Dr. J and I love food, love to eat, love to cook, but hate gardening! That’s kind of a problem when you figure that the very *best* vegetables don’t come from the grocery store – they come from your garden! We are such food snobs, in fact, that I hardly ever eat tomatoes anymore that are not garden-fresh (or organic, heirloom-y or roma types of varieties) and I’ve completely sworn off tomatoes in restaurants, as condiments, even on salads because I’ve been spoiled by many-a-year’s worth of my Mother’s garden fresh tomatoes!
Up to now we have always lived in rentals and therefore couldn’t plant anything so we have tried, year after year, to do patio tomatoes, jalapeños, and herbs and we find that they just don’t do that well. Our patio tomato ended up producing a piddly 6 tomatoes last year and we got absolutely no jalapeños! We’re not sure if it was the extreme heat, the move or just poor soil, but it was disappointing to say the least. So this year we were super excited to plant our first “in-ground” garden and we are chompin’ at the bit for it to grow so we can have fresh vegetables through the summer and into the fall! But before we even considered planting a single seed, we had to come up with a plan!
Catch some rays: Before you can even think about planting a garden, you have to determine the best location! Most vegetables require a good amount of light (at least 6 hours worth of sunlight per day), so planting your garden in full shade on the north side of your house probably isn’t going to produce what you need. Since our yard is super duper small, we at first thought about planting our garden on the south side of the house (which happens to be the side yard). But after surveying the sunlight at high noon…
…we realized we just weren’t going to be able to get the kind of sunlight we needed for happy vegetables. Since we have an HOA that takes care of the front landscaping and thus, didn’t trust the landscapers with our precious veggies, we had to look to the backyard that faces East/South. Our measly, uber-small backyard is more or less Maggie’s personal loo, but we were willing to sacrifice some precious space for some good grub!
Rasin’ the Roof: After researching online, talking to my Mom (a stellar gardener), and from my own personal experiences of trying to grow grass in our backyard, we decided to create a “raised bed” as opposed to just roughing up the dirt. Vegetables like loose soil and our dirt in the backyard is just that – dirt. It’s packed pretty hard and has a lot of leftover rocks and construction debris, which are really difficult to get rid of. So a raised bed is where it’s at! Basically, we just took 6 landscaping timbers at 8 feet apiece, cut two of them in half, and created our own little Lincoln Log garden bed! We were instantly taken back to first grade, albeit with bigger (and louder) tools!
Pretty cool, huh?!
Get down and dirrrrrty: I really hate dirt. Dirt = creepy crawlies +dirty = bad combination for a clean freak like myself. I don’t even like long fingernails because I’m paranoid about having dirt underneath them. Yea, totally freaky right here! But in terms of gardening, it just had to be done. Since we had a boatload of compost from our recent composting adventure, we spread all of it (and I mean all of it!) down as the base of our garden.
We admit that our compost probably wasn’t as pretty as it *could* have been, but we were still really happy with it and happy to incorporate all of that nutrient rich dirt with a half dozen bags of beautiful topsoil for the perfect “all green” fertilizer. I couldn’t get visions of hungry bunnies and slugs out of my head, so we covered it with topsoil just to be safe. You could probably cover it with mulch (or “barkdust” as they call it here in the Pacific NW), but my mom has never mulched her vegetable garden and it’s as pretty as could be! (Side Note: aside from worms and slugs, our compost amazingly hasn’t attracted large critters, and the slugs and worms are just a natural part of the composting process. However, just to be safe, we are glad we stashed the bin in the far corner of our yard).
Plant on!: So we decided to go with two tomato varieties, four broccoli plants, basil, rosemary, Italian (or flat leaf) parsley, chives, jalapeños, and bell peppers. The two pepper plants and the chives we are starting from seeds, which we have done in the past and have never had any problems with! The great thing about growing peppers (especially jalapeños) is that all the little critters know better than to eat them – apparently humans are the only ones dumb enough to nosh on those hot babies - ha ha!
The best part of this project is that, while the whole thing cost us around $100 for all of the plant life, soil, and the building materials, we will be able to enjoy this garden year after year! Since we planted, we have been getting tons of rain out here, which just goes to show that our timing was perfect! Now all we have to do is wait until July-August timeframe to start harvesting….not that we (or Maggie) are counting the days or anything ;-).