whole treating process. I purchased 2 planks of 2 x 8s, and one 2 x 12 that the Lowes employee cut in half for me. The Lowes lumber employee was very helpful to me once I explained to him what I was doing. After talking to him for a few minutes I learned that he actually helped his grandmother put her garden together so he was able to offer me some tips and information that I had no clue about.
Once I finished with lumber (and finding nails…jeesh, there are a million kind of nails, had to shamelessly ask for help there too), I headed out to get my dirt. I’m sure that part of the reason that my in ground garden has been unsuccessful in the past is because of poor soil. After talking it up with the garden department employee (my new friend Mike – who after several visits and even more questions later, probably hides when he sees me), I decided to go with 16 bags of soil, half a vegetable mix and half organic cow compost, to fill up my garden plot.
(This was the Jillian Michaels workout part of my day…lugging 16-36lb bags of dirt from the car to the backyard. Had no time to wait for hubby assistance…I wanted to get this project moving.)
(A little hammering later…)
(Ta da! We have a garden plot!)
I enlisted some little helpers to combine the compost and soil mixtures. I had to laugh because my son had absolutely no interest in helping until I told him the dirt was made of “cow poop”. Gross huh? He got all excited and started digging in. My daughter on the other hand has been a diligent helper from the very beginning.
This is the part where a random conversation about gardening earlier the same morning with a school mom comes in. She was telling me about her garden and how she’s following the square foot gardening method. As she explained it to me, I became really interested in learning more. I found this site called My Square Foot Garden and used it as a reference in figuring out how to organize my garden. I didn’t follow it step-by-step but instead used it as a way to learn how to space my plants, how many seeds/plants can grow within each square foot etc. I basically measured out the square feet by making lines with my stick or shovel and seeded/planted within each box according to this plant spacing chart. I found myself starting to forget where I was putting my seeds so I did something totally out of character and actually drew up a chart:
Since the chart was originally drawn up, I’ve added spinach, mesclun (mixed greens), and eggplant to occupy the open squares.
(Backyard Garden Day 1)
(Backyard Garden Week 1)
These are my zucchini plants that sprouted from seeds in less than a week! These plants pictured above are two weeks old.
My latest task in the garden has been to figure out how to prevent insects from eating the leaves. I’m noticing a few holes already and I’m not okay with that. I have heard about companion gardening in the past and read up on it to learn that certain plants that are planted near each other thrive from the natural chemicals that are given off by them. For example, I planted basil seeds around some of my tomatoes because it is supposed to enhance the flavor of tomatoes and repel mosquitoes and flies. Marigolds are also considered to discourage many different insects throughout the garden (source: Seeds of Change). My grandfather has been a farmer/gardener his whole life and has never mentioned any of this to me. His thumb is just naturally green I guess. I need all the help I can get.
So in went the marigolds…
In addition to my garden you see here, I have 21 pots growing an array of herbs such as basil, mint, oregano, thyme, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, culantro, chives, sage as well as a few pots of cherry and grape tomatoes. My herb garden did not happen overnight, it has been a work in progress for many years.
I know a lot of you are still having winter weather…so hopefully the sight of all this green makes you smile.
For those of you in the southern states and have spring fever…are you or have you already started your garden? Do you have a green thumb or are you learning along the way like I am?
I hope to be able to keep you updated with nice results…and lots of recipes from the fresh veggies I grow. But what I am really hoping is that this garden doesn’t make a fool of me this year.