Getting into the Garden

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  April 3, 2013 — 16 Comments

When we bought our house three years ago I dreamed of someday having a vegetable and flower cutting garden. That very first spring I tried to grow tomatoes. They died. The next year I tried again. It was nothing fancy, just a few plants stuck in the dirt next to the fence. They grew! It was so fun to have free food growing in my yard. Feeling inspired, I built a small raised bed the year after that. I got lots of tomatoes and even a few cucumbers and some okra, but with being so miserably pregnant and then a new mom I kind of let it all go to crap after May or so. So this year I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to get growing again.

I didn’t even take a “before” picture of the garden. It was bad. This is after Nick and I pulled out as many weeds as we could and then laid wet newspapers and leaves over the rest (which lasted about a week until a windy day came along and then it looked like crap again).

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If I insisted on gardening the “right” way by completely clearing the bed I’d probably never get around to actually planting anything again. The lasagna approach is much more realistic for me (it’s a real thing! read all about it here). It basically means you cover up the old stuff with fresh soil and let nature take care of the rest. The old stuff decomposes and enriches the soil and you don’t have to do all the hard work of digging and tilling. Sounds like a winner to me! So in combining this lasagna thing with square foot gardening I whipped up some more of the same soil mixture I used last year–equal parts compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. To make it more manageable I mixed small batches in a metal tub using a shovel as a giant spoon and then just dumped it into my garden bed.

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I ran out of compost before the weeds were completely covered so I just made the very top layer straight peat moss, which I had plenty of. I’m not trying to win any gardener of the month prizes but peat moss works as mulch, right? I think it helps retain moisture or something.

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Then all I had to do was mark my grid out with string (held down at the edges with thumbtacks) and plant! The whole idea of square foot gardening is to plant in a grid instead of rows. It’s a more efficient use of limited space. I also raised the supports (scrap wood that I screwed to the sides of the bed last year) and tied string around them to support the tomatoes as they grow.

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Here’s what I’ve got in there so far (most of it is seeds, since they’re way cheaper than nursery plants). Not included are the two spots where I planted sugar snap peas at the very edge of the outermost tomato squares, where I’m hoping they’ll grow up the wood supports.

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Last year I planted two squares with a seed packet described as “old fashioned annuals”. I had particularly good luck with two types of flowers that people told me were zinnias and asters, so when I saw those in a seed display I snatched them up! I can’t wait to have cut flowers to bring into the house again. I also intentionally planted them in front of the much shorter lettuce and spinach in the hopes that the shade will help those cool-weather plants last a little longer in our hot climate. I also planted carrots in a tall container on the deck, since I didn’t think this bed would be deep enough to grow nice carrots. I’ve still got six squares available and no idea what to plant! I need something easy to work into meals so that it won’t go to waste. Okra was super easy to grow last year but not all that easy to cook with, at least not for me. Any ideas? I considered squash but it’s too big. I may just look for some low growing flowers if no vegetables strike my fancy.

So if nothing else I hope this goes to show you that you don’t have to have a lot of know-how or time on your hands to have a garden. You don’t even have to have a ton of space. And since that’s pretty much my approach to everything home- and happiness-related it makes sense that I would take the same imperfect-is-better-than-nothing approach to gardening. Even if I only get a few tomatoes out of the whole thing I’ll be happy.

PS I wrote a guest post for a blog about blogging today! So if you’re wondering what advice I could possibly have to offer feel free to check it out here

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


16 responses to Getting into the Garden

  1. What if you plant a medley lettuce? I’m not sure what kind of lettuce you planted but there are some seed packets of variety lettuce you could get. I’ve planted two sets of those.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap April 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

      I think it was just called “salad bowl” lettuce. But last year I only planted one square and couldn’t eat it fast enough! It got all tall and weird, I think that’s called bolting?

  2. Basil!!! Oregano! Lavender! Dill!

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap April 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Oh I forgot to mention that I sprinkled some lavender seeds in another container! I don’t really know how to cook with fresh herbs though.

  3. Try eggplant or bell pepper Plants – if you have 4 squares use them to plant one squash plant – straight neck yellow is my FAVORITE.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap April 3, 2013 at 10:06 am

      I have some eggplant and some squash seeds–will the squash fit in the space I’ve got left?

  4. I commented this on fb too, but I love having Swiss Chard in my garden. It’s a denser, tastier substitute for spinach and it’s pretty. Also bell peppers or jalapeños. Or pole beans! :)

  5. Carrots? Peppers? Green onions? Kale? Broccoli? Eggplant?

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap April 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

      I’ve got carrots in another container, but broccoli and eggplant are distinct possibilities!

  6. I am envious again. Your spring is so much earlier than ours. We are still freezing every night and the daffodils and jonquils are just peeking up. Do you like zucchini? That is very popular around here. You just have to be careful at harvest time, people put it in your car and on your front porch, but I love the stuff. Happy gardening.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap April 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

      But you can grow bulbs! I would love to be able to grow tulips. Peonies, too, though I know they’re not bulbs. It’s too hot down here for a lot of my favorite flowers. Does zucchini get big like yellow squash? Hilarious about people putting it in your car!

  7. Swiss chard is a great option for limited space and warm climates. Broccoli needs more room and doesn’t like heat. Iciban (Japanese) eggplant would be my suggestion if you’re doing small-space gardening – and actually any type of gardening – they are just so much nicer and easier to use than the large ones. Basil should do great there, and most any herb. Think about what you use dry and grab a plant so you start off with a decent-sized plant and won’t be tempted to crowd them like you would if you bought seeds.

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap April 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

      I’m definitely considering some chard! And I think I will definitely do some basil. My friend Anne sent me a link with a bunch of different ways to use it.

  8. Hi Charlotte! I just found your blog today. You and I have a lot in common and I am definitely going to be a new follower! Your little garden is super cute. My husband, son, and I moved into our new house this past September and we planted a veggie garden in our back yard. It’s so amazing having a place to do all that… and I am exactly the same as you when I come into my house every day. It is the BEST feeling isn’t it??
    Anyway, just wanted to tell you to keep writing! I’ve really been enjoying your posts. :)
    Katie in California

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap April 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

      Thank you, Katie! It’s so nice to “meet” you! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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