Small Home Vegetable Garden - I'm Doin' It!
Vegetable Gardening For Fun (And Profit?)
...I'm finally putting feet to my intentions.
A small vegetable garden is good for the sole. It's good for the body in terms of exercise and healthy food, too. And I will not let my past (failures) influence my future (success).
In the past, I learned one thing, and I let it taint my gardening experience - growing your own veggies is not the cheapest way to get healthy food. Let me explain..
I started a home vegetable garden in a past life. I lived in South Florida, Ft. Lauderdale to be exact. And I got the urge to grow a small crop of fresh veggies. It cost me about $40 for each green bean! This was after buying a few garden tools, amending the soil so the crop would prosper, and fighting off attacking insects and critters with store-bought preparations.
In the end, I was not able to deal with the leaf blight and rodents. They devastated all my plants, and I was left with a handful of beans and a few tomatoes. No squash made it to the table, and only a couple of peppers.
I checked both thumbs and discovered they were NOT green.
I am older and wiser now (I hope), and I have moved to richer soil.. in Georgia. Last year I planted some tomatoes and they did pretty well until the deer found them. In the process, I figured out how to discourage the cute four-legged critters, and I have begun anew with high expectations for a bumper crop.
This lens will be a chronicle of my vegetable garden journey.
Photo: by the author, two weeks after planting.
Preparing For Veggie Garden Success
This process actually started last summer when I built a compost bin. I threw all my clippings and fallen leaves in there and let nature do its thing.
The actual first step was to place the landscape timbers. I purchased 8 of them (8' each) at Home Depot for less than $4 each.
I wanted to be able to get to the entire planting area without having to step into the garden, so I made two rectangles 4' by 12', cutting two of the timbers in half for the ends and two others were cut in half to create the longer sides. I used some scrap lumber to join the long sides using my DeWalt drill and some weather resistant screws.
Impact Drill and Driver.. Gardening Tools?? - OH YEAH!
This may not look much like gardening tools, but, trust me when I tell you that the drill and impact driver are an indispensable part of my arsenal. I used the drill when putting together the landscape timbers as well as creating the holes where the PVC supports were inserted.
The impact driver makes easy work of inserting lag bolts to hold the timbers together.
In this photo, I am using my Ryobi power tool with a tiller attachment. It saved me a lot of time and helped my back as well. It worked really well because we had some spring rain a couple of days before, which softened up the soil.
Before this step, I used my garden fork to turn over the sod. I then added some of my compost and that's when I tilled the whole thing together.
The Beginning Of My Home GardenClick thumbnail to view full-size
I needed two bags of bone meal... one for each rectangle.
Since I am somewhat of a beginner to home vegetable gardening, I am only growing veggies that are easy to grow. Of course, they must also be pleasing to my personal palette. (No jalapeno peppers, please!)
I have grown tomatoes before, so that is my main crop. I know I need to keep them protected from deer due to last year's fiasco. I have also planted radishes to get a quick return. Anyone can grow radishes and have them in a salad within a month.
Also in my beds, I have:
- bell peppers
- string beans
- lots of leaf lettuce
Last year, my major success was sweet potatoes, so they are going into this year's veggie garden, too. I bought a single sweet potato at the grocery store, and I will allow it to start putting out roots. Then I will cut it into sections and put it in the ground. But I will not use my prepared space for this, because sweet potatoes take up a lot of ground space. Instead, I will plant these in a remote area of my yard and let them roam.
Gardening Gloves Are Essential
There are lots of different kinds of gardening gloves on the market. It is well worth the cost to get some good ones. They will make the work of gardening so much more enjoyable.
They are available in both Men's and Women's sizes.
Make sure you get the right size.
They even come in trendy colors.
Bob and Cheri Hooper have just celebrated 40 years in business at Hooper's Garden Center in Kalispel, MT. They visited us in Georgia in the Fall, and I got so much information from both of them about how to grow a home vegetable garden.
It's important to test the soil for PH.
That is when I decided this would be the year to jump back into veggie gardening.
In all the knowledge he shared, Bob assured me that the main thing that will guarantee success is water. But not just watering on a consistent basis. The PH of the soil is paramount to garden success. Too acid or too alkaline and your plants will not produce. And this is true of flowers as well. In fact, since they left, my flowers have been flourishing! Now it's time for the vegetables.
Bob did exactly that. He left Atlanta on a plane with a bottle of my city water and a container of my dirt. A few weeks later, my bag of fertilizer arrived in the mail.
I need this watering can to fertilize my little garden. It's the perfect size! All the reviews are excellent.
The fertilizer is 17-5-17, which is good for my soil-water combination. It may be good for yours too. I could not find it online, but is about the same configuration. The fertilizer is water soluble, and I have been using what Bob and Cheri sent me by mixing it in a watering can and applying every 2 weeks. Miracle-Gro All Purpose Plant Food
I lost almost everything last year to the deer. I did not know what was doing the damage until the damage was done. I had no idea deer would eat tomatoes and the leaves. This year, I am prepared.. let the battle begin!
This option will give you more flexibility as far as length, but since I knew the exact size, the square 14 x 14 worked for me.
I have this on each end, but you could also use this heavier plastic fence around the whole garden.
May 7 - I pick my first veggies!
I planted radishes just to have some early success, and it paid off.
This afternoon, I plucked these 5 beauties from the garden. Ain't they purdy?
I certainly think they are. I am really excited about these radishes. My sweet wife had one in her salad and proclaimed its goodness.
I'm a happy home gardener!
And the photo below is my first tomato. Granted, it has a ways to go (it's less than 1/4 inch across), but it's a start. Yahoo!!! We're off!
Late May Harvest
As of the end of May, leaf lettuce, carrots, and radishes have been plucked and eaten.. lots of lettuce.
And there are tomatoes-a-plenty growing in the garden and on the deck in containers. I may have to discover the art of canning. A good problem, right?
Also growing quite well are string beans, zucchini squash, and cucumbers. If the zucchini matches the size of the blooms and leaves of the plants, it will be something I can take to a 4-H gathering and enter to win a prize for largest squash plant. No kidding, the blooms are about 10" across.
The main body of the carrots is only about 3 inches.. suspiciously the same as the height of a peat pot. This is one of the more interesting carrots I harvested.
There are some deformities in the carrots, though. I think I can explain. The seed package says to sow the carrot seeds directly into the soil. I sowed them into peat pots and put them into a cold frame in order to get a head start. When I transferred the peat pots to the garden, I did not remove the sides or bottom, and it stunted the growth of the carrots.
The carrots are delicious in spite of the funny shapes. And after transplanting the peat pots, I sowed more carrot seeds into the garden as directed on the package. So, in a couple of weeks, we should have some "regular" looking carrots.
Did I mention that I have given away some lettuce and radishes already? And I am hoping that trend continues. It is nice to be able to share fresh veggies with friends and neighbors.
Another Harvest from my Backyard Garden
This is from June 16. I could not believe the size of the Zucchini. It's longer than my forearm.
We had one even larger. These monster zucchini are good for more than 3 meals each.
You can also see some leaf lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. There are so many tomatoes getting ready to ripen, I am going to have to learn how to can or make spaghetti sauce. This is a good problem.
July 6 Vegetable Garden Harvest
Here is the basket of veggies I plucked from my backyard garden while dodging the rain that has plagued the Southeast during the past week.
The zucchini are gi-normous!
The cucumbers are pretty hefty as well.
But the tomatoes.. they actually taste like tomatoes, and I love tomatoes.