neverpictureperfect garden

In an effort to help out our grocery bill this summer, and to learn a few new skills, we’ve decided to have a vegetable garden. Since where we will be living in the immediate future is up in the air, a dear friend offered to let us use a bit of her farm and we took her up on it. In our old house, I had planted one 4×4 square foot garden and enjoyed it. I decided to do this again, as I was familiar with the method and since the farm is a little distance from our house, hopefully it would aid in the growth of our plants and make weeding easier. Here is an excellent website about square foot gardening by the man who wrote the book that started it all, and another by a woman in Utah. I like her site because she will send you an email reminding you what you should be planting every week, based on your frost dates. Check them both out, and check out my bookstore for the book (look in the home and garden section), if, like me, you want to put your hands actually on a paper and ink book while you dream about your garden.

The week of spring break I took our children to the farm and we built boxes. Someone had donated old lumber from bridge on their property they’d torn down. The kids had fun pulling old nails out of the boards and watching the farrier work on the horses’ hooves. I got to draw up equine vaccinations for my friend Anne Elise, who, in addition to being handy with a circular saw, is a vet. Lots of fun!

There was a bit of a lull in our gardening then, as we got back into the swing of school, then two weeks ago we trekked up to the Farm Co-op on Dickerson Pike to find some vermiculite. Coarse vermiculite is a bit hard to find. It really makes the soil easy to work with, the vermiculite holds moisture within itself, but doesn’t leave the roots in a soggy mess to rot. Very cool stuff. We watched baby chicks in their cages, chose seeds for our garden, and I registered for a free lawn tractor. The kids got a free hot dog lunch that they ate in the car on the way home–the lawn mower guy was giving them away. The kids enjoyed that. Doodlebug wanted to grow pickles, so now I have to learn to make and can sweet pickles, but I’m sure it will be an interesting experience.:) We started cantaloupe, watermelon, red pepper, and cucumber seeds and they are now sitting in our front window. I hope they don’t die from over attention. All the kids squirt them with a tiny spray bottle every time they pass the window. I guess I can always buy transplants later if they don’t come up.

Last Tuesday I went to Kentucky, and while I was there, stopped by a Mennonite greenhouse full of little plants. I passed the greenhouse a few months ago and saw a huge stack of wood by a small building attached to the green house. They warm the air in the greenhouses with a wood fire. Go figure! Anyway, we stopped to look at all their plants and chose a few to take with us. I’d just gotten into a discussion with the owner, when my kids suddenly needed to go to the bathroom. Easier said than done in an old order Mennonite community. So, after excusing myself and children, we got back in the van to go the general store down the road for a brief intermission. There is a steep little hill where the gravel drive meets the street, and I couldn’t see it over the nose of the van. I totally missed it and drove down the little embankment to the street. Nice. I hoped they wouldn’t notice my lack of driving skills…

Mennonite country

After the brief intermission we were back and ready to make our selections. We chose onions, broccoli, oregano, and lettuce. The nice man and his son or brother helped load the plants into my van, I noticed the back trailer hitch was clogged with dirt and grass from my earlier escapade. Lovely.  As I was carefully turning around and going out the easier, less steep exit the younger man kindly asked if the two plastic parts laying in the parking lot belonged to me. Gulp. I thought they probably did, and he very nicely put them back on the underside of my van. I should probably tell my husband about that…

Amending the soil

The rest of that week was misty and cold, so we let our plants grow in the warmth of our front window. Saturday was warm and pretty, so we all went to the farm to mix in the compost and vermiculite and plant the little plants we bought and some more seeds we’d purchased at the store. We all worked together in our two boxes, mixing in the ingredients and stirring them up. The children took turns planting different veggies, then we started planting seeds. We planted carrots, peas, and spinach. Blue Eyes and Doodlebug had also picked out flower seeds, and so planted a few of those. I have no idea if they’ll come up, since it’s really too soon to plant daisies from seed, but he really had his heart set on it. We also made little labels for the plants since I’m sure I won’t recognize them as they start coming up. We watered everything well and left the plants to get acquainted with their new environment. Doodlebug was surprised that the daisies hadn’t started growing by the time we left, but I think he was pretending to be Toad from the Frog and Toad stories where Toad tries to grow flowers. Very cute.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress and failures in our little garden this summer. I’m sure we’ll all learn a lot!



Filed under Family, Gardening

6 responses to “neverpictureperfect garden

  1. katie

    Fun! We tried square foot gardening at our old house and I loved the variety of peppers. We grew “chocolate” peppers!

  2. Good work! Nice, blog, too. I am contemplating trying the SFG but my challenges are having to be out of town during key harvest times and creating fencing that will keep out dogs but not sunlight. There’s also the part about being a complete wimp when it comes to getting out there once it gets really hot…but I am still in serious contemplation.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks Stephanie! One of the dogs walked right through my friend’s bed as we were planting ours. I’m not a big fan of August temperatures either. We’ll see what my squares look like in the heat. I’m also not looking forward to the May-June invasion of cicadas. Yuck. As long as they don’t eat my plants I guess it will be OK.:)

  3. wild bound

    We are putting in a square foot garden this year too. I can’t afford to fill my boxes with mels mix, so it’s sort of a lasagna garden/sfg hybrid. Good luck!

    • Our is a semi-Mel’s mix garden:). I bought the vermiculite and used less than recommended, only one bag of compost, and one bag of peat moss. I split the peat moss and vermiculite with a friend, and got some dirt from the farm and am using some extra compost from the farm. I ended up paying about $20 for my sort-of-Mel’s mix, which ended up being $10 per 4×4 garden. We’ll see how it does.

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