Sunday, January 13, 2008

Earth Boxes

An interesting link for container gardeners: Earth Box

I have wanted to try these for quite some time but never got around to it. The concept is very interesting but the cost was a bit high for my budget at the time when most of my veggies lived in containers. If anyone decides to try these I would love a product review from you. These are still something that I am considering because my DH REALLY wants me to grow corn but I would have serious space and soil issues if I planted it traditionally.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why should I grow my own veggies...

when I can just buy organic from the store?
Do you really save money growing your own veggies?
How do you grow enough for your family when you have a small garden?

These are just some of the questions that I get from my friends who have not yet discovered the joy of small space gardening.

Let's start the first two questions, especially "Why should I grow my own when I can just buy organic from the store, co-op, farmer's market, etc.?" There are many answers to this question but the most basic answer is CO$T! Yes, you really do save money in the long run when you grow your own veggies. Last year, I spent just under $25.00 dollars for seeds, supplies, and soil/peat moss. My costs now are low because I am an established gardener. It was higher when I was collecting supplies over the years. Last year was my most abundant year but also the year that I lost the largest percentage of my harvest to frost, floods, etc. BUT despite my losses I still have NOT purchased frozen broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, or onions since JUNE. Yes, my friends, I typed that correctly. My family of four has not had a store bought vegetable (with the exception of corn and brussell sprouts and veggies for Thanksgiving and Christmas because the holidays would have been hard on my stash) since JUNE. If I keep using at the pace that I estimate that I will not have to buy the veggies that I grew in my garden until March. In March, my carrots and peas will be scheduled to come in by May along with my radishes, lettuce, and spinach. So, if (and with gardening it is always a big IF) everything goes well, there will only be about a 2 or three month span where I will not have my family eating something that I have grown with my own hands. That is a great feeling!!! I have saved so much money!

I have two separate gardens that combined equals a garden much smaller that what most folks consider big enough to feed a family. I have one small garden along the side of my house that depending on the season and crop rotation grows strawberries, lettuce, spinach, onions, green peppers and jalapeno peppers. This garden is approximately 3 ft wide by about 10 ft long. Tiny. My "big" garden is really two squares corner to corner joined together by a triangle. It is stuck in the corner of our yard where our fence juts in around a utility box, that is why it is an odd shape. But it is still small. In there, I grow my broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers (vertically), peas, onions, cilantro, and mint (in a container otherwise I would have a garden filled with mint).

So, what is my secret for growing so much in a small space? Crop rotation, companion planting, and a "small space" mind set where I plant crops close together in a more "French gardening" stagger method vs. the traditional row planting. I also use "bonus spaces" such as the areas along my paths to grow things like extra carrots or green onions because they grow almost straight up or underground and don't take up a great deal of space. Creativity, determination, and a willingness to experiment and perhaps fail are important if you are going to get the most out of your small space garden.

Over the next few weeks/months I plan to chronicle EXACTLY how I set up and care for my beloved garden so that those who are interested can keep tabs on what I am doing. Please keep in mind that gardening is based on region and I am in zone 5a so your results, plants, etc. may be different. If you would like to know what grows well in your area, I recommend that you contact your local gardening extension or just leave me a comment and I can help you figure out what will work in your area. (Unless you live in, let's say, Florida or Arizona. I have no idea how to grow things in those states. LOL!!)

Gardening is easy and fun. You will learn more about your region and it's weather and ecosystem than you ever imagined you would. You will learn to love bees (we would run out of food without them to pollinate everything!), butterflies, spiders and snakes. Your children may just eat things that you never thought they would. You will learn to be patient and wait for a natural predator to come and begin eating whatever is bugging your plants. I am still amazed when I see the wasps come year after year to clean up the cabbage worms from my broccoli and cauliflower. You will know the satisfaction of growing something yourself and not relying on the store. You learn to see the hand of God in nature. Gardening is GREAT and I hope that you will feel inspired and confident to do it in whatever method you can, be it in 5 gallon buckets on your patio or on your very own path of land somewhere in your yard.

Have a wonderful weekend!! :)

Friday, January 04, 2008

A New Favorite "Big Blog"

I consider any blog authored by a person who may be remotely widely known to be a "Big Blog". I don't know of a better word or the correct term for it, so that's what I call 'em. (If you know the right term, please let me know!!) Anyway, I LOVE Relevant Radio (see the link on my sidebar) and the author of this blog (Sheila L. ~ I can't remember how to spell her last name.) used to have a wonderful afternoon show on Relevant Radio. This is a blog that focuses on ISSUES relevant to, I believe, people of ALL Christian denominations even though Sheila herself is passionately Catholic with a son currently in Seminary. Sheila is very very logical, an attribute that I appreciate greatly. I usually try not to get "all political" on my blog, but I feel confident enough that Sheila discusses the many issues that we are facing in our society with a fair, balanced,and logical view to be able to recommend her blog to those who may be interested. I hope you enjoy what you see if you take a peek at this informative blog.

Here is her website: Inforumblog

Gardeners, Start Your Ordering!!!

Attention all gardeners: If you have not already done so and are planning on ordering seeds for the 2008 gardening season, DO IT NOW. It can take 6 - 8 weeks for you seeds to arrive depending on where you order them from. I personally am recommending Veseys this year.

A few seed tips:
* Make sure that your choices match your hardiness zone. If you try to grow something that has a longer growing season than what you have, it won't work well. Trust me. Luckily, You can grow lots of veggies in most climates! Just check the maturity time. But if those flowers catch your eye, be sure they will work in your area.

* Read the description carefully. Make sure that it will match ALL of your gardening needs including space, time, water, feeding, etc. If you are going to be container gardening, be sure to try out the "patio" or "dwarf" varieties as these are usually hybrids that will do well in containers or small spaces. Some good small space or container plants are certain varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers, all herbs, lettuce, and even green onions. All of these are a great way to get started if you have never done container gardening before. (I will have a longer post on container gardening in the near future)

* If you do not have one, consider purchasing a windowsill greenhouse seed starter. They work great!! Also, consider purchasing some peat pots to transplant your larger plants into once they outgrow the windowsill greenhouse. You can just pop the peat pot into the ground once it is time to plant. Works GREAT!!

* Have fun!! I get such a thrill when I am ordering. I hate to wait for the seeds to arrive, but it just makes my day when they do. I get started right away. This year, I don't have to order. Veseys sent me plenty last year and I have seeds left over that will still germinate. So you guys have fun and let me know what you ordered. ;) Or you can just wait a bit and buy some nice seeds at the store. Sometimes that is easier.

Well, I am off to go grocery shopping. YAY!! (Note heavy sarcasm) Have a great day!