Saturday, April 7, 2012

Garden Newbie

The moment I decided to homeschool I swore to my friends (whom I had already decided were going to be sipping lattes at Starbucks while I listened to my kindergartner read Cat in the Hat 50 times a day) that I would draw the line at homeschooling... that meant the following:

1.  I would not wear denim jumpers
2.  I would continue to enjoy me some good rock music
3.  I would never wear handmade wooden apple necklaces (or insert holiday of choice)
4.  I would allow my children to participate in activities with the "public school kids"... duhduhduh (evil music played here)
5.  We would not take a wagon train trip across the midwest to commemorate Westward expansion
6.  Bread would continue to be purchased from the grocery store - homemade bread is out of the question
7.  I will never grow an organic garden

Well, scratch #6 - Dustin got me a bread maker for Christmas and I LOVE IT!  I am addicted to the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning. (Yeah, you can even set a timer at night so that your dough cooks in the middle of the night and is ready, warm and ready for slicing at dawn!  How cool is that!)

ANd.... Yep, scratch #7 too.  Oh for the love of all things pure and holy!  Seriously?  I have now succumb to 2 out of my list of 7 things - I am going to grow an organic vegetable garden!  What is this world coming to?  Crazier still, I think I love it too!  I've always loved the feeling of dirt and don't mind dirt under my finger nails so the idea of pulling weeds and cultivating the land to grow my own produce for my munchkins actually doesn't sound half bad.

It took me far too many hours on Pinterest (blast you Pinterest!  you have stolen so many hours from my life - and I am certain it is not my fault :-)  but I have finally got the raised bed of my dreams thanks to my amazing husband and one weekend devoted to pulling it all together.  If you are interested in the details of the raised bed garden we made, read on.  Otherwise, check back when I check #1 off my list and start wearing denim jumpers to go swimming in the backyard.

I knew I wanted to grow a variety of veggies and Dustin loves tomatoes so I started by making a list of what I would want and then figuring out how big I would need to make the bed based on the number of plants I wanted to put in.  I went to a site that saved my life called garden planner.  It is a site that allows you to plot out your veggies and tells you how much space you will need and wear to place specific plants in the garden.  It is $25 for a yearly membership but the first month is free with no sign up necessary so I plan to just take my money and run at the end of the month because I just needed it to help get me started.  I printed out a color coded plot map and seed planting bar graph from the site to have for reference and it was very simple.

We figured we wanted to have about 50 square feet of garden space so Dustin bought 2X8" beams and attached them horizontally with 1x1" pieces that we predrilled into the beams and then screwed in.  We made the bed 4x12' and attached the four sides with galvanized top edge corner brackets from Lowe's.  

Once it was all together, we realized it was pretty visible from the street so we went back and bought some green spray paint so that it would blend it better with the surrounding woods.

Because we have quite a few deer and rabbits in our backyard, we knew we would need a fence.  The bed is 16" tall so we thought using a plastic mesh would be sufficient for the rabbit issues.  We made the fence 4 feet tall (the same height as the mesh fencing).  We stapled the fencing around the two shorter sides of the bed and along the back side and then staple gunned the fencing to each 1x1" post on three sides as well.  When it came time to do the last side, we left an opening and didn't use the staple gun at all.  I pulled it tight while Dustin put in screws along one of the middle 1x1"s.

Now when I want to get into the garden to weed or pick veggies, I just pull back the wire mesh to the side.  Oh, another thing I am learning as a newbie gardener: at least for me, growing from seeds is a big pain.  I bought a billion seeds and only used a few from each packet and then bought one of those dirt seedling kits.  The plants have done ok and the transplanting went fine but they are just so tiny right now. I was at Walmart today and I had plant envy and ended up buying large, more mature plants to replace a few of my peppers and tomatoes.  I planted the tomatoes, bell peppers (red, green and yellow), jalapeƱos, sugar snap peas and blueberry bush along the north end of the garden so that they don't crowd out the lower growing plants on the south facing end for morning sun.  On the south end I planted a row of carrots and two rows of lettuce along with radish and cucumber.

So what is up with the soda bottles?   Alas, Pinterest has failed me on this experiment.  I read a great idea of using 2 Liter bottles to provide your own cheap version of a drip irrigation system.  I put small holes along the bottom and sides of the bottles and then dug them into the soil.  The idea was that I would fill the bottles and replace the cap, allowing water to slowly leek out of the holes and providing a deep watering to the plants.  The problem is, my plants do not have mature root systems yet and so when I fill the bottles the plants do not get the water.  The bottles only seem to get about a 6" area around themselves and it didn't work out like I'd hoped.  I pulled the bottles out of the garden today and bought an adjustable rotating sprinkler that I'll just turn on each morning for 20 minutes or so.

 Dustin had such a clever idea for the left over wood and a few scraps we had around the wood pile - he built a mini-bridge that can be easily lifted over the bed so that I can get between my rows and have great access to the back edge of the planting bed without tramping on our airy, fluffy dirt.  Man, that guy is a keeper!

Here's the view from the front of the house.  The bed is off to the right side at the edge of the woods.  Now that we painted the bed green, you can hardly tell it is there (which is great for us, because our neighborhood association requires raised beds to be behind the sight line of the house and ours technically isn't.)

What fun to make salad with our own veggies this summer!  Come on over and share some... unless I'm busy making my children recite some poetry in French and Mandarin.

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