I have been meaning to write this post for a month, but I’m just now getting around to it. Oops.
Back when we still lived in our condo, one of the things I looked forward to most about moving to a house was the opportunity to try my hand at growing my own vegetables in the summer months. This winter, as we got closer and closer to spring, I began thinking about a veggie garden. But I had no idea what I was doing.
And honestly, I still don’t really know what I’m doing. But I’m experimenting, I suppose. Experimenting with guidance, because I did do SOME research, after all.
I had heard a lot of good things about raised garden beds and the method of square foot gardening. I had good intentions to buy Mel Bartholomew’s book on the subject, but uh… I never got around to it. Instead, I asked a lot of questions of friends and did a LOT of Googling.
We bought a raised garden bed kit (4′ x 4′) at Home Depot for around $30. Then I used Mel’s soil mix “recipe”–1/3 part peat moss, 1/3 part vermiculite, 1/3 part compost. I got all of my soil supplies at a local gardening store. To fill our garden bed, I think I ended up with about 10 cu. ft. of material. I mixed up the soil (eyeballing the amounts) in batches in our wheelbarrow, then filled the garden bed. Not before debating for weeks about where to put the garden bed, though.
We have a very shady yard. Our house faces south, so our “side yards” (which we don’t really have very much of) would get the most sun, except that the light tends to be blocked by neighbors’ houses. Our front and backyards have a lot of trees (which we love), so it’s just… shady. For best results, veggie plants need approximately 6 hours of sunlight a day, so we needed to figure out where in our yard that was possible. We debated between 2-3 locations, and observed the sunlight different times of day, trying to determine which area was best. It was sort of hard, as we were doing this in May, when the trees out back were starting to fill in with leaves again, but certainly weren’t as full as they are now!
We finally settled on an area behind our garage, and got busy. We laid scrap cardboard out to block weeds/kill the grass, and put our garden bed kit on top of it. Once filled with soil, I sectioned off each square foot of the garden with string so that I would have a guide for planting.
Then, I just needed plants.
I decided from the beginning that I had no interest in growing anything from seed. Call me lazy, but I would rather leave the seedlings up to somebody else. So, I set out to pick up a variety of veggie plants–from our farmer’s market, from our local gardening stores, and I even picked up one from Home Depot. Then, I needed a plan for planting–so I mapped out the locations of each of the plants in the bed on a piece of paper.
Anyway, I’m sure you want pictures, yes? Unfortunately, I didn’t take many, but here’s what my little garden looked like at the beginning:
This is actually before I even bought the zucchini and cucumber plants! Pictured above are six square feet of broccoli plants, one red pepper plant, four basil plants, and two tomato plants (one beefsteak, one lemon boy). The tomato plants have the little ring thingies (see? I’m such an expert) to help support them as they grow. The plant in the pot is a strawberry plant. Within a few days of this photo, I added three zucchini plants (occupying one full sq. ft. each) and four cucumber plants (two per sq. ft.) to fill up the rest of the garden bed.
At first, I watered daily. Then, I read that it’s best to do a deep watering, but less often, so now I’ve been watering every 2-3 days (mostly every other day, since it has been hot and dry here).
Five weeks later, I’ve got this:
Woot woot! Most of our veggies are singing. But our grass–well, our grass is crying. Poor grass. Did I mention it has been REALLY dry here? Also, don’t mind the wheelbarrow full of kindling in the background.
ANYWAY. Here’s a closer look at each plant.
Our red pepper plant has had this baby bell pepper on it for a few weeks now. It doesn’t seem to be growing very quickly, but maybe this is to be expected. At one point, it had a bunch of flowers on it, which I thought would turn into a bunch of peppers, but alas, only one. The rest of the flowers are nowhere to be found anymore. I don’t know, maybe we’ll only get one pepper out of this guy. I’m holding out hope, though!
Side note: Funny story about my inexperience as a gardener. At one point during my Google adventures, I read something about how you’re supposed to prune the flowers off of the plants so that all of the plant’s “energy” is focused on growing the fruit, not the flowers. So, when this pepper plant started flowering (it was the first to do so), I actually almost cut off the flowers! I was too chicken to do it, though, and it’s a good thing–since I now know that THE FLOWERS TURN INTO THE VEGETABLES.
