The Sweetest Thing.

" I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people" ~Van Gogh

Garden Update 5/19/15. May 19, 2015

Things are really coming along in our gardening endeavors. Many of the seedlings pictured in my last post have since been moved out of their little pod planters and into larger plastic cups. The tomato and squash plants were too big to stay in their original containers and it was still too early to get them in the ground in our area, so this was a necessary transition. The eggplant and peppers are outgrowing their space too but I think I am just going to leave them until we can plant them in the ground this weekend.

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After transplanting the tomatoes and squash, I started some herbs in our mini greenhouse. I started lavender, lots of basil, dill, oregano, rosemary, mint and thyme. I don’t usually start my herbs early but I also don’t usually have the best of luck growing herbs, so I am hoping planting them early will help in that area. The other vegetables we are planting are all things that can be planted directly into the soil. (With the exception of potatoes, more on that below)

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I talked a little bit about making some investments in gardening tools or equipment this year in my last post. I showed the simple raised bed we built. The other major change this year was buying a greenhouse. It isn’t anything fancy and we bought it on sale at Big Lots for around $50, but it has made such a difference. The shelves are built right into the frame and the plastic exterior just slides over the top. It is big enough to stand up fully. I was a little worried about it’s sturdiness but it just survived a storm that took down trees and closed several streets in our town, so I think it’s pretty sturdy. The plants have grown so much since we moved them in there. Beyond it doing its normal green house thing to help the plants grow, it is also great protection from the weather, so we don’t have to worry about our plants being drowned like last year. Many of our plants will be transitioned to garden beds and other areas soon but we plan to keep the greenhouse up and see how growing tomatoes and other containers vegetables in there goes. The weather can be so unpredictable and I feel that the greenhouse might really be the secret to better yields. We are also hoping it can help us extend our growing season a little when the weather starts to cool. I will certainly keep everyone updated but I really think it is worth it based just on what I have seen so far.

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The other major development in our gardening adventure was the planting of potatoes. Strangely, I had never planted potatoes before, despite hearing how easy they are to grow. We decided to give a try this year. My Grandma generously brought us a bunch of seed potatoes to get started. I cut them into chunks, being sure each chunk had an “eye” on it because that is where the new potatoes grow from. I also read that it is important to keep the chunks big enough because the old potato feeds the new potatoes so they can grow. From what I have read, potatoes can be grown most anywhere and are great options for container gardening as long as you do it properly. Our original plan was to build potato towers but we decided to just use some of our 5 gallon buckets and get started. The buckets had holes drilled in the bottom from previous garden endeavors.

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We put about 3-4 inches of dirt in the bottom of each bucket. We have 4 different kinds of potatoes, so we did a bucket for each and 2 for the red potatoes since we had the most of those (and they are our favorite). We placed the potato chunks in eye side up and covered them with another inch or so of dirt.

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Once all the pieces were covered, we watered them and put the buckets in the greenhouse. As the potatoes grow out of the dirt, you just keep adding more dirt a little at a time and the potatoes will keep growing. If/when our potatoes outgrow the bucket, we are just going to cut the bottom off from another bucket and stack it on top.

This coming weekend is Memorial Day and we plan to get things in the actual ground. Can’t wait until everything starts growing!

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Our Gardening Plans for 2015. May 10, 2015

Filed under: Gardening — Jessica @ 7:56 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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!

 

Gardening. July 2, 2013

Gardening is something I have always been kind of interested in. My immediate family members are not gardeners,(they aren’t even really vegetable eaters), so I didn’t have much opportunity to learn first hand growing up. Over the years, I have read¬†many books on gardening, but I still didn’t really know what I was doing until I actually just got my hands in the dirt and learned through trial, error and the wisdom of other gardeners I spoke with. Last year was the first year that I successfully grew anything besides herbs and it was one of the best feelings in the world. I was hooked. It just feels so “right” to grow food, pick it, clean it, prepare it and feed it to the people you love. It is how food is supposed to work. With just two 12×4 foot raised beds at one of our community garden sites and some containers in the backyard, we grew enough vegetables to feed us all summer and did quite a bit of canning and freezing. We just recently used up the last of what was in the freezer.

Needless to say, I could not wait to get started this year. I ordered my seeds from Seed Savers without any real plan or layout in mind. I may have ordered a bit too much, but as long as I store them properly, I can save some for next year. Between the 2 raised beds at the garden and an expanded collection of containers, we have a pretty good selection of vegetables this year. Kale, rainbow chard, beets, carrots, a variety of lettuces, spinach, green beans, a variety of peppers both sweet and hot, several kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, basil, dill, mint, chives and even watermelon have all been planted. I am also hoping to get some peas since they don’t take too long to mature. I was hoping to get butternut squash, cantaloupe, cucumbers and potatoes planted but it just didn’t happen.

Despite uncooperative weather (lots of rain and gloom), things seem to be going okay. They are not all growing as quickly as they would under ideal conditions, but they are still healthy and slowly growing. Hopefully the sunshine comes and sticks around for awhile soon!

Here is one of the beds in bloom last year-

I will post updates and pictures as things start producing more.

Did you plant a garden? What did you plant?