I know that in some places it isn’t Spring weather, but that should not stop you from planning for a garden. A garden that will produce things that you can put up, just like your grandmother did. She did not go to the store everyday just to pickup a few things. She had to have a garden that produced those things for her family to eat for the whole year. I know that some of you are saying that you don’t have room for something like the photo. Do you have a patio, deck or balcony? You can still grow more that enough to provide you a supply of fresh vegetables that should last for a long time.. Take a look at these photos, you can make something like one of them. It will cost more than a back yard variety of gardens, but you would still be eating or canning things that you grew. I am sure that you can come up with something that will fit your budget and space.
After you have decided where and what you are going to try to grow, it becomes time to decide how you are going to get your plants. The easiest (but maybe the most expensive) would be buying the plants that you see at your local hardware or even grocery store. These come in plastic packs, some 6 to a pack, some 4 to a pack, depends on the size of the plant. Prices start around $1 a 6 pack up to $4.99 a single pack (some could run over $6 a pack). The cheapest way to start your garden is by buying seeds. The seed packs are much lower in price, but need more hands on time. You have to start seeds earlier than plants. Some plants already have blooms on them. Seeds take weeks to get to the blossom stages. The choice is up to you which way to go. I always started with seeds, til I got lazy and used plastic packs. Something you might think about, if your neighbor or a friend from work is planning on a garden, work as a partner. Seed packs have many seeds, depending on what you pick to grow. Have your partner plant half the seeds and you plant the other half.
Certain plants take a long time to sprout, others are pretty fast. Peppers take a long time to start, so they need to be planted a couple of weeks before other plants. I remember one year I planted peppers and radishes at the same time. I was eating radishes before my peppers had tiny leaves. If you are unsure how long it will take for each type of seed, look on the back of the seed pack, it will tell you the time from planting the seed to the time for the real veggie or fruit.
I was cheap, I used the half boxes that convenience stores have from cases of beer. I took dirt from the garden site and mixed with growth additives (such as cow manure that you can find that any place that has garden supplies). It has been processed so that it is a rich black dirt. You need not worry about having manure on your patio or deck and how it might smell. After placing my planting mixture in my starter containers, I have to find the best spot for these containers. They need as much sunlight as they can get, protected from the cold or chilly spring night. You will have to figure that out. Sometimes I build a mini-green house with plastic wrap from the kitchen, and several ice cream sticks. I wrap my seed starter with the plastic wrap, using the sticks to keep the wrap up off the plants. When placed in sun light it makes the green house. The wrap holds heat and moisture. Don ‘t leave this sealed all the time; make an opening so you don ‘t give mold a place to start.
This is a cheap way, that works! One more idea for a cheap seed start is a plastic egg container. You have 12 perfect containers that work great for small gardens. Just pack in your dirt that has all the needed ingredients, add the seed and a misting of water. You have to be careful watering. Very little is needed, too much and you have a mess. One more thing is needed for this starter set. Take a tooth pick and poke a couple of small holes in the bottom to let excess waster drain. This type of starter is great for many reasons, the first being mobility. Just pick up the container and place it where the sun is shinning.
You have completed all the start-up tasks, it is time to become a farmer!
Now while your seedlings are growing take a piece of paper and draw your garden. When you have the size you want. Take some twine and divide up the garden into squares. It will make putting what you want to grow in the right spot. Work on the best layout for your space. Don’t put small plants next to big plants. The big one will rob water and sunlight. If you are going to have peppers, don’t place hot next to mild or sweet. As the blossoms develop pollen will mix and you will get spicy peppers in place of mild. Your hot peppers will not have the heat you want. Place them on opposite sides, as far away from each other as possible.
If you are not sure of the yield from each plant ask or look up the type you have. An example is zucchini. A couple of healthy plants will supply probably as much as you would want. Also check while the plants are growing to see if you need to keep your plants free of mature veggies. Some plants have to be picked every day. If not the plant will stop blooming and no new produce will grow.
