Monthly Archives: January 2014
As a reminder, or for anyone reading these out-of-order sometime in the future, this entry references the 2013 garden.
The beds were ready. The weather was ready. I was almost ready. I still was not exactly sure in what way I was going to actually plant. While I was looking for ideas or inspiration, I happened upon an image such as this one. And the light bulb went off. This is how I would plant! It was genius, and it made perfect sense. At least to me. I had stumbled upon a method of gardening called Square Foot Gardening that was “invented” by a man named Mel Bartholomew back in the 70’s. He has a book that talks about it in some detail. I bought it, and I read it. If you are at all interested in learning about this method, I would recommend it. There is a lot of great information, and it really does make sense why it works so well. I will add a caveat, however. It is most certainly not necessary to do everything the way he describes. For instance, he has a specific soil “recipe” that he recommends, it is 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost, and while I am sure it works wonderfully, for the amount I would need to fill my beds, the cost would have been too much. Luckily, I already had the soil situation well in hand. Also, because of the lack of space, I decided to grow as much as I could vertically. Pumpkins, watermelons, cucumbers, cantaloupe, squash. Anything that could go up a trellis, was going too. At least if I had my way.
Progress was being made! Next step: figure out what to plant, and get the seeds and starts. So we made a list. We wanted:
- Acorn Squash
- Spaghetti Squash
- Yellow Crooked Neck Squash
- Swiss Chard
Phew! I purchased several packets of seeds from local stores, and my wife purchased several starts from a local greenhouse. Now, I feel it is important that I state, or reiterate, that I was very green last year. I had no idea what I was doing. I was going off intuition for most of this. I have no idea what variety of any of those plants I was growing. I just wanted seeds and plants in the ground before the season slipped by again. A little foreshadowing, this year I know exactly what varieties I am planting.
Awesome! Now I could get planting! I had decided that I was going to place the corn and tomatoes in the southern most beds. All of the trellis-able items were going to go in the middle bed, and everything else would go in the northern bed. I was gifted 10 additional tomato starts (YAY!), which brought my total number of tomato plants to 16. I placed the overflow into the other beds. I would also place a few marigold plants in each bed to attract beneficial insects, and discourage problematic ones.
After one month, specifically, June 23rd, the beds looked like this:
There you have it! This was the fruition of a dream/goal of mine. The garden was in, and growing!
I will write-up how I did my trellis’ in the next entry, and I will definitely do an entry all about Square Foot Gardening. I am a huge advocate of it, as you will see. Also, a lesson since learned: putting all the vertical items in the same bed, and arranging the trellis’ the way I did, turned out to be a mistake. I will touch on that at a later time, however.
Until then, Happy Gardening!
What better place to start, then the beginning? I figure the best way to know how I got where I am, is to see where I came from. Discussing improvements to the garden won’t mean much if there is nothing to base the improvement on. So let’s all get into the Way Back Machine, and we will get started!
We moved into our current home almost 6 years ago, and it was 3 years later that I started to throw around the idea of having a garden. At the time, it was just a vague idea. I wasn’t quite sure how to get a garden going, or even how I wanted the garden to be, if that makes sense.
So we talked about it a bit, and I thought about it a lot. The yard has a large amount of rocks just lurking under the surface. We live on a very old river bed. So tilling up the soil did not seem very feasible. Not only that, the “traditional” gardening motif, you know, long rows with a few feet between the rows , just simply would not work. We live in the city and the lot is normal size. Perhaps if I lived in the country and had an acre or more of land that would be doable. We simply did not have the space for that type of garden.
So 2011 passed without a garden. I continued thinking about it, talking to fellow gardeners, and doing some research on the Internet. During this process is when I realized raised beds was the way we were probably going to have to go. It remedied the difficulty of the rocky ground. There was still the concern of space, however. Even with raised beds, I would still need to have long rows for plants. That is just how gardens are done! That meant large raised beds, because I have a hard time doing things like this small. Also, the idea of starting small and building it up over time is a difficult thing for me to carry out. When I try, things usually end up being large in the end anyway. That meant monetary expenditure for lumber since I did not have very much scrap lumber lying around then. I would also need good soil, and other expenses. Expenses I could not really afford.
