Let's Grow Something

Do you ever have this really cool idea in your head and you get all excited about making it happen? Yeah, that's me... all the time...but instead of getting to the actual follow through, the idea most often falls into the cracks. It's like the time I decided I wanted to become a painter. I bought the supplies- paint, brushes, canvas, all of which have been sitting under my bed for three years now. Canvas, half-painted. Or the time that I was convinced that I would learn to play the piano. The keyboard, also under my bed, has very little wear on it from these fingers of mine. Going on two years now. Chop sticks is about the extent of my skills in that arena. I have drawers full of projects unfinished.

But this time was different. I had committed in my mind that I was going to follow through with this new idea. I was going to grow something. Not just anything. FOOD. I mean, what better way to know where your food comes from than growing it yourself? Let me start with saying that this is not for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty. Just like with anything worth doing, it takes work. But with a little love, time, and sunshine I am certain anyone can be successful at growing their own food. And the pay-off is well worth it!

Here's how we did it.
(Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form a certified master gardener. The information given below is based solely on my experience.)

STEP 1: Decide what you would like to grow

For our first garden, we decided to choose vegetables and herbs that we ate on a regular basis. That way, we could save some moo-lah on our weekly grocery shopping trips.

We chose:
-Bell Peppers
-Cayenne Peppers

Each vegetable and herb have their own growing requirements. Some prefer full shade or partial shade while others prefer full sun to grow successfully. They also have differing needs when it comes to the amount of water and nutrients they require. I found a really useful guide provided by the National Gardening Association that helped me determine the needs of my plants.

STEP 2: Choose Garden Location

Our backyard was on the small side. Big enough to throw a ball for our dog, but not an impressive amount of green space by any means. We had a large paper-bark tree that shaded a portion of the lawn and next to it a stretch of ground that received full sunlight up to the back fence line. We found our perfect garden location!

STEP 3: Build Raised Garden

Why did we choose a raised garden over the conventional "straight in the ground" method of growing? Well, for one, we have a curious little dog who would have lots of fun walking back and forth on new seedlings. We wanted to give them the best chance to survive their early days in our yard. Secondly, the area that we wanted to grow our garden in was not the most well-draining area in the yard. There were a couple of low spots where rainwater loved to collect and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes (which in my opinion should be the official state bird of Georgia). By building the raised bed, we provided better soil drainage and got rid of those low spots in our yard.

I browsed the web and was able to find building plans for putting together a raised garden. My favorite site is Ana White- Homemaker. Hundreds of free plans for a variety of building projects. She even breaks out the supplies you need and what length cuts to make out of one piece of wood so as to save you money. Here is a plan for a raised bed. It's not the exact one we used, but it works just as well.

STEP 4: Add Soil Base

First, you need to know how much soil you will need to fill your raised bed. Here is a link to a helpful soil calculator based on the dimensions of your raised garden.

Soil is the most important aspect of your garden. It is where plants get all their nutrients in order to grow. By providing a well-mixed base you can ensure a successful crop...so long as you water your plants.

A good ratio for your soil mixture is as follows:

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