Here’s a shot of a couple of our zucchini plants (we planted three). My father-in-law is in disbelief that we dared to put zucchini plants in a small garden bed like this because he’s convinced that they’ll overtake everything else. And, well, maybe they will. We shall see. Somehow I need to try to keep them contained as they grow–I think I can trim back the leafy parts, yes? Anyone with gardening experience care to share some expertise?
The zucchini plants are currently flowering like crazy–the flowers are really pretty when they’re open during the day! I noticed tonight that one of the plant’s flowers are starting to shrivel up and fall off so I’m hoping to get some zucchini babies soon!
Here is an above shot of our six broccoli plants. As you can see, some of them are doing better than others. I’m pretty convinced that the one in the bottom middle square isn’t going to make it. Poor thing. Also, you can probably see that something is chewing the hell out of the leaves on my broccoli plants. Everything else appears to be untouched, but whatever it is sure likes broccoli. I’m not stressing about it too much since the leaves aren’t the part we’re planning to eat. Unless someone tells me I should be stressing about it. Should I be? Anyway, no signs of baby broccoli crowns yet. Fingers crossed.
Oh, you can also see the little yellow spots forming on my zucchini plant leaves in this pic. All of them have it, but I have no idea what it is. Thoughts?
Cucumbers! I had some trouble with these guys, as one of the plants didn’t survive transplant. But, I replaced him quickly to give another guy a chance. These haven’t been springing up as quickly as other things, so I was starting to get worried about them all. But tonight I noticed that they are starting to form small flower buds, so YAY! I think they’re on their way.
Tomato plants are awesome. It’s so satisfying to grow them because I swear, it seems like they’ve grown another few inches every day that I go out there. And we’ve noticed a TON of flowers forming on them that we’re hoping will result in lots o’ tomatoes.
I was diligently checking for tomato babies every day for a couple of weeks–to no avail–but then suddenly BOOM! Within the last few days, we’ve sprouted babies!! Two days ago, we had two tomato babies, and as of tonight, we have SEVEN. I am so excited!
Last, but not least–basil. I had plans to grow more herbs this year, in separate pots, but didn’t get around to buying or planting them. But at least we’ve got basil, because this family? We like pesto. A lot of pesto. I’ve actually already harvested enough basil off of these plants–twice–to make a full batch of pesto. I’ve stolen various amounts of leaves for other recipes calling for fresh basil, too. In fact, this picture doesn’t do my basil plants justice because I just harvested leaves to make pesto on Saturday, so the bounty has been significantly depleted. Needless to say, basil is doing really well.
I forgot to take a photo of my strawberry plant, but it’s pretty boring because I swear it has not changed AT ALL. I am not holding out very much hope that we’ll be seeing any strawberries this year. Boo.
So that is my gardening experience so far. I’ve gotten a pretty big kick out of it and am pleased with our success so far. Assuming things continue going well, I want to expand the veggie garden next year–by at least one, if not two more garden beds. Imagine the possibilities! Wheeee!
What are you growing this year? What has been successful? Any failures? Any inexperienced gardeners out there with funny stories like mine (almost cutting off the flowers)? Do you have any comments or tips based on what you’re seeing in my little ol’ garden here?
AboutI'm Heather. I just turned 30. I'm happily married, and mommy to the most beautiful little girl in the world (what, you're saying I could be biased?). Determined DIYer and homeowner. Sarcastic. A perfectionist. A bleeding-heart liberal. Frugal. Loves a little dog way more than many humans. Loves food, hates exercise (it's an ongoing battle). A loyal football fan. I love to laugh. Value family and friends above all else. Vie to be a world traveler.
- Tractor ride with Grammy instagram.com/p/ZeDdl3h-_c/ 23 hours ago
- Veggie garden 2013 - Day 1 instagram.com/p/ZdjZjth-28/ 1 day ago
- @merrypad Just now seeing these!! How funny! And cute! 2 days ago
- Best buds instagram.com/p/ZZR80LB-8y/ 2 days ago
- First time with her own ice cream cone instagram.com/p/ZZB4zgB-1R/ 2 days ago