Monday, September 12, 2011

Grow Your Own Garden

Just over two years ago now, I became obsessed with reading Martha Stewart Living magazine. I'm talking obsessed. I started tearing out pages and leaving copies all over the house to the point that FI needed to have an intervention.

One of the greatest ideas Martha ever gave me was to grow my own garden. FI and I have a townhouse with minimal yard space, and when it really comes down to it, I'm kind of lazy and wanted to do as little work as possible. Sound like you? PERFECT! Keep reading!

FI and I decided that our best option with our limited space was a raised garden bed. We purchased a 6'x4'x1' garden bed and went to work. We filled it with a mix of Miracle Grow Garden Soil and regular old top soil as directed on the back of the Miracle Grow bag. We purchased a rake, a hoe, some gloves for getting dirty, some seeds and a professional greenhouse plant starter kit.

I drew a grid of my garden on a piece of paper to plan out what seeds needed to be planted where based on how much sun light they required and where the sun shone longest on the garden bed's location in the back yard. Tomatoes require the most light and lettuce requires the least, thus lettuce was planted closest to the house and tomatoes were planted farthest. In between would be spinach, onions, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, basil, hot peppers and broccoli. I decided on two types of tomatoes; roma and cherry. Cherry tomatoes are a must because they are the perfect topping for salads or great on their own as a snack. The roma tomatoes are excellent for slicing and cooking because they have less seeds and juices than your typical tomato.

Once I had determined how many seeds should be planted per square foot, I was able to plant the seeds in the professional seed starter kit. These kits are ideal because you can begin growing your seedlings while there is still frost on the ground for those vegetables that aren't frost hardy. Other vegetables, spinach especially, can be planted directly in the ground before the last frost. Spinach should be planted early because it bolts in the summer heat, then replanted end of August, beginning of Fall, depending on what your growing environment and seasons are like.

The beginning of my first garden.

Once the seedlings have sprouted and the ground is warm enough to be hospitable, you can transplant the veggies from the pods to the garden. Use a small garden shovel to dig a hole large enough to set the pod inside so that the top of the pod is just beneath the surface of the soil. You don't want to plant the roots too deep.

Once transplanted, continue to water and care for your plants. Because of the limited space, we use trellises for the plants that grow on a vine, such as cucumbers and squash. This allows the plant to grow up, rather than creating ground cover which smothers the other plants. Pepper plants and tomatoes also require trellises as they grow tall and need the support of the trellis to hold the weight of the vegetables.

Be sure to pick the vegetables when ready and prune back plants as necessary to ensure further growth. Word to the wise, the squash and the cucumber can be overwhelming to other plants. Plan your garden accordingly, and adjust each year. It is also a good idea, especially with larger gardens, to rotate which crops grow where each year. This keeps the soil from running out of nutrients needed for the plants to grow.

Leaf Lettuce, Head Lettuce, Cucumbers, Spinach, Green Beans, Zucchini, Onions and Leeks, Green Peppers, Broccoli, Roma Tomatoes, Yellow Squash, Jalapeno Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes.

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