Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gardening Questions Answered

Since my post "The Real Cost of Your Gym Membership", I have received quite a few questions about gardening so I thought I would take a minute to answer them all here. First, let me clarify that we are still very novice gardeners. We learn a little more each year, but two years ago we had no garden to speak of and didn't know all that much about how to start one.

Q: Where do you get your seeds?

A: I've found that it's best not to buy seeds from your local hardware or grocery store, definitely pick a seed catalog. You'll get much higher quality seeds, more will germinate and you'll have a greater selection to choose from. We prefer non-GMO (not genetically modified) seeds and my favorite company is Baker's Creek. Their seed catalog is gorgeous and the company is family owned and operated, they also have great prices for heirloom seeds. (Heirloom seeds are ones that have been grown locally for a very long time, sometimes hundreds of years).

Q: How do you know what to plant?

A: First, we choose the foods we like. If we won't eat it, we don't plant it. Then we get online search for what foods grow well in our state. That's it.

Q: HOW do you plant?

A: I promise it's not as hard as it looks, there are directions on each seed packet for that specific plant. After lots of direction-reading I've got it down to this science: if it's a big seed I push it about an inch under the dirt, if it's a tiny seed I sprinkle it on top, water both after "planting". If it's a large food (watermelon) plant the seeds farther apart, small food (beans) plant closer together.

Q: Where do I plant? Should I use beds?

A: Full sun, all day. We put in garden beds since we have sandy soil, they're more work to fill in with dirt the first year but SO much easier to till and weed. The second year is a breeze.

Q: What kind of beds?

A: We heard wood will warp so we decided not to make our own. The best price I found by far was at Sam's Club $50/each with free shipping (this is key since they are VERY heavy) for a 4X7 bed made of a composite material that won't warp or break down. Looks just as good after several years. No tools required to assemble, each one took us maybe 3 minutes to put together and could easily be taken apart if we wanted to move them. Plus they are stackable if you want to make a taller bed.

Q: How did you get so many strawberries?

A: The first year we paid about $25 for 50 strawberry plants and planted them in the spring after the last frost (beginning of April for SC). That summer we pulled the flower blossoms off anytime we saw them and prevented the plants from making strawberries so that they would put their energy towards growing the plant. The next summer we didn't do anything but weed and water and after saving only the best strawberries, we harvested about $77 worth. The plants will continue to grow and produce each year.

Q: If your kids are 2 and 3 can they really help out?

A: They can't push the wheelbarrow, but my son does help shovel (with his own smaller shovel) and the kids get very excited to drop seeds in and help water. A few weeks ago they also worked together to carry up 100 pots filled with soil to the mini-greenhouse we made on our porch.

Q:  Should I start everything from seed?

A: No, some things require plants to start (sweet potatoes) or take a few years if started from seed to produce (asparagus). Also, we've had a lot of success growing lettuce and spinach from seeds but cabbage and onions did better when we bought them as small plants from a nursery.

Q: How often do I water?

A: Every couple of days or more often if it's really dry/hot. We put a small stand in the center of our garden and then put the sprinkler on top. The sprinkler is connected to a timer (you can get one at any hardware store) that will automatically turn on and off at specific days and times so I don't have to remember to water. WORTH the investment!

Q: What if I don't have a big yard or space for a garden?

A: You can always put a few tomato plants in pots on your porch. We even have a lemon tree and lime tree that we started in pots inside two years ago, they are HUGE now and will likely be planted outside this year but we are getting lemons already!

Can you think of any other questions?  If not then you don't have any excuses, unless of course you don't like to get dirty.

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