Thursday, July 12, 2012

Starting A Garden

As I mentioned in my last post, we have started our first garden this year. I'm giddy.

I should confess that my history with keeping plants alive is a bit sordid. Recently, I've been much better because I realized that I could, you know, look up what each plant needed rather than rely on guess work. Research to the rescue once again! With that in mind, I approached gardening with some mixed emotions. But (so far) things seem to be going well; see Exhibit A.

 Exhibit A: Two 4'x4' raised beds filled with (LIVING!) tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, kale, squash, pumpkin, carrots, and more. We went with 4'x4' beds because it allows you to reach the whole plot from outside the box.

Exhibit B: A planter filled with herbs and  a bowl of lettuce and arugula sprouts.

R and I built the beds out of cedar planks and posts. There are tons of websites that provide instructions on the best ways to do this.* Then we spent a week determining where we wanted the beds (based on sun/shade), and then carefully thought out where to place them in the yard = measuring to make sure the lawnmower could get between them, as well as the fence.

*I say ways, because each one seems just as good, though some are easier than others. We simply bought four 1'X8' planks (two for each bed), which we got cut in half at the home improvement place. We also bought two 4" square cedar posts and had each cut into 16" chunks. These we used in the corners to brace the planks and to bury in the ground for additional support.

We went the organic route with the soil, which we purchased at a home garden center. We relied on the people working there, and learned a lot, including bio solids = human waste. Yeah, that might be 'organic' but the last thing I want is people droppings. The whole point of organic is to avoid hormones and pesticides, and based on what people eat, plus medication, I don't think bio solids are likely to be very healthy. We decided to get our nitrogen from chicken poo. Mmm, because nothing rouses an appetite like chicken poo.

Most of the plants were purchased at our local farmer's market when they were just tiny things or were given to me; though I did get courageous and start a few things from seed, which turned out to be surprisingly easy. We could probably fit more plants in there but we thought we should start small and see how it goes this year. We didn't want to get carried away and then have WAY too much produce to eat/freeze. Also, I had no idea how big the different plants would eventually get and wanted to leave plenty of space.

It's been surprisingly rewarding since the actual harvest is still a long ways off. Just seeing things grow (and not die) has been a confidence booster a lot of fun. More importantly, for a modest investment (roughly $60 to make and fill the beds), we are going to be producing lots of food. Buying heirloom plants**, when possible, also means that we'll be able to plant the seeds our plants produce this year and grow them for free next year.

**Many plants have been cultivated in such a manner that they are effectively sterile. So forget what you learned in kindergarten about seeds. Also worth mentioning, there is a trade off. Heirloom plants often produce tastier varieties but are more prone to disease (the plants) and have shorter shelf lives (the fruit/vegetables).

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