Wednesday, May 25, 2011

gardening for dummies


And by dummy,  I most definitely mean myself.

Year after year I learn something new out in the garden--and everything comes by trial and error (and believe me, there are more errors than I'd like to admit).

Each year, I'm brave and try something new--crossing my fingers and holding my breath that it will work. This year, for instance, was the first year that I did cold weather veggies (lettuce, carrots, radishes, peas), and thanks to some miracle they all survived multiple snow storms, and are still growing today!

I wish I could sit here and write a step by step gardening post.....but I seriously have no clue as to what I'm talking about.
But... I will make a teensy little list of tips--a few things that have worked for ME. I'm certain that one day when we move and I switch climate/soil/something, I'll be starting all over again--but see if any of these maybe work for you. 

1. Raised garden beds seem to be the way to go these days. We had a small one for a few years, but last year knocked the walls down and decided to expand (x5). Keeping the weeds out in a raised bed is 5000x easier, but instead we use a weed barrier on the ground.....
2. Use a weed barrier (its a black roll of tarp-ish material, but it's porous and lets moisture through).
This is my favorite invention ever. It's funny because last year I was researching them, and found so many people that did not like them--why?? Have you used this? Why wouldn't you like it???
I used it last year and it's the best my garden has ever been! I spread it out, stake it down, and cut holes where I need to plant (note: I don't use it for lettuce/onions/carrots/etc....I'm not going to cut 1000 little holes:) Since I don't use any sort of weed killer, this limits most of the weeds, and then it's easy to pull them up where the holes are cut.
3. Compost. I talked briefly about it in this post. Do it.
4. Chicken poo. If you have chickens, and therefore have chicken poo, you are awesome and I'm sure you know exactly what to do with it. Until I have a bigger yard to keep Charly faaaaaaar away from the chickens, I buy my poo in a bag, dried up, sans chicken.
5. Before I plant, I mix in a good amount of black rich soil from my compost, along with the chicken poo into the soil. My kids call the compost "vitamin dirt"--it's so good for our little baby veggie plants!
A few months in to the summer we add more compost and poo.
6. Use all available space. We have a small area on the south side of our house that gets ridiculously hot sun ALL day long. Tomatoes love ridiculously hot sun. The soil is absolutely terrible, so we decided to do tomato plants in pots out there--last year they thrived! This is something you can do if you don't have space for a full garden--just plant a few tomatoes in pots. (same soil+compost+chicken poo mix) I planted strawberries in pots on my front porch, and am still looking for other small items to place there too....
7. Label your plants. Not because it's cute, but because it's a huge help. Because I labeled everything last year--I still remembered what our favorite heirloom tomatoes were (radiator charlie). This year I'm going one extra step and keeping track of everything in a notebook, and writing down how it worked/whether we liked it or not. 
8. Put your kids to work! Teach them the difference between the plants and the weeds so they can help you out! Let them help you water. Have them pick out their very own veggie to plant--this will get them super excited about gardening/eating their veggies. Put them on "pest control". So far (knock on wood) we haven't had any bug problems. I don't use any bug spray, but the kids know the "bad bugs"--like snails, and will pick them out and throw them out of the garden.
Are they not excited about helping out?? Read them The Little Red Hen;)

This list is kind of pathetic.
But these are all things that I have found really helped me over the past few years.
I would love to hear your tips--what works for you?
 hayley burk this one's all yours:)
happy planting!

ps. I'd also love to know what YOU are planting?
so far we have tomatoes (17 plants!) bell peppers, jalepenos, chiles, tomatillos, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, carrots, peas, onions, a bunch of different herbs and lettuces, radishes, chard, and beets. 
After it gets too hot for the lettuce I'll have more space.....what should I do?


banananutmeg said...

of course, I lurvity lurve this post. Yeah....enough to say "lurvity lurve".

the chicken poo has to compost or it burns the plants...all manure does. Just putting that out there so no one takes their fresh poo and puts it in their garden.

I hope that when I say, "their fresh poo" everyone knows I am referring to animals only, right? wait...right? guys? beuler?

I never use the weed barrier in the beds because I've had root rot with vegetables planted above it. I think i just need to have a deeper bed if using it. It is fantastic stuff though, I put rocks down between ALL of my beds this year and used the weed barrier underneath. It's awesome!

Inside my beds I put down a thick layer of newspaper and then the dirt. I don't even tear the grass out, and I usually have to do a really thorough weeding of the beds 3 times (beginning, middle, near end.) but with composting, you're going to get weeds throughout the growing season anyway, so the weed barrier is the other reason I think a lot of people don't want to spend money on it. It is great stuff though, and saves a LOT of initial work at the beginning of each season.

my other tip is for Beetle Bags and Milky Spore for those living in the midwest, east, and south and are plagued by these pests every year. They are awful adn you will wake up one morning and OVERNIGHT they eat all of your plants down to skeletons. I plant marigolds to help keep them away, put up beetle traps (bags that attract the bugs that you have to empty every day because they literally FILL with thousands of them. grossness. and I treated my garden with Milky Spore this year, which is a live organism (think nematoads, but safer for the kiddies) that the grubs (beetle larvae) eat and it kills them before they mature to beetles. When they die, more of the milky spore is released into the ground, so each year is supposed to be more effective than the last. It's like $20 a box on amazon, organic,only kills the japanese beetle larvae (all other buggies and earthworms are not affected at. all.) and I used maybe 1/4 of it. I hope it works quickly!

