Mary Mary Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

It seems like every blog I open these days is talking about planting their spring gardens — a topic that I’ve always clicked away from in the past. But this year, for the first time EVER, I am hanging on their every word. BECAUSE. We have finally joined the ranks of the home gardeners.

Last week, we (and by we, I mean my husband and kids) planted our very first garden. I can’t even believe I’m saying those words. We planted a vegetable garden.

Allow me to pause so that can sink in.

Neither one of us has any experience with gardens — of the vegetable variety, anyway. Not that our flower gardens are anything to write home about, for that matter. But with the cost of food these days, it just makes sense to grow some of your own produce if you have the time and space. And beyond that, we feel strongly that our children learn where food comes from, and we want them to have the experience of planting a garden and watching it grow. So this year we decided to bite the bullet and Just Do It.

Last summer, my husband bought the book Square Foot Gardening and read it cover to cover. He thought the method made a lot of sense, especially for beginner gardeners like ourselves. He started to brainstorm about how he would build our garden and what we might plant and where we would place it.

Then a few months ago, he dug the book out again and started going through it more intentionally. We soon realized that we were going to miss our window if we didn’t get busy, so finally my husband went out and purchased the necessary equipment, and one evening last week he and the kids went to work.

With this method, you basically build a raised bed on top of your grass. This works great for areas that do not have good soil. We live in a newer development that was built on farmland. You’d THINK we’d have fabulous soil, but do you know what they do when they build these developments? They level the area and remove all the healthy topsoil and sell it, leaving us with red clay. It’s a travesty, but that’s what they do.

Instead of digging out a garden and trying to beef up the existing soil, we just built a raised bed over top and filled it with good healthy soil from the get-go. They recommend 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 compost.

My husband had to go to a special nursery to find the right stuff, but this is the only soil we should ever have to buy. From now on we will use compost. Building a composter is the next project! Right, dear?

My middle child is particularly interested in this project. She loves to get her hands dirty. She also loves her maxidress and I didn’t have the presence of mind to tell her to change.

After you fill the box with the soil, you build a grid so you can plant different crops in each square. The area of each square is approximately one square foot, thus Square Foot Gardening! You can build as many beds as you want, but we are starting with one.

Each square is planted with a different kind of plant, and the number of plants per square depends on the size of the plant and how they grow best.

You have to plan out what to plant in each square of course, and then you draw yourself a little map so you remember what you planted where. My son isn’t so much interested in digging in the dirt and building stuff, but he loves to draw diagrams and analyze {baseball} stats so we gave him a pencil and paper and let him document the project.

Now all that’s left is to weed and water and watch it grow! Fortunately with the weather as of late, we don’t need to do much watering.

We planted swiss chard, sugar snap peas, tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, beets, cucumbers, red peppers, and onions. We’ll put herbs on our back deck.

Actually, I stand corrected. There is more to this whole gardening thing than planting and watering and watching them grow. My husband informs me that they’ll need to be thinned out  and tended, so perhaps I’ll post an update or two as the season progresses.

Do you have a garden? I’d love to hear what you’re planting.