Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First Veggie Garden Finally Planted

I know it has been almost a year since my last garden update. Come to find out, June was way too late to even consider planting the garden I wanted. Most of my plant choices were summer crops and by June the weather made the ground way too warm to start the garden, plus I still needed to build the garden up and fill it with good soil. Let me tell you, this process was a lot of hard work. The garden area really isn't very big, but still there was more work to be done than I expected. Now I know why people go to the grocery store to buy veggies.


Instead of using the free bricks to build up the end of the bed, I decided to use four cinder blocks that I purchased from Home Depot for under $10. This was the first purchase for the garden so far and it didn't break the bank. Now with the end of the bed raised, the weeding process could begin. Every green living thing in the bed was plucked and thrown into the compost pile, which by the way is going really well despite the baby snakes.

The compost pile after 6 months
Though he looks big, he is only as wide as a pencil.
When the weeds were finally gone. I let the garden set the rest of the summer and part of the winter of 2013. The soil in the yard is not that great and is very sandy. While digging I didn't find many worms (which is a sign of good soil) and I found plenty of grubs. So in late winter I started to amend the soil and bury food scraps underneath of it. Though I was not planning on planting in the soil, I decided that it could still use some help.

In about February of this year, much earlier than last, I purchased seed packets, starting trays, gardening tools and biodegradable pots from my local Dollar Tree. This might sound like a cheap way to go, and it was, since I didn't want to invest a lot of money into something that I have never done before. I was able to purchase five pots, four starting trays, three gardening tools, and eight packs of seeds for $21. I stopped by HEB to purchase a bag of organic potting soil which only set me back an additional $3.
Starting from seeds

Green Bean plant coming up

Green bean plant a few days later

Very tall lettuce plants

Grass is taking over my plants
Since I had a compost pile in the back I decided to use some of it to start my seeds along with the potting soil, but as you can tell by the photo above, it still had weed seed in it and grew more grass than plants. In the process of plucking out the grass, I ended up plucking the green onion sprouts because I couldn't tell them apart from the blades of grass. Lesson learned.


It took about one and a half months for the plants to grow just big enough to be replanted into the pots purchased at the Dollar Tree. I also purchased a few herbs from Home Depot when they ran their sale on organic Bonnie Plants. I learned a trick from John Kohler of Growing Your Greens, which is to pick pots that have more than one plant in them to get more for your money. So for $10 I came home with five pots but nine plants.  

So this is where I loose momentum. In March I decide to start filling the garden with soil. Mind you, this is not a very big bed compared to some gardens I've seen, but it still takes a lot of soil to fill up. The bed is 6' x 8' x 1' which is forty-eight square feet. Most bags of soil at the store cover one square foot, so this garden is going to take forty-eight bags to fill it up. OH MY! So I start by filling the garden with six measly bags and it barely covers the bottom of the garden, about a $12 investment. Still lots of area to fill.


A few weeks later I add eight more bags. I do a mix of organic soil, peat humus, compost, wood chips and cow manure. And slowly see the bed rise and feel very disappointed at this point.



 
So I know this may not seem very expensive to most people, but I now have $40 worth of soil in the garden at it looks like only one bag has been added. In my head I am doing the math and realize that it will take over $150 dollars to fill this whole bed with a great mix of soil. So instead of giving up, I decide to plant only half the garden and save the other half for next year and maybe even compost in it until then.
To save money, I decide to help fill the bed with a few bags of topsoil. I have such a great base already with peat humus, cow manure, compost and wood chips that mixing in a few bags of topsoil shouldn't hurt. So I set out to purchase nine bags of topsoil at a really low cost of $16. The brand I purchased is made by Scotts and claims to have organic matter (which could be anything) but seems to be mainly sand, large wood chips and rock. So I now have the daunting task of mixing this sandy stuff in with all my other soil so that I have an even mix. I only end up mixing in 6 bags because it seems to be really dense and fill up the area fast.

 
After I mixed the topsoil in really well, I built a wall in the middle of the bed with those wonderful bricks that I salvaged for free. Thank goodness something was free. And to stabilize the bricks I purchased six bamboo rods from Home Depot for under $3. The bricks have holes in them, so I just pushed the rods down into the bricks, all the way through to the ground. It took me awhile to build the brick wall just right so that I could take advantage of the holes in the bricks, but it worked.

 
I took it a bit further by pounding wooden stakes into the ground right behind the brick wall. Then to make it more stable I dumped the remaining topsoil behind the wall and built a mound. My reasoning behind that was to keep the moisture and soil from escaping from the bricks.
 
After five more bags of really good potting soil (about $20 worth) my half garden was finally full and ready for planting. I can't believe it took $76 worth of soil to fill up such a tiny space. Do you know how many veggies I could have purchased with that money? But at least I know where and how my veggies are being raised, right?
 

 
 
HAPPY GARDENING!
 

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