This post has been in the plans for weeks and I am so happy to finally get around to writing it! I started gardening about 4 yrs ago. I had had an interest in gardening for a long time before that but the combination of time, space, money and knowledge never quite came together. Four years ago, our city started a community garden project and I just so happened to be working with an avid gardener, so I knew it was time to finally get started. (More on our community gardens in a later post) With the help of my gardening friend, I planted my first 12X4 bed and never looked back.
Gardening appeals to me on so many levels. First of all, it is just a practical skill to have. I love knowing that I can grow my own food in case I survive the Zombie Apocalypse. I also love how much money we save by growing our own vegetables. In the summer our produce bill is considerably lower when the garden is doing well. Some of those savings carry over into the other seasons as well when we are able to save some of harvest by canning, freezing and other proper storage techniques. Knowing where my food comes from and what was used to grow it and get it there is also important to me and growing it myself makes that easy.
My favorite reason for gardening is that it just feels good. It feels good to get your hands in the dirt, it feels good to be so connected to nature~ to the sun and the rain and how it is effecting what is growing outside of your back door. It feels good to grow something from a seed into something that you are going to put on your table and feed your family and friends. It is a very “full circle” experience that makes me feel connected to something much larger than myself.
All that being said, gardening is also a very trying and humbling hobby. It makes you very aware of how little control you really have over a lot of things. Last year, we got very little out of our gardening efforts. It was either terribly rainy or crazy hot. Containers that provided proper drainage in years past just couldn’t keep up and many of our plants drowned. By the time some of our plants started to grow fruits, it was getting too cold out. We did what we could but it was a disappointing season. This year, we have learned a little more and invested in a few things that we hope make for a more successful harvest. I know there is some quote about gardening being an exercise in optimism and I could not agree more. Luckily, I am an inherently optimistic person and I am always so excited to start a new garden each year.
Our first upgrade this year was building our own raised garden bed. We just stuck with a very basic idea and built this 8X4 bed and filled it with garden soil. We also mixed in some organic fertilizer (manure). We have not put any plants in it yet because we are likely to get another frost, but it is ready when we are.
After getting our bed built, we started some seeds in a “mini greenhouse” inside. I always mean to keep some kind of detailed garden journal with dates etc and I never quite do. I think this picture was taken about 2 weeks post planting. They have grown considerably since then (this picture was taken about 2 weeks ago). We started 4 varieties of tomatoes, 3 kinds of sweet peppers, Eggplant, Zucchini, Crookneck & Butternut Squash. We used an organic seed starting mix and I was very happy with it. Be sure to label any seeds you start!!!
As far as seeds go, I think it is important to buy seeds responsibly. I buy organic, non GMO and often heirloom seeds through Seed Savers Exchange. I know there are other reputable companies as well but this has been my favorite. I was actually really careful with my seeds last year, making sure they were kept cool and dry, and I was able to use the unused seeds from last year again this year. We are going to attempt saving seeds from our plants this year to use next year, so hopefully that works out.
On top of our garden bed out back, we are going to be growing in a few different ways/ locations. We are building potato towers, putting some of our tomatoes and peppers in large buckets, planting our squash plants in our neighbors plot (connected to our yard) and we also have another community garden plot this year! In addition to the seeds we started indoors, we will planting Kale, Rainbow Chard, Collard Greens, Lettuce, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Peas, Carrots, Beets, Yellow Beans, Onions and a (large) variety of Herbs.I plan to do regular “garden update” posts, so more on all of that later!