Gardening 101

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When we first discussed moving in with T almost 2 years ago, one of my major stipulations was that I wanted a garden. I had never had a garden before and I couldn’t keep a houseplant alive to save my life, but this was something that I HAD to have in order to be happy. In spite of all the other work that we needed to do in order to make the house ready for us, I kept insisting. At one point it became almost an argument. I was stressing because if the garden wasn’t planted in time we would not get anything that summer. T fired back with, “With everything that we have to do to get the inside ready for you to move in, what’s so important about this garden?” I answered as honestly as I could. He had his garage to disappear to when he needed to be alone. Peanut had her own room and a playroom of her very own downstairs… a getaway on both levels of our house. Once we moved in, I had nothing that was solely mine. No little nook or cranny that could be my escape. I wanted the garden for that purpose. Once he understood why I needed that space, he let the topic go. The next day, he had built a raised garden bed behind our home. I quickly filled it with a combination of peat moss, manure, and soil and couldn’t wait to plant my vegetables.

The first year I went overboard. Overboard is actually an understatement. In my little 5’x10′ garden bed, I planted over 20 different kinds of plants. I had an app on my phone to help me remember what was planted where, I had researched what plants should be positioned next to each other to ensure the best results. I had even made sure that the ratio of manure to garden soil was correct. In other words, I had done my homework and I was ready to go. Except I was unprepared for the results.

The pumpkins, zucchini, spearmint, and cucumber vines took over like crazy. They killed off some of the plants next to them. At the very least, those plants didn’t thrive as well because of them. However, we got a really good turnout considering I was brand new at this. We had more zucchini than I knew what to do with, we had fresh strawberries, green beans growing up sunflower stalks, herbs, and more. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to do it again. Last year, however, I scaled back considerably. The pictures above show last year’s crop around mid-July.

This time, I planted the herbs in separate containers with the intention of bringing them into the garage after the season was over and continuing to grow them. That didn’t happen, but the herbs thrived on their own and didn’t take over the entire garden bed. I planted 2 kinds of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, string beans, snow peas, and the strawberries had returned from the previous year. I had so many cucumbers I learned to make pickles. It was amazing.

This year, I’m really looking forward to gardening again. I’m also going to try my hand at growing potatoes out of a garbage can and growing my own garlic. We’ll see how that goes. Now that the playroom downstairs is a comfortable temperature and I’ve cleaned my cluttered desk off, I plan to try one of those little pre-garden pods and start the seeds inside instead of directly planting them in the ground. I ordered organic seeds off a reasonably priced website last fall so that I would be ready to go when the time came, and I picked up the pods and some extra seeds on my shopping trip today. I’m also going to add Epsom salt to the soil this year. I’ve heard great things about its benefits for the plants and soil. Hey, it beats Miracle Gro.

One of the greatest things that I get out of gardening, besides the money we save on produce in the summer, is that I know exactly where my family’s food came from. I know there were no chemicals used in the soil, I know exactly when it was planted and when it was picked. Last summer there was a huge salmonella outbreak linked with cucumbers. I didn’t have to worry because I hadn’t purchased a single cucumber the entire summer. It’s great to bring Peanut back there and watch the progress, to have her help me pick the veggies, and then to make a salad based solely off of the vegetables we grew ourselves. It sounds so basic, and it is. But there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you need to go back to the basics, both to save a little money and to remember where you came from and what you’re here for. If nothing else, it’s my own little safe haven.

Author: Candice

I am a wife, mom of 1 1/2 (it'll officially be 2 in May), part time waitress, avid reader, and an unpaid comedian, chauffeur, cook, maid, therapist, and cuddler. I love my family more than anything and as scared as I am to start over on this whole mom gig, I'm so excited to do it again.

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