Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gardening - Getting Started

Last year I put in a veggie garden along the side of my house. It was not a success story but I never give up so I'm back at it this year, determined to be successful! My yard is not big and the space is shared with 2 very large hairy dogs so space for gardening is seriously limited. However, like most foodies, I like to know where my food is coming from so the idea of growing my own is very appealing and worth the effort of finding spots around my yard to do so. I've been guilty of a basic gardening mistake - I start my garden way too late and the veggies don't have time to fully grow before the harvest season. This year I was determined to be different. I've plotted and I've planned.... And am having a hard time resisting the temptation to commit the other common basic gardening mistake - planting too early!

So after consulting books, the net, friends and family and the farmers' almanac I have determined that I'm late getting my beets, onion and garlic in and late starting my pepper seeds. However, I am on time starting my tomato seeds and planting potatoes. My garden has 2 criteria. One it must be done on the cheap. I'm using some leftover garlic I bought from the store, you just separate the cloves and plant them pointed end up, the potatoes will be grown from some leftover from a bag of potatoes bought for cooking. The beets and onion are from seed, as are the tomatoes and peppers. It is cheaper to start from seed and I already had the peat disks and a bunch of peat pots to put the disks in as they grow. You need about 6 - 8 weeks when you start seed inside. The beets and onion seeds will go directly in the ground. The peppers and tomatoes are started below.

This is my version of a humidity tray. I've always ended up killing the seedlings in a humidity tray so I wasn't keen on attempting seedlings with one this time and I didn't have one on hand anyway. Seedlings do need a good humid environment. It's amazing what you can do with a large pot tray and some plastic wrap! I think what I did wrong in the past was putting the tray directly in the sun. Apparently they should only be in a bright space but not in direct sunlight! As you can see, they are growing quite nicely.

I also suffer from another basic gardening mistake. I hate to thin out perfectly good seedlings. It goes against my fugal, efficient side to waste 2 out of every 3 seedlings! However it must be done. I went to do it today for my tomatoes (you can see the disks with little or no seedlings are the peppers, the other 15 disks are 3 types of tomatoes) and then read that it's too soon. I need to wait until the roots are penetrating the sides of the peat disks.

The second criteria for my garden is that I must be able to grow things here and there, where ever I can get some good sun and space that doesn't take away from the yard for the dogs to run and play and is safe from them. I have a strip along the side of the house that doesn't get full sun all day. It gets about 6 hours along the strip throughout the day so I'm going to put my root veggies there. Right along the back of my house there is full sun, it's protected a bit from the wind and the dogs are trained not to pee there That's where I'll put 2 - 3 tomato plants and 2 pepper plants. I have a lot of chives that grow there already. See my Chive Butter Pictorial for what to do with your abundance of chives.

I also have a blueberry bush! I may get a second. I only spent $7 on the bush. It's a 2 year old plant and I won't see any blueberries this year for sure. I have an area that had some fruit bushes but it's very overgrown and the bushes haven't done well since I bought the house because I didn't know what was what and just let the space grow. I'm going to clear it out and put the blueberry bush there. I'm just not sure what to do to keep the dogs out of that space. They've taken it over lately. I may have to fence it off a bit.

I will probably also put some of those tomato plants in some pots to keep on my deck with my herbs. I get great sun on my deck! The most important thing about growing anything in pots is to have pots that are big enough. You need really big pots to allow the roots lots of room. All of my herbs were very pot bound this spring and they were all doing so poorly. Also, anything done in pots needs a soil mix of about 1/2 potting soil and 1/2 some sort of moisture mix like perlite or vermiculite. Think less actual soil and more moisture retention. And remember to put some rocks or something in the bottom to allow proper drainage. A water logged plant won't grow any better than a dried out one will!

So why am I tell you all this? I'm going to take pics and keep you all posted as we go through the growing season. I'll share my successes, tips, failures, etc. And, of course, there will be recipes for the bounty... (here's hoping there is a bounty!)

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