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.
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:
We purchased our soil mixtures (on sale) from a local gardening/hardware store as well as shoveled top soil from higher spots in our yard. It may be more cost efficient to buy in bulk. Be sure to shop around for the best deals.
STEP 5: Start Planting
We purchased mostly seedlings for our first garden. The okra we chose to grow from seed since we couldn't find it any other place in our local garden center.
Just follow the guidelines on the back of the seed packet or plant care label in your seedlings. It will spell out how far apart and how deep to plant, as well as, whether the plant is best in shade or direct sunlight.
Then WATER those suckers. Water at the base of plant, trying not to get the leaves too wet in order to prevent rot. Some people suggest mulching over the exposed soil after this step. Mulching can help stabilize the soil, minimize the growth of weeds, and help the soil retain its moisture. For this garden we opted out for one reason or another.
NOW WE WAIT, and water, and wait some more. In time, the harvest will come
And did it come!
There are few things more satisfying than being able to pick your own food and eat it fresh off the vine. We yielded what I would consider a substantial crop for our family of two. We had cucumbers growing out of our ears and had more than plenty that we were able to share with friends and coworkers.
When you stop and think about it, doesn't it blow your mind that a itty bitty seed can produce that much food. Just a few small seeds can grow and feed my little family. It was an image to me of the beauty and love of God. That he would take something so small and seemingly insignificant and allow it to grow into something fruitful and life giving.
I wanted more of this live giving food. Food that fresh, well cared for, unspoiled. I wanted food that not only made my soul feel closer to our creator, but that also fed and nurtured the needs of my body. All the time and care that went into this garden, the nutrients provided to these plants, my body reaped the benefits a hundred-fold.
Taking it to the next level...continue.