After picking, decide if you will have enough for a meal, or if it will take a few days yield for your use. To store for a short time clean your produce, dry then wrap in enough newspaper as needed. Then place in the lower bin in your fridge. Don ‘t forget about what you have in the bin. You might put a small note pad with the contents of the bin on the outside of your refridgerator. You don’t want to waste your treasure. If you over-plant something, thin out some of the plants. If you crowd your plants you might get stunted plants, or even diseased plants. Another unwanted result of too many plants of one kind is having two much of that item. The first few times you share with your neighbors they will enjoy what you have given them. Too many trips to spread your harvest will lead to no one coming to the door. Sometimes they will go into their home and hide if they see you coming. Take it from someone who has had the curtains closed before.
Pick the things that you like to eat, don’t pick something because someone told you to grow them. Tomatoes are a good example of a garden item that many people have different ideas of the type to plant. There are so many different types, and they all taste a little different. A word of advice, stay away from the types that promise giant fruit. If you do get fruit, it will be nothing like the photo. Not to mention usually a very small number. You waste time and space trying for the ones that make a sandwich with only one slice. I finally came to the conclusion that I like Roma tomatoes because they tastes great, took up little space and canning the excess was easy. I also like grape tomatoes mainly cause they are small, and easy to clean and have for a salad or just a nice addition to your veggie tray. Spend a little time in picking the right type will pay off with just what you want a garden for.
If you like squash, yellow summer squash is always a big hit. Just a couple of plants should keep you with a good supply. Zucchini is another favorite. They produce for most of the summer and can be cooked so many different ways. Like many veggies, they need to be picked when the size is right for your needs. If left on the vine, they get huge, and large fruit don’t have the best flavor.
When it comes to peppers, you need to pick your types with a lot of thought. Does your family like hot, medium, mild or extra super hot. Keep in mind my suggestion about locations of your plants. I would strongly suggest that pepper plants be grown in pots that are easy to move. If you have little ones I would keep the hotter ones out of reach. You don’t want any accidents.
OK let’s go over what we have covered. Size and site are the two main items, then what you are going to use to grow your garden: pots, baskets, or a clean area in your yard. Next on the list, is what are you going to grow. Is this going to be just for the table, or are you planning on canning some things? Don’t get carried away with growing so many different things that stuff gets lost in the process. Start small in numbers til you see how much work is necessary. You can get behind in your gardening and lose everything. Forget to water, weed and keep up with picking can make a simple garden into a disaster site. You are going to have worked every day.
I hope this does not scare you away. It is so very rewarding to sit at dinner eating things you have grown. The food tastes better than ever. You have every right to be boastful. You did this from start to finish.
While you are making your plans, make sure you set an area to grow herbs. For herbs I would suggest you use a long basket like container. Herbs will grow all year-long if you are careful and monitor your plants. Fresh herbs used in cooking or canning makes a huge difference in flavor. Invest in a dehydrator and you can have something to use the year round. You don’t have to do anything special to keep herbs. Just dry (only a day or two is needed).
Put your herbs in a zip lock Baggie or a canning jar. Make sure you label everything carefully. Name, date and any other special information is needed. I always used bags vs jars. Easier to store, major cost difference are enough reasons to pick a bag over a jar. I have seen people having an herb drawer in their kitchen. You can use index cards as dividers and keeping track of inventory.
I hope I have given you some ideas to work on. If you do decide on a garden, make sure you take plenty of photos. You will have ammo to brag with at church, or work or just to have. People take baby photos of everything, why not your garden. Of course I am not putting a garden next to your children, but they both need time, energy and investment of funds. Of course a garden is only yearly.
I would ask if you do this and take photos, send me some photos and a little story telling me what you did and any little funny things that happened. If several of you do this, I will do a blog and use your story and photos.
I hope you try to grow something. It is so rewarding.
One more suggestion, this is from my Grandson Daniel. He told me to tell you not to plant anything close to the exhaust vent of the water heater or dryer. He said that everything close died. So remember to avoid planting next to an exhaust vent. Wise words from a 7-year-old. He has learned a lesson that he will never forget. Successful gardens are a lot like his suggestion, we learn from others. If not in gardening, then in other things. Learn from others mistakes or success, and pass it on.
Looks like it is that time again. It gets here so fast. seems like we just started and now it is finished.
Don’t forget…. let me know what you would like to make or any ideas you have for the next blog. Also if you have any questions you would like me to try to solve. Just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t keep my blogs a secret, pass the word on to your friends, neighbors and family members. They just might make something and share with you.
Don’t forget, if someone asks you can you can it?
Say YES I can can it.