I have so much more on this topic. We harvested our broccoli tonight! Yummy! Anyone have good tips for freezing broccoli? Blanch first? freeze it raw? Cut it up? Yes? no?

we planted: bell and banana peppers, green beans, potatoes (baby red, purple, gold and red fingerlings), carrots, broccoli, butternut squash, zucchini, crookneck, flying saucer (hehe) squash, oregano, thyme, rosemary, mint, basil, strawberries, kiwi (does really well in cold climate, and is a pretty viney creeping plant...get one!), raspberries, blackberries, 8 blueberry bushes, green onions, red onions, yellow onions, corn (kind of a waste since it is most often wind pollinated and I only planted one tiny row, but I had the seeds so why not?), watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, sunflowers, 12 tomatoes, romaine, spinach, and garlic. Wish us luck! I'll be out of town during beetle season. boo to that. They'll probably kill everything!

banananutmeg said...

oh! I did a tomatillo for the first time this year, too! It's a really pretty plant!

Hannah Mayo said...

Excellent post! I really want to start composting- the only thing that has kept me from it is that we have a tiny yard and were a little afraid it would stink, since we don't have a corner to relegate it to. But I've heard there are specific types of composters with less smell.
This year I am growing bell peppers, eggplant, two types of basil, parsley, lemon balm, sage, thyme, lettuce, and lavender.

Unknown said...

yay! love your little garden :) Did you see my latest post about the rooftop farm here in Brooklyn? Think you may enjoy it ;) I am starting a small garden on my fire escape hehe make due with what you have right?

Tara said...

Wow look at your lettuce!! Must be that vitamin dirt. I'm definitely doing the ground cover, your garden was gorgeous last year.
Can you believe organic heirloom tomato plants for $1.99? Yes! I put 2 of them in pots, I've gotten all sorts of good ideas from you. I saw an old man at the nursery that looked like he knew about gardening so I was asking him for tips on various things, one of which was getting rid of slugs/snails and he said I needed to get some chickens. Then I would have snail killers and fertilizer in one. Haha my kids would LOVE that, but I'm pretty sure Justin wouldn't be on board.

mimi charmante said...

I LOVE this time of year! We have had an especially rainy cool spring, so things are slow to poke through the soil. However, I have planted tomatoes, two types of beets, various lettuce, spinach, kale, two types of carrots, leeks, peas, beans, asparagus, potatoes, and jerusalem artichokes. Every year we have raspberries, blackberries, asian pears, apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes. We also have an extensive herb garden~
I envy your warmer climate and being able to grow things that need more sun and more heat!
Happy Gardening!

summer said...

you are sooooo cool.
and that weed barrier sounds like magic! i will remember that.

ps. love The Little Red Hen reference:)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Its true, you kind of learn as you go along through trial and error. I am going with raised beds this year. Last year I planted right in the bags of soil I bought from the store. Just laid them flat and cut a big square out of the top. Worked great! Keept out weeds, there was no tilling, and I got 100 lbs of veggies last year out of about 6 bags.
I also write down what I plant and when in a cute journal book. I keep it with my gardening books so I dont loose it. It has all my garden info from previous years in it. What worked, what didnt. What day I planted and what plant went where. I love going back and seeing what worked and what didn't. Good luck this year!

Sabrina said...

Love love love this post. I'm right there with you. I did lettuce the first time ever and not sure what to plant when it's done. I did mixed greens so it's almost ready.

We planted zucchini, yellow squash, little pumpkins, white pumpkins, cucumbers, arugala (maybe you should plant that where you lettuce was because it can take the heat), sun sugar tomatoes (taste like a skittles tomato, yum), romas, big fat tomatoes, tomatillos, butternut squash, acorn squash, hot and green peppers.

We have a nasty nasty snail problem at our house. I use the bait because I have to or I'd have no plants but I've heard they hate egg shells. So I've been adding them to problem areas. I hope it works because I'd love to quit using the snail killer.

Unknown said...

thank you and thank you for this. we have the perfect gardening bed... lets just say huge, but the rabbits also love it. and being in the crazy denver weather i have not had the chance. maybe when i get home i can cross this off my to do list. i just have to find me some chicken poo.

Caitlin said...

@Hannah-- you should look into worm composting...I live in an apartment so that is what I do-- no smell, takes up minimal space, and it's fun to tell people "I have worms" :)

Ang said...

one word: jealous. one of these days I will have a yard that I can garden in...or space that would work for potted plants...or anything for that matter.

when that finally happens I'll have a brand new hurdle to face: my black thumb. but, one obstacle at a time, I suppose! ;)