Friday, April 06, 2012

April showers bring May... vegetables?

At least, I hope so!  My parents came up from Florida this past weekend so my Mom could attend a bridal shower for my sister (with me, of course).  Since it was my Spring Break, I convinced her to stick around for a few extra days and help me conquer a mini-dream of mine - planting a garden!
My one attempt at vegetable gardening in the past was a complete flop.  The blog post was entitled "The $50 Pepper".  Granted - I never actually wrote the post, but the title alone should give you a hint.  Basically, one lonely little green bell pepper plant in a too-small pot that struggled with bugs, fungus and who knows what else and ultimately I ate one small pepper that was about 2" long.  That was it.
So this year I decided to do it "right" - and do a raised bed.
My husband has always hated the bushes that were under our bedroom windows (to the right in the picture below -- apparently we don't take many pics of the back of our house, since this one is from before we bought it!).
It wasn't hard, then, for me to get permission (or help) pulling them up and putting a small raised bed in their place!  The ground wasn't pure clay, since this was a "flower bed" in a previous life, but some tilling was definitely needed.  We started with a hand tiller, but my neighbor was kind enough to let us borrow their little mechanical one, which did the job much better and faster.
A bit of online digging (pun intended) and Mom and I opted to use cinderblocks to mark off the bed.  Easily adjustable (to expand next year, if this goes well), fairly inexpensive, and no worries about warping, rotting, or leeching chemicals like we'd have with wood.  A few layers of newspaper theoretically serves as a bit of a weed barrier, but also will eventually compost and be good for the soil.
We used half-blocks for the sides (7 on each side) and whole ones for the ends (3 each).  This gives us a planting area of about 4'x8' - just perfect to start out!  We added 5 cubic feet of regular top soil, 4.5 cubic feet of Miracle Grow Organic top soil/fertilizer, and 100 lbs of Black Kow composted cow manure (no, it doesn't stink).  Should make for a nice, rich soil to grow things in!
Now, what to plant?  Several people we talked too said NOT to overplant or it would be counterproductive.  Despite my rough first attempt, peppers were still on the top of my list since I like them, they are in the "dirty dozen" list so I try to eat them organically, and they are pricey.  And everyone I've ever known who gardens grows tomatoes, so that sounded like another good place to start.  And since we had room for a little something else, some green beans.  Next year hopefully I'll start from seeds with everything, but not messing with that this year.  We ended up buying 4 plants - a bush tomato, a cherry tomato, a green pepper, and an orange pepper - and some bush green bean seeds.  Again, per our online exploring, we opted to plant 6 herbs in the "end caps" (oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, mint and cilantro), and a few flowers in the small spaces in the side blocks to pretty it up a bit.  Here I am with the finished product:
Total cost was probably around $170, (approx $30 for the cinder blocks, $45 for the various soils, $25 for a hand tiller, $5 for a new pair of gardening gloves, $60 for the plants/herbs/flowers/seeds).  Pricier than I had planned, but considering that most of it won't need to be bought again next year, it's not too bad.  Now I'm just praying the rabbits and deer stay away so I can get some real produce!
Of course, how could I leave out a picture of our little champion who cheered us on while we worked?
Working the soil... Soli Deo Gloria.

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