gardening

Find helpful gardening tips, lessons learned and all the growing that happened in our homes when we got our hands dirty in the soil.

A Garden Of My Own! by Jen

My mama has a green thumb. Actually, she has two. I have dabbled in gardening before but usually just to experiment with the littles. This year, I wanted to spend time with my mom, learning from her & tending a garden of my own. There were wins and losses for sure. I learned one zucchini plant can yield an insanely huge harvest and one broccoli plant is the exact opposite. I found neem oil & nasturtiums to be my allies in keeping my plant babies happy. 

My surprise garden favorite has definitely been my corn. I planted six seedlings & had no idea what I was in for. They tower over the garden proudly & I love to sit on the deck & watch them sway in the breeze. It sounds corny [pun intended] but it literally brings a wave of peace over me & hello, we all need that peace right now.Now, about those tomatoes. I have three different plant varieties & I have found them all to be glorious as well as fickle. I learned so much about caring for them & to be honest, they are on the high maintenance side. I keep telling myself next year will be so much easier because I can do the work at the start, when the plant is small, instead of searching through the monstrosity half way through June. I learned to remove the bottom leaves for air circulation & to also remove the suckers to promote growth. One of my favorite tips that was given to me was to soak banana peels in water & then use the water in each of my tomato plant containers.

A few tips that I got from my mama was to crush up eggshells and coffee grounds & spread them throughout the soil. My dirt seemed to really enjoy this. My garden worms did too. Every time my littles found a worm in yard they would walk it over to the garden & I thought that was so sweet.

I learned very late to clip the runners on my strawberry plants to have them produce more fruit. It totally makes sense but I had no idea.

Biggest fail – CARROTS. I grew them. They are delicious. However, I messed up on the spacing of each seed because I got lazy and just threw them all in a row. Do not do what I did. I would have had so many more and they would have been larger & more successful had I spaced them in their row correctly.

All in all, the biggest win was having something to tend to that brought me joy. I loved the alone time I would get in the evenings – playing my plants my favorite 70’s tunes. I loved that my kids embraced caring for the plants & would go along with me asking them to greet the plants with a “hello” each morning & wishing them “sweet dreams” when it was time to head in.

Another bonus – we all have been eating better. There is pride in saying “I grew this!” I won’t ever forget our 8 year old making dinner for us using garden ingredients & how the whole family said it was the best meal they ever had.

I am currently getting the garden ready for our fall crops & I know there will be tons of new things to learn & mess up & I can’t wait to do it all.


Hooked After Our First Family Garden by Carly

When we unearthed an old greenhouse foundation on our property, I could have never guessed what an adventure lay ahead for our family with having our real first garden. We’ve tried on a much smaller scale in the past but with really young kids or deer – things never really panned out. But this year felt different (for many reasons) but I was determined to make it a good growing season for all of us. And it was! I am officially hooked. Below are some of the tips I have to share, some fails and plans for future gardens.

DO YOUR RESEARCH BUT MAKE IT FUN!
I have never been good at keeping plants alive so I knew I needed to educate myself if we were going to see any success. I also desperately wanted our garden to be a full family endeavor. This was an opportunity for all 5 of us to get our hands dirty, make a cool space in the yard and see the fruits of our labor. I poured over Welcome to the Farm: How-To Wisdom from the Elliot Homestead and Raised Bed Gardening for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know to Start and Sustain a Thriving Garden. Both great resources! I also found an awesome year-round gardener planner called The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner: What to Do & When to Do It in the Garden, Orchard, Barn, Pasture & Equipment Shed. In those books, I learned about soil testing, what growing region we are in and what time of year is best to plant what.

Next, we as a family decided what we wanted to grow. Literally over dinner one night, I took out a notepad and the kids shouted out all sorts of things they wanted to plant. I did have to explain that we couldn’t grow a gummy bear tree, ha! All their ideas were great. It was also a good opportunity for my husband to share what he remembers his grandma grew in her garden on their family farm in Germany. With our list in hand, I ordered the seeds! Below are my two favorite seed suppliers. In fact, late winter you can get on their mailer list and they send you a catalog which the kids poured over.

Seed Suppliers
Johnny’s Seeds
Burpees

 

COME UP WITH A PLAN!
For us, we had the perfect space buried beneath years of dirt, neglect and it was only by fate it worked perfectly for a present-day garden. My handy husband built us a 6ft deer fence with a gate that we later added solar post lights on. In our area, deer are one of the biggest threats to gardens so making sure everything we knew wouldn’t be deer resistant while growing needed to stay inside the fence. We found easy to build, vinyl raised beds and filled our space with a U-shaped design. My original plan was to do have a floral bed in between the two other beds to encourage bees. That worked for awhile until space became an issue when our sunflowers grew to over 8ft tall (no joke). We also added a large raised bed on the outside of the fence for a pumpkin and gourd bed that would be lined with cinder blocks full of deer resistant plants like mint, curry and lavender.

QUALITY MATTERS
Now I’m not saying you need to use soil with flecks of gold in it, although I don’t think that would hurt but I know for a fact (and after years of trying with dirt in bag) that we saw so much success this year because we brought in really (really) good local soil made up of a mushroom compost. Like most things in this life, I am winging it but I do believe starting anything with research and quality building blocks will yield better results. Simply put quality matters. Thats why I love Johnny’s and Burpees too. Quality seeds make all the difference. For the stuff we didn’t grow from seeds, I made sure we only got starts from two local nursery/farm stores. It makes all the difference in the world. There are ways to go cheaper on other parts of your garden, for example mulch. We used two bales of straw, cured outdoors in the sun & rain and spread out evenly after a good weeding. Super cheap and gets the job done.

GARDEN LESSONS
My biggest struggle in our garden this year was spacing issues, okay that and slugs. Also bunnies. They’re sure cute but also love to eat and can fit perfectly through the spacing in the deer fence. But really, I over planted and did not account for our sunflowers to take up so much room. Most of the poor plants and seeds planted in front of our ginormous sunflowers never saw sunlight either. Oops! I did not account for tomatoes needing so much space or cabbage for that matter. I also did not think through starting seedlings early indoors for those plants that may have done better not directly planted from seed. So for my planning next year, I’ll remember space is important.

FOREVER HOOKED
Our garden this year taught us all so much. So much more than just growing our own food & flowers. The kids had opportunities of responsibility with watering and trying new foods. Many times I caught them in the garden mouths stuffed full of corn or peas. They learned independence by feeding themselves. They gained knowledge when to tell when a cherry tomato is ripe or not. We also gave away a lot of food to neighbors, friends & family. The pride that comes when giving away food that you’ve grown yourself is indescribable really. For all of this, I plan on having a garden every year.