Get thee to the garden!

Garden season is nearly upon us. Have you started plans? Plants?

Last year, I wrote a tutorial about creating newspaper pots to start seedlings. This year, I spotted a list of other DIY seed-starting pot tutorials on Green Daily, too.

We haven’t started much around our house other than plans. We did so well with our CSA membership that we anticipate that will provide most of our vegetables this year. I don’t think you can beat organic, local, affordable, and easy to pick up.

The fabulous news about this development? It frees us up to grow what we WANT to grow. Instead of trying to grow all my tomatoes, all the squash we can eat, and greens galore, we are going to focus on things that are fun to do. Last year, we wound up being busy, the weather was uncooperative, the dog ate all the green beans, and Brussels sprouts that grew all the way to just about full size wound up being so intensely infested with aphids at the last minute that they were disgusting. As a matter of fact, their hideous wilted yellow stalks are still standing at the edge of the garden now, as if to bear testament to our Brussels-sprouts-growing hubris.

What to do this year?

I am admittedly sad about my apparently inability to grow Brussels sprouts. But they take up a fair amount of room, and I’ve tried to grow them at least six times without ever eating a sprout, so they aren’t going to go on my wish list this year.

We have a few plants on our wish list, things that are not likely to show up in our CSA box:

  • In the spring, a few radishes and maybe small carrots, and sugar snap peas.
  • Okra – delicious fried or in some Indian dishes. I have several techniques for growing this in our Colorado climate, and I’m proud to say my okra usually turns out great. (I realize that this pronouncement dooms the crop this year.)
  • Tomatillo – Mr. Cheap loves the sour salsa it makes.
  • Lettuce – for early spring/summer salads before CSA deliveries get going in June. We are hoping to make a cold frame, too, to keep it going into the winter.
  • Leeks – If we have more space available, we might try some leeks, which take about a year to mature (or did the last time we grew them, a decade ago).
  • Tomatoes – A perfect heirloom tomato, a cherry for snacking, and some paste tomatoes to put away for the winter. We just need to figure out how to make all the paste tomatoes *ripen.*
  • Cucumbers. I’m going to return to my old cucumber patch and put up the tilted fence lattice that worked so beautifully in 2007, growing so many cucumbers that I pickled my little heart out and finally sold the leftovers at a yard sale (they were the best sellers at 70 cents each). Mr. Cheap loves his dills, Little Cheap is starting to like them too, and I like my bread-and-butter pickles, plus my sister might need a refill on curry pickles.
  • Haricots verts – These slim green beans were so good last year, I’m going to try again in a dog-safe area.
  • Strawberries. I hope these will expand — we might even add some more. And we need, again, to add fencing to keep the dogs from eating the berries.

I might consider making a better/larger mint patch. We have a few plants (planted in pots in the ground — mint is terribly invasive!). But my daughter drinks a LOT of mint tea, and it would be great to grow more for our use. I also would love to grow chamomile, but I have never successfully germinated it. Maybe this is the year to buy a plant.

And in our efforts to make life a bit more sustainable, we keep coming across new ways to help out. This post on growing loofahs (or luffahs) is intriguing — I’m not sure if our hot season here is long enough, but it bears some investigating.

What NOT to do?

This year, I vow NOT to grow certain things:

  • Brussels sprouts. Obviously.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower. They take up too much room, and they come in our CSA box.
  • Beets. Maybe. Although I might grow some to pull as babies and pickle. I do love beets, but we get many huge ones from the CSA.
  • Kale. Collards. Mr. Cheap tends to go crazy with these, and they last in the garden forever.
  • Squash. We might grow one plant and feel free to eat the flowers. The CSA also delivers a lot of squash — I still have several in my laundry room.

What else is on our agenda?

The big plan is that we are scheming to make over our back yard this year. Mr. Cheap needs a good spot for his forge for his blacksmithing hobby. And we need a way to keep two dogs out of the garden.

We have a long driveway that runs the length of our property. It was probably installed with the house in 1950, and the concrete is about 2″ deep with no reinforcing rebar. The bad news is that the concrete is badly chipped, cracked and spalled. The good news is it will be relatively easy to remove. We are planning to rip out some driveway to make room for the apple trees we planted last year — they currently live in holes quickly gouged out of the cement when we found the trees on sale for $10 each.

Then we are hoping to install a patio where the driveway was, and build a nicer, fenced-in garden with raised beds. We have a source for endless horse manure, which we hope will combat the dense clay of our neighborhood, which in this case will have been compacted by the driveway. Mr. Cheap wants to make over our back shed into a shop (the walls currently aren’t really attached to the ground, and they are made of plywood that is weathering badly) and build a pergola over the pad where our hot tub used to be for his forge area.

