I get so excited for this time every year: when the weather gets warmer, grass gets greener, flip flops become a main part of my wardrobe, and I start planning for my annual vegetable garden. Although I’ve only been a “home gardener” for five seasons I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.
I get so excited for this time every year: when the weather gets warmer, grass gets greener, flip flops become a main part of my wardrobe, and I start planning for my annual vegetable garden. Although I’ve only been a “home gardener” for five seasons I’ve learned a thing or two along the way when dealing with limited space around the house.
My set up is simple really. I have three 3‘ x 6’ x 8” boxes in my backyard filled with dirt (more on this in a bit). I also try to use a few standalone pots and random areas around my house where my neighbors won’t be too mad for slightly overstepping my boundaries. (I tend to give them veggies throughout the summer so they feel bad complaining!) Because of the space constraints, I use the Square Foot Gardening theory which in short is breaking up your box in square foot areas, planting different plants in each square, and growing all your vegetables vertically to save space.
Each year I learn a thing or two — finding successes and failures — to improve my layout or gardening strategy for the next year. Last year I learned about “hand pollination.” That’s right, put the male to female and BAM! Why did I do this? It was fun, duh! Annnd I seemed to be missing one important part of my garden: bees. The only choice I had was to “do it” myself and so I started hand pollinating my squash, zucchini, and cukes and as a result my plants flourished. I started pulling in 10-15 squash and zucchini’s a week!
However much to my surprise I also had to learn more about dirt, its PH levels, and how that affects your veggies. In particular my tomatoes were extremely were sour and the biggest letdown of last season! Especially when you have about 10-15 tomato plants!
So to replenish the nutrients in my garden and fix my Ph levels I completely replaced the dirt in all three of my boxes. I decided to use Mel’s Mix which consists of 3 equal parts of vermiculite, compost, and peat moss. That mix DID cost me around $65, however I will have this mix (only adding compost) for the next three seasons. I also don’t have to worry about rotating any of my crops to prevent disease and replenish nutrients, it’s like starting new. I’m still planning on hand pollinating (bees or no bees!) to get a head start on the season!
So when should you start? Now. It’s a great time to start preparing your soil and getting those early spring crops (lettuce, spinach, kale, peas) in the ground. They can usually stand light frosts until we get out of the frost season (beginning mid April) and launch you right into spring!
My early-spring layout:
** Only one box used.
My summer crop layout:
I will start planting summer veggies in mid-April. I only plant cucumbers from seed, most everything else is already started by local nurseries — an unfortunate downfall to limited indoor space. I also do this because squirrels LOOOVE digging for seeds.