Spring Cleaning in the Garden

Since Jeremiah was so small last year, I didn’t get out to garden much. I planted a few things and utilized the survival of the fittest after getting everything planted. We didn’t have much to show for it, so it made me eager to get back into the garden this year.

Not only did I neglect my plants in season, but I failed to clean out my garden once all the plants died. I finally got around to doing this back in March. Much to my pleasure I discovered that I already had two plants alive! Apparently, parsley and chives are perennials. Now that I know this, I’ll probably transplant them to my regular flower bed once they go dormant in the fall.

Cleaned up and all ready for plants

Cleaned up and all ready for plants

In addition to removing the old plants, I like to amend the soil in order to add back nutrients and to make up for any lost soil. Usually, I add some version of Mel’s Mix in a smaller proportion, but this year I actually had some of my own compost so I decided to add that instead.

Fresh homegrown compost

Fresh homegrown compost

You’ll notice the clumps in the compost. Most of those crumbled apart as I put them into the garden. Isn’t that crazy that all of that dirt used to be trash? Now it’s going to feed my plants for the summer. I also sprinkled some lime and fertilizer into the bed. Now you can see the final product.

Doesn't that dirt look amazing?

Doesn’t that dirt look amazing?

 What do you do to prep your garden? Tell me what I’m missing!

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Gearing Up for My Summer Garden

My sister and family came to visit this past week. My sister totally called me out on my lack of blogging lately. Basically, I’ve just been procrastinating as I prioritize other tasks over blogging. I’m going to try to do better, so if you notice it’s been awhile, a gentle nudge is all I need!

Last week we had a couple of beautiful days, so I took Jeremiah outside and managed to pull a few weeds out of my garden while Jeremiah explored the yard. It made me realize that I need to decide what I’ll be planting this year. For the past two years, I’ve always planted some variety of tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, herbs, cucumber, pepper, and onions. The first four have always done well and I’ll definitely plant those again this year. Even though I really want to grow my own cucumbers and peppers, I feel like I need to take a break this year as they’ve never done well.

I’m looking for suggestions of plants that are low maintenance and easy to grow in a raised bed utilizing the square foot gardening method. What have you had success with?

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Square Foot Gardening Basics: Soil

I know what some of you are thinking: Why does she have an entry on soil?

My yard consists of clay-like soil that is not suitable for growing plants. Instead of spending time amending it, I decided to build a raised bed and mix up my own soil. Below you will find the recipe for “Mel’s Mix” taken from the book.

Mel’s Mix
6 cu. ft. peat moss
4 cu. ft. coarse vermiculite
3 cu. ft. sand
4 c./1 qt. Lime
4 c./1 qt. Organic fertilizer
5 g. wood ashes/charcoal

I did not have access to wood ashes, so I just left this out. I keep reading about the amazing benefits of wood ashes in gardens. Maybe this will motivate me to get a fire pit? Anyways, the composition of this soil should have the proper drainage of no standing water 3-4 hours after raining, but will retain moisture a few inches below the surface. I think I’ve mentioned that I’m green thumb challenged. I either water plants too much or not quite enough. Now I just stick my finger into my garden and if it’s dry I know that I need to water.

After you’ve mixed up the initial batch of soil, you can use the above materials in the same proportions to freshen up your beds as they lose soil from year to year. That’s what I did this year and I’m pleased with the composition and drainage of my bed.

Now you’re ready to decide the layout of your garden!

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Square Foot Gardening Basics: Where to Plant

I’d been wanting to plant some vegetables for some time when a friend of mine introduced me to the concept of square foot gardening. I have a huge back yard without many trees and plenty of daylight, so it would be easy for me to start a garden back there. After researching square foot gardening, I decided to give it a whirl. I liked that I could dedicate as much or as little space to the garden as I wanted. I don’t like taking up hobbies that require you to go in over your head only to realize you’re no longer interested or cut out for said hobby.

Square foot gardening, as its name implies, is based on the principle of planting in squares (12″ x 12″) rather than rows, which is the traditional way in agriculture. Mel Bartholomew advocates for this method in his book as the most efficient use of space. I’m all about bang for your buck. Not only can you fit more plants in a smaller space, but there is less room for weeds to grow and a smaller area to water.

I chose to follow his recommendation of starting with a 4′ x 4′ garden. This size allows for easy access to all plants. Any bigger and a short person, such as myself, might not be able to reach an inner square. The beauty of square foot gardening is you can utilize the concept wherever you have space, even in an existing flower bed.

The ideal spot for your garden is facing South receiving 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. As long as the sunlight is spread throughout the day, 9am-4pm or thereabouts, rather than concentrated in the morning or afternoon you’re good to go. Worried you don’t have the ideal daylight conditions? Check out the lists below to find some plants that might work for you.

Only needs 4-6 hours/day
swiss chard
winter squash

Needs 6+ hours/day
summer squash

According to Mel, the plants in bold are easier to grow. From my experience, I would add spinach and herbs to this list. What other vegetables do you think are easy to grow?

Before you plant anything, you need to make sure your soil has the proper composition and drainage. Check out my entry about the perfect soil!

Categories: Gardening | Tags: , | 4 Comments

My garden is growing…for now!

It’s that time of year again. Time to start the garden. Last year was my first time having a garden. I have a raised bed that my husband and godfather so generously built for me. I utilize the square foot gardening method. It’s pretty simple once you get the general concept down and it’s a way more efficient use of space. I only have one 4′ x 4′ bed, but I hope to expand in the future.

Garden 2011

I was able to plant my first vegetables and herbs on Tuesday thanks to a friend’s generosity to watch Jeremiah for me. I dabbled in growing my own plants from seeds last year and it was huge flop! I’m going to table that interest until next year. Instead I went to my trusty Lowes and Southern States to get transplants. (If you haven’t visited a Southern States, you really should. It’s a farmer owned cooperative!)

Last year my spinach and lettuce did really well. I tried several different kinds of lettuce. While I enjoyed the taste of all of them, I found the curlier lettuce (Buttercrunch) to be more worrisome to wash. This year I’m trying out Great Lakes Lettuce, head style lettuce, mainly because my options were limited and the Romaine looked rough!

I stuck with basic herbs of parsley and basil last year. I found that I had too many herbs with four plants per square, so I decided to cut back on quantity and expand on variety. It’s hard to believe that as much as I love basil, I forgot to buy it. I did manage to plant parsley, cilantro, and chives.

Since I was so excited to have a garden last year, I kind of went overboard when I bought the plants to fill it. I tried carrots from seed, onions from sets, and Brussels sprouts without knowing much about any of them. They all failed and I vowed to stay away from them this year. Well, I couldn’t resist the idea of planting Georgia Sweet onions as I love the Vidalia onion taste. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck this year as I’m pretty sure they just needed more water.

My gamble plant of spring 2012 is bok choy. Even though I’ve never made anything with bok choy and I rarely eat it, the idea of growing bok choy made me feel adventurous. Really, it was just an impulse buy. Regardless, I’m excited to learn more about bok choy this year.

Bok Choy

Here’s a look at what I have so far.

Garden 2012

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