Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting Started On Gardening

When we moved in, we asked the landlord if we could plant a garden, and got permission. Immediately, we started planning. As these things go, our plans got bigger and bigger – never completely out of control or ridiculous, but pretty elaborate for a couple that has successfully made one garden ever (and it had all of four different things in it).

This time, however, Randy had been reading and researching different things to plant and what would grow here, planting schedules, etc. We were ready. Unfortunately, a combination of nasty weather, a failed grow-box experiment, and lack of funds to buy the dozen different packets of seeds we wanted combined to simplify our plans.

The final plan:
Three raised beds made from 2”x6” boards. The beds are 3'x7'. We chose those dimensions for two reasons. First, we knew we'd have a trellis of some sort built along the back of the beds and wanted to ensure we could easily reach the back of the bed, so we didn't want to make it more than three feet deep. The seven foot length was a result of Home Depot's pricing; the true 8-foot lengths cost $5/board, but the slightly shorter boards we bought only cost $3/board. Sold!

Along the back of the main beds, we built a trellis using leftover fencing. It's not as tall as we will probably end up with (only about five feet) so we will probably make a PVC/twine extension that – while not attractive – will serve to let the vines grow taller.

Herb/garlic bed
One raised bed measuring 1'x7' for herbs. This got changed into a garlic bed because of a lack of herbs and a plethora of garlic. I'm ok with this; there is no such thing as too much garlic.

One planter measuring 6”x3' from my sister for planting garlic.

One “planter” for blueberries made from a large rubbermaid bin.

A non-raised bed along the side of our patio for strawberries, measuring 2'x8' or so. This one needs the most work still.

We filled the beds with high-quality fertilizer courtesy of my mom...more specifically, my mom's three horses. The soil here is not great – sandy and rocky – but the composted horse manure should help it out significantly. It took two pickup loads of manure to fill all the beds. The manure is dense and rich and loaded with worms, which should help the mixing process immensely.

As far as crops go, we had originally planned for about 20 different types of vegetables, including some that needed to start inside. Randy built a miniature grow-box out of a milk crate, some old yogurt containers for planters, and a shop light, and tried to start ten or so broccoli plants. Unfortunately, each container seemed to grow something (or things) different from each other, none of which looked like broccoli. Combining that with the need to use our starter room for a nursery, we decided to put that off until next year...or maybe the year after...when we could afford to build a more permanent station in the garage.

Also, as it got closer to time to plant, our budget got tighter and we didn't have the money to go on our seed-buying spree. We took stock of what we had already and got some freebies from my mom, who always has leftover seeds and my sister, who is working on a sustainable garden – using the crops she has to collect seeds to re-plant the next year. Check her blog out at! 

Now our plan is to plant the following:
Peas and beans along the trellises. You can never have too many of these two things, in my opinion. When we were kids, Sarah and I got in trouble every year for stripping the garden of peas. I doubt my restraint has gotten much better. Fresh peas are one of the world's tastiest treats. Green beans aren't quite as irresistable right off of the vine, but I can make any excess beans into spicy dilled green beans, which are irresistable.

Potatoes. Just yesterday, my sister gave us a bag of seed potatoes. We haven't quite decided where these will go yet – we may put them in a bed, but we might also find/build a container for them so we can try some techniques to maximize output.

The garlic is growing quickly
Garlic. My sister got me a planter and three types of garlic for my birthday, and my mom gave me a bulb of elephant garlic to use to plant. Of course, I planted them way too late, so they won't get as wonderful and developed as they should, but better late than never!

Tomatoes. We got some seeds from my parents, but it's too late to plant seeds, so we'll get some starts from my school's upcoming FFA sale. I love working at a school with an active FFA. We might also try making some of our own starts just as a test – we have the seeds, after all, and there are plenty of ways to use tomatoes.

Cucumbers. Our plan was to plant and pickle, but we have seeds for slicing cucumbers, not pickling cucumbers. We'll do some research into what kinds of pickles we can make/how to use the larger cucumbers for pickling, but we might just end up with lots of salad fixings!

Lettuce. Not much to say about it except it'll be nice to have on hand to make salads. You know, to use up all those cucumbers!

Squashes. We're planting yellow summer squash, grey zuccini, patty pan, and miniature pumpkins. These take up a lot of room, but we love eating squash (and mini-pumpkins are just fun!) so it's worth it.

The strawberry patch still needs a bit of work!
Strawberries. My mom has extra plants she's going to give us to get started here; hopefully they thrive. Fresh ripe strawberries are marvelous. Also, a strawberry bed to the side of the patio will look much nicer than the current crop of dandelions.

Blueberries - still alive!
Blueberries. We've had these for three years now, and somehow didn't kill them. The first year, they stayed on our front porch in the bags they were purchased in. The next, they got moved into old cat-litter buckets. We upgraded them into a rubbermaid bin this year; we'd plant them permanently, but we're renting and don't want to have to leave them behind. We haven't gotten any berries from them yet, but this year we hope to get a few.

The square foot grid laid out and ready to plant
We're mostly using the square-foot gardening plan from this book. Basically, it calls for dividing the garden up into one-foot squares (hence the fashionable yellow yarn in our garden!) and planting each seed to maximum density within a square. This helps get the most out of the garden and eliminate much of the need for weeding, as the vegetables grow more closely together and don't leave room for weeds. I like this a lot, because I loathe weeding. There is nothing fun about it, and it never seems to end. Reducing the need to weed is a big benefit to any garden plan!

I'm sure that we will have plenty of learning-curve experiences throughout the year, including plenty of mis-steps as we miss deadlines for planting/harvesting as we try to juggle a garden, a toddler, and a newborn. It should be fun, though!

Next week: Jam! Because really, who doesn't love jam?

This post is linked to Made From Scratch Mondays at The Daily Dish


  1. grrr. I hate your comment function!

    Anyway, plant the sprawlers in the corner of the beds and let them vine out on the lawn. Saves a love of space that way.

    1. Yeah, they're going in the front. Next year, we're going to try trellising some of them; SFG says you can get pretty much any vine plant, including pumpkins, to climb a long as the trellis is strong enough, that is!