This is how 2012 passed without the garden coming to fruition. I made it a goal to make a garden in 2013. So, when March rolled around I started getting antsy. There were still some pieces that had not come together yet. One of my co-workers has a very nice garden. He also uses raised beds, and he is a great source of information and inspiration. I was talking to him about the problem of space. How was I going to fit a garden that produced enough food for my family and I into the backyard and still leave room for the dogs? He patiently explained that long row planting was not necessary. A gardener could fit more plants in less space by staggering smaller rows. Aha! Genius! That sealed the deal for me. And so I began to work in earnest to get a garden up. I had finally accumulated enough spare lumber to build a couple of 4’x4′ raised beds, but that was not enough. I found that untreated lumber isn’t really that expensive. I scraped together enough money to buy some 2x12x12′ and a 2x6x8′ pieces of lumber. The 2x12s I made into two 12’x4′ beds, and the 2×6 I used to tie my two existing 4’x4′ beds together. This gave me a total of three 12’x4′ raised beds. I could do something with this! Next step was to buy some good soil. I do not own a truck, so I figured it would be easier to order some and have it delivered. I asked around and got a recommendation for a local landscaping company with good organic (this was important) garden soil at a fairly reasonable price. In order to have it delivered, I had to order 6 cu. yards of soil. That was way more than we needed, however, we figured any left over would be used. During the spring and summer we can always use some good garden soil around the yard.
To prepare the beds for planting, these are the steps I took:
- In the 6″ tall bed, I dug down an extra 6″ and removed the grass and dirt (and rocks). I did not do this for the 12″ beds.
- I put down a layer of cardboard and watered it well.
- On top of the cardboard I placed a thick layer of straw, which I also watered well.
- Once that was complete, I filled the beds with the garden soil.
- Once I had the raised beds filled with the soil, I added some bags of organic steer manure and turned it in to the top several inches.
This is what we had at this point. As you can see, it did not take long for one of the cats, this one is Xanax, to make his way onto the fresh dirt. I had a fun time trying to keep them from using the beds as their new, large, kitty boxes. I am well aware that cat feces is not good for gardens. Needless to say, it is easier said then done. Regardless, the beds were ready to plant. I took this picture on May 12th, which is right around the average last frost day for my area, and I was anxious to get to it! However, I am going to save that for the next entry.
Until then, Happy Gardening!
I try to live my life based on three Principles:
- Do no harm (physical, emotional, mental)
- Do everything with Integrity and Honesty
- Find and follow your Bliss and do it with Joy (as long as it doesn’t violate #1 or #2)
Prior to the Spring/Summer of 2013, I was not sure what would fill Principle #3 for me. There are many things that I greatly enjoy, and that fill my life with Joy. Some of those include:
- My family
- Tai Chi
However, even though I greatly enjoy all these items, and they all bring me extreme Happiness, I did not consider any of them my Bliss. Perhaps I should explain what I mean when I say “Follow your Bliss”. To put it simply, it means: Follow your purpose, your passion, that message you have deep inside your Heart. Follow your Heart, the reason you are here. After minimally planning and growing a fairly successful garden in 2013, I realized I now knew what my Bliss truly is: Gardening.
I found so much Joy in all aspects of gardening. The planning, the planting, the growing and caring for the plants, and the harvesting and enjoying the fruits (literally) of my labor. It was so much fun, and so much work. However, it is work I greatly looked forward too. I would come home every day from work, and the first thing I wanted to do was to remove my shoes and socks and go outside to walk in the garden; to have “Garden Time”, as I started calling it. I loved seeing the plants growing larger and larger. Watching them produce wonderfully healthy food for my family and I to eat was amazing. Introducing my daughter (she turned 5 in July) to gardening was a treat. She loved helping me plant, and when it came time to harvest, she would be out there everyday, with me, finding produce to pick. She would get very excited every time she saw a red tomato, or a Pole bean that was ready. She really loved pulling up carrots and radishes out of the ground. She also greatly enjoyed eating many of the veggies we harvested.
This blog will expand on all of this and so much more. I will be using it to share my Joy with any who choose to read it, and I look forward to hearing any feedback from those that do.
Until next time, Happy Gardening!