I would be lying if I told you that I know everything there is to gardening. I’ve killed more garden plants that I can count and every year there’s at least one veggie that fails me. But, I can share with you my gardening words of wisdom to what has worked in the past, the changes I’ve made along the way, and what I plan to do in the future. Let’s get started!
My Garden Buddy
First off, this really isn’t just my garden. I’m blessed to have one of my BFF’s living right next door and together, we share a garden. This works out awesome for so many reasons, but among the top 2 reasons are 1) we split the cost and the work in half and 2) when one of us is traveling the other takes over. Meet Colette:
The Garden Basics
The garden is 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. We have really heavy NW winds so we bordered our garden with Forsythia bushes to help protect our fruits and veggies. The garden’s rectangular shape allowed us to plot out (4) 4’x8′ and (2) 2’x4′ cedar raised garden beds. This left us room to add (3) tall pots down the center of our garden and a small 30″ in diameter garden table and four chairs. My husband was the first to question the table and chairs, but hey- I’m the designer here! No questions…just do it! Now, even though he’ll never admit it, he likes to hang out in the garden…and sit at my garden table.
Make it Easy
If you didn’t already know this, gardening is work! Sorry to burst your bubble if you thought all you had to do was plant a few seeds and revisit them in a month for a full harvest! We chose extra deep cedar raised beds with aluminum corners for multiple reasons. 1) You have more control of your fertile soil. 2) You are more likely to prevent creeping weeds from invading and choking out your plants. 3) The build up of rich soil allows your plants to root deep. 4) Raised beds are easier to manage and tend to year-after-year.
Get Down To Earth
The soil (Earth…in case you missed my pun) is the MOST important ingredient for a plentiful yield. Buy organic topsoil and mix it with compost. This doesn’t mean you have to cultivate your own compost, I don’t. Just buy it if you don’t want to make it. Your soil should be light and fluffy and crumble between your fingers. This will allow your plant’s roots to go deep and easily take in nutrients and water. NOTE: You will have to replenish your soil with new compost each time you replant.
There is serious debate when it comes to tilling and it’s causing major controversy the gardening world! If you can imagine, Gardners across the world whom have experienced successful yields are very confident in stating they have all the answers. However, one thing they can’t come to agree on is ‘to till or not to till’. There’s so much to consider when debating this issue and for the sake of keeping things simple I’m only going to share what Colette and I have done in the past. I’m sure any “experienced Gardner” would love to debate me to high heaven. We till our soil about two weeks before we plant. It helps loosen our soil, encourages irrigation and allows enough time for any disrupted microorganisms to reestablish and build much needed nutrients. The photo below was taken while I was tilling. Check out those gorgeous bright yellow Forsythia in full bloom! Disregard my gardening outfit and hat. Clearly this post will not be categorized under “fashion”. LOL
Grow up, My Friend!
Yes, grow up! This is what I tell all of my little tomatoes, peppers, sweet peas, pole beans, cucumbers, and squash. We set out cages and stakes for the plants to climb. This allows for better air circulation and helps to prevent the plants from rot and fungal disease. We help guide the veggies along their climb by securing and supporting them with garden tape.
We prefer to start with baby transplants that are about a month old if at all possible. When our local garden center doesn’t have a transplant available we start with seeds. It’s important to pay attention to how close you plant your transplants or seeds. I’ll never forget very early on when I was responsible for planting the radish seeds. Simple job, right? I used my finger to draw a 1 1/2″ deep line to drop the seeds in the crevice, fill with dirt and then water. I just felt that the seeds were so tiny and it was silly to follow the guidelines that suggested I plot one seed every inch! What a waste of soil space. So, I dumped the seeds in to fill the entire row and covered with them dirt. What resulted was a bunch of really tiny little radish, the size of a nickel, that were all competing for space to grow. Nothing was edible and I had to start all over again. Lesson learned. Follow the directions!
Thirst Quencher Do’s and Don’t
Some gardeners say to avoid wetting the leaves because it leads to rot, mold and an overall unhealthy plant. Tomato, squash and cucumber are especially susceptible to fungal disease. It’s preferred that you water the plants directly at the root base. We have a long neck wand with a wide water head that makes it easier to water the plants closest to the root without bending over. When watering it’s most important to pay attention to your soil’s water consumption. If the water is pooling around the base and not soaking in then you are overwatering. I typically water a plant around 15-20 seconds or so. Your soil should be kept moist. And last, the best time to water your plants are in the morning. Mid day watering means you might loose some water to evaporation and evening watering means you are risking fungus.
Irrigation NO NO
We’ve learned a lot of what we consider “successful gardening” today through our epic failures in the past. About 4 years ago Mike came up with an ingenious way of watering our garden. He hooked up an entire sprinkler system that was set to turn on and off automatically in the early morning. Whoaaaaa! This was life changing. No more hand-watering meant it was one less thing to tend to in the day. All we had to do was show up every once in a while, weed and pluck these gorgeous vegetables right off the stem. Obviously, this was too good to be true. The irrigation system had no way to gauge how much water was being absorbed and within 2 weeks we nearly killed off our entire crop. The leaves turned yellow and our babies were struggling. Needless to say, we’ve disabled our irrigations system and have resorted to hand-watering!
Soon…On The Menu
Honestly, there’s nothing better than farm-to-table food, especially when it’s from your own garden. Colette and I have so much fun trying out new recipes with our backyard goodies. This year’s vegetable garden includes:
*sugar snap peas
I hope that you have time to get your own little garden started this year. At the last spring frost you are good to begin planting! Careful on pesticides control. Remember, you’re personally consuming whatever you’re using to kill off the pests. If pests are a problem try researching organic ways to get rid of those little guys. And last, easy on the fertilizer. Again, you are consuming whatever it is you put on your plants. Unless it’s natural and organic product you should think twice.
Cheers to spring salads, fresh salsa, eggplant parm, homemade pesto, roasted beets, and spicy cucumber margaritas. Ha!