Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gardening 101

This past Labor Day, all my dreams came true.
I planted a garden, and I must say it's doing pretty well!

^That's my corn, it's even taller than my frizzy hair!

since I'm a professional gardener now, I thought I'd share some of what I've learned!

Tip #1: Location, location, location
If you are planting in the actual ground (not an above-ground planter box),
simply find a terrible-looking corner of your yard and clean it up.

Ahhh. Much better!

For the dirt:
Make sure the dirt is soft and rockless.
This may require purchasing dirt, which seems silly I know.

For the size:
I say the bigger the better! If you're going to go through the trouble of planting a garden,
plant everything you can get your hands on.
Mine is probably 8' by 8' (plus three big pots) and that thing is bursting at the seams!

For the border:
Define that baby so even the worms know it's sacred ground!
Even if this is for purely aesthetic reasons, it's so worth it! 
To do this, my dad and I replaced the rotting wooden 2x4s from a previously neglected garden.

But the defined edge isn't just for show, which leads me to...

Tip #2: Install a drip system!

Guys, this will let your garden continue to grow when you inevitably forget about it.
Very, very important!
And do this BEFORE you plant.
It's even good to flood the ground for a couple days before you subject anything to its dryness
(if you live in Arizona).
I really wish I knew more about the logistics of this tip, but let's be honest...
my dad totally did this for me (thanks dad!).
All I know is there's an automatic timer and the system goes for 10 minutes every morning!
We lined the perimeter of the garden with these black tubes
and we also have about ten tubes above the ground that we can set in specific places
like the one pictured in the photo above with the carrot stems.

I'm pretty sure I can attribute any gardening success to this drip system.

Tip #3: Do your research!
Every area is different, but planting in Arizona can be particularly challenging.
I knew this going into it, so I did a lot of research about when and what to plant.
I took a look at this gardening calendar for my county,
and decided that many of the vegetables I wanted to plant can be planted in September.
So on Labor Day (which is a great day to plant your garden each year!)
we went to a local nursery with a list of what I wanted to plant
and asked the workers what they recommended.

Here is my garden the day we planted...

And here it is almost six weeks later!

*NOTE: If you don't know how deep to plant something, ASK! I made this mistake and planted my edamame, carrots and snap peas waaaay too deep (like 5 inches down when they were supposed to be like 3/4 inch below ground...) and while some of them recovered, most of them did not.
*We also purchased some topsoil with lots of nutrients so we could put a layer down before we planted. That's what the black looking soil is!

Transplants vs. seeds
One important thing I learned at the nursery is which plants are worth buying as transplants,
and which ones you can easily start in seed form.
As you can see in the above photo, half of the garden was transplanted,
and the other half was done from seeds.
This can vary depending on which month you plant,
because some veggies won't have enough time to sprout and grow before the season is up.

For our Labor Day garden, this was the breakdown.



Lots of cherry tomatoes!

green, yellow, orange and red peppers

jalapeƱos (can you say fresh salsa?!) 

cilantro (say it again!!)
*we also did this in seed form to test which one does better
*but now I can't remember which one is which...

artichokes (I'm not convinced these are really going anywhere in life, but I still cheer them on)

as well as cucumbers, roma tomatoes and medium slicing tomatoes.


snap peas!
*This was round two a couple weeks after we realized my original seeds were probably in china by now... but they're looking great!


broccoli & cauliflower 

spinach, romaine lettuce, butterleaf lettuce & heirloom lettuce
*NOTE: The broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and all lettuces had to be planted a few weeks after Labor Day, or the sun would have scorched them!
*Also, some plants -- like cherry tomatoes -- need things to climb on. You can get cheap metal playgrounds for your plants at Walmart!

So you're either thinking two things by now...
1. Wow! That's not so bad. If Alexis can do it, so can I!
2. Wow! That seems like a lot of work. I can buy my veggies cheaper anyway.

To all of those who are thinking the latter, you could be right!
Planting a garden isn't free, and if you price match you can get some great deals of veggies.
In the end, we probably spent $60 (not including the drip system, I'm not sure how much that was) on tons of plants and seeds, a new boundary and topsoil. But I know we could have done it cheaper if we had used fewer transplants!

But guys, it's more than just gardening.
Planting and maintaining this garden has awakened a maternal instinct in me I just can't describe.

So if you're interested in planting, start researching now!
Spring gardens start in just a few months.
You better believe I'm gonna plant me some melons.
And in case you think this is still useless,
think about the fun you could have with your own home-grown pumpkins next Halloween!

Happy gardening!

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