We hope these improvements will make the yard more functional for us, while maintaining or increasing our home value. Sound like a big plan? It is. For that reason, this will be the perfect year for us to think small in the garden.

If you want to think REALLY small — or you are just craving a way to grow something fresh and green NOW — check out this tutorial on a “garden in a bowl” — growing sprouts with no fuss or muss.

What’s planned for your garden this year?

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9 thoughts on “Get thee to the garden!

  1. Leanne@SeetheWoods says:

    Strawerries grow really well in hanging baskets if you have the space for those, although you mat have to water them a bit more often or chop some oasis into chunks and push it into the soil as well to hold more water for longer. I would love to be able to grow tomatoes but unfotunately they seem to turn out like your brussels. Year after year, full sized wilted or diseased plants.

  2. Lisa says:

    This is my first year to have a garden so I’m not totally sure what I’m going to grow. It will depend on what I can find. I don’t have anywhere to start seeds so I will have to buy stuff already started at least this year.

  3. SavvyChristine says:

    We do container gardening on our apartment deck, so our garden is going to be quite small this year: kale and/or spinach, basil, parsley, and maybe some garlic and onions. Of course, I’ve never tried to grow garlic, onions, or leafy greens, and the last time I grew basil I almost killed it. So we’ll see how that goes.

    Good luck with your home improvement this year! It sounds like a full list, but I bet you’ll enjoy working on it (or at least you’ll enjoy the results).

  4. erin says:

    Currently I have 4 seed packs on the kitchen counter mocking / encouraging me to plant them: spinach, carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas. I am just waiting for the moment to plant them (which I am hoping will be this weekend – at least a row or two). We have 13 blueberry bushes and we need to figure out if they need to be pruned. We have some strawberry plants but probably won’t work on those too hard since we have one kids who is allergic. We will likely put our efforts into our raspberry patch which he is not allergic to. We had a nice salad patch last year that I would like to revive. Our broccoli and cauliflower did poorly so I won’t try those again but I am going to try some kale as my husband and I are loving “kale chips” (kids won’t touch them). De-stem kale, chop, toss with a little olive oil and salt, put on baking pans in single layer and bake for ~30 minutes on 250 degrees. Yum.

  5. Melissa says:

    The husband takes on too much w/ too little time allowed to care for it, and I want what’s out there (especially the strawberries), but can’t stomach the potential for snakes. One was there everytime on each of the few times I ventured out into the yard to pick from the garden or to mow the lawn.

  6. Condo Blues says:

    My focus this year is on the flower beds in my front yard. Between Japanese beetles and white mold we had to take everything out and will start over this year.

    How do you decide how to landscape a front flower bed from scratch? I know I want some perennial herbs in with my flowers and more lavender but I’m stuck for ideas. Help!

  7. cheaplikeme says:

    @Erin – I heard about kale chips at our CSA pickup – we tried them in my sad solar oven, but they were soggy and we forgot to try again! We’ll have to put them on the rotation this year.

    @Melissa – snakes! Yikes! That would put a damper on gardening … Maybe you need some of those owl decoys?

    @Condo – Hmm, I don’t know. I will try to strong-arm Mr. Cheap into guest posting. I only garden things that pay me back with FOOD.

  8. Rosemeri says:

    I’m also planning my garden for this year. I’ve got my seeds and will start my plantings in little seed pots. (by the way, thanks for the tip on making your own pots) I have found a really great way to create easy garden beds that I think you should check out. The book is called “Lasagna Gardening” by Patricia Lanza from the publishers of “Organic Gardening” magazine. On the cover it says ” A new layering system for bountiful gardens: no digging, no tilling, no weeding, no kidding!” I created my garden beds this past fall and they are now ready for planting. I can’t wait.

  9. Janet says:

    I think Brussels sprouts are always covered with aphids unless you use insecticides. I tried growing them one year and it was nasty. The organic ones at the farmers’ market near me are nasty, too. sigh.

    Blueberries and blackberriies from my bushes. Lettuce (romaine), green beans, shell peas, tomatoes, cucumbers. I didn’t end up using most of the carrots last year, so probably not those again. Radishes. Maybe broccoli if I get my act together.

    I’d like to try zucchini but I tried winter squash last year (sprouted in the compost bin!) and they were massacred by squash borers, which drill into the plant stems and kill them. There’s not much to do once they’re around, apparently, apart from wrapping the stems in foil. So I don’t know if the zucchini would survive. Maybe I’ll try in a container.

    We have a lot of snakes, too, but nonpoisonous ones. Lawns, stone walls, and water are what they love. Live with, I say.

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