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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.