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.

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45 Responses

  1. Here is the link to my greenspace that I would love to share with you joyfully… because I have been enjoying your blog since long…

    ps: hope the link thing works in comment field.

  2. I garden, but I haven’t even started planting yet this year. With the rain andon the few nice days, we have had other things going on, I just haven’t been out yet. I missed the spring planting, but will definitely get in the summer veggies.

    Just a word of caution, it might be a little early for tomatoes and peppers. They don’t like frost and central PA where I live the last frost date is May 15. Keep an eye on the weather and if it looks like frost, you might want to cover those plants with bags.

  3. I bet your garden will get bigger in size in the next few years. We doubled our size in just 3 years. Adding 4 long rectangle beds.

    We are going to plant cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and zucchini. New this year and I an soo excited to start this is pumpkins and watermelon.

    Have fun watching your beauties grow!

  4. I started SFG this year too. Because of space I made two beds 2 x 10 planted with herbs, green beans, yellow beens, two kinds of cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, peas, onions, leeks, lettuce, cantaloupe and carrots. Tomatoes live elsewhere in the yard.

    We have the exact same problem with the soil. Clay. Yuck!

  5. Wow you went all hard core – looks great! We just do ours on a little patch of dirt on the side of our house – prob about the same size as what you are doing too. It’s really all hubby… haven’t done it yet but will get to it this weekend I think. Sounds like you planted a nice variety! Can’t wait to follow how it goes!

  6. Awesome! I’m a HORRIBLE gardener, but I’m hopeful that in my next house, we can do something like this. (Step 1: Becky needs to get over her fear of bugs and snakes!) We stayed with friends in Portland last year and dined on fresh vegetables from the garden every night. It was divine. Can’t wait to see how your garden grows! 🙂

  7. The raised bed is such a great way to get started gardening.
    We do have a fairly good size garden, and this year are expanding again. This year we will swap the chicken’s pen to the other side of the coop so each year we can have naturally fertilized soil.
    So far I have only planted sweet peas and snow peas, but sometime this week I’m putting in broccoli, lettuce blends and spinach. Just about everything else will go in later next month.
    I agree to watch those tomato plants…they do not like cool weather. Around here (NH) many say to wait until Memorial Day to put them out.
    Can’t wait to see some updates…and some pics of what you make with your harvest!

      1. I think you will be fine. Planting around Mother’s Day is generally safe to aviod frost in SEPA. If there is predicted frost you can cover the plants with a towel and they should be safe. Good luck, can’t wait to see your garden grow.

  8. We’ve planted a garden for the last 6 years. This year we planted jalapenos, serrano peppers, banana peppers, and cayenne peppers for homemade pepper sauce and salsa, Better Boy tomatoes, squash, and sunflowers.

    Good luck! Gardening is so much fun as long as you stay on top of the pruning and thinning!

  9. I just ordered pre-made raised beds and can’t wait for them to come!! I’ll pretty much be planting everything willy-nilly…unless I start reading up on gardening online….I’m not one for long projects LOL I still have to get the soil to go in it, I did read online that you can use manure though (in place of the compost I think) and my pastor has cows in our backyard so that is awesome – free poop! HEHE I’m making my brother go out to shovel it up though!

      1. I just went to this site (THANK YOU!). Can I ask you something? We have a 4 x 8 raised bed that we do tomatoes in and this says we could have 32 plants – to me? NO WAY. More like 8 and we’re busting at the seams. Ideas?

  10. Travis has planted a “salsa garden” the last three years. He has had middling success. Nothing grows when we think it will. We got tomatoes in November last year, well after the peppers had grown. He is trying again this year. I leave it all up to him, because I have six people that need my attention and care and I have nothing left for plants.

  11. We do have a garden. My husband is the one that plants it and takes care of it. This year he planted tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans, and peppers. I think there may be some other things out there too, but I’m not sure what. Really the only thing I’ll eat out if it is the beans. I know. I’m a horrible veggie person. Next year he is planning to double the size. Hopefully then he will be able to plant some more things that I like.

    Also, we get to plant really early in the year because of our weather. I’m hoping this year he will do a fall garden as well with some spinach and lettuce. We haven’t tried that before, but I think it would work.

    1. I have done lettuce in the cool months too! I’m also considering broccoli later in the year because if we plant it to come due in July it’s always buggy. Blech.

  12. We have 2 raised bed gardens behind the garage (which is right at the end of a sprinkler head – score one for no work watering). Then this year my husband (just yesterday) tilled a plot way in the back of our lot (one good thing about living in rural America, large lots) where we will plant potatoes and onions. I am hoping to plant enough for 6 mos worth.

    We also live on, what was once farm land, and yeah…. we were left with clay when they developed it, so we doctor our soil up too.

    We cannot plant anything yet (other than potatoes and onions), since we still hit 32 or lower. About June 1 we can plant tomato plants. The killer is you have to buy all the plants by Mother’s Day or there is no selection. keep them in your garage and baby them along in hopes they do not die before you get them in the ground.

    Oh yeah and let’s not even discuss how much the deer and rabbits love our garden. We are still working on fixing that problem. We can’t have a fence here (HOA rule, obstructs the view of the lake) so we are going to have to get creative….

  13. Good for you!!! I was surprised to see you do this, but so excited for you! You will love it, and get way more into it than you thought you would…trust me.

    We actually expanded our garden this year, added another 3 feet in width and 2 in length and put up a permanent fence to keep the dog out (and rabbits, but mostly the dog). We plant tomatoes, onions, peas, green beans, cucumbers, corn and sun flowers.

    Ryan will do most of the work this year, but I am there to supervise and taste for quality control 🙂

  14. We added the raised planter bed last year, along with a composter and a rain barrel…it was a “green” kind of year! The garden did OK but nothing amazing or nearly enough to feed the family. So this year my friend who has an amazing garden showed me “companion gardening” or what plants work best together and work to keep away pests…we’ll see how that goes!

    The other thing we are going to do is make a potato box to grow potatoes…I’m really excited about that!

    Next year I want to venture into fruit trees…apples! Yum!

    1. I’m sure we have a lot to learn. The companion gardening sounds interesting. I don’t feel like we have much out there, but we’ll see how it goes and tweak it accordingly for next year.

  15. We’ve done a veggie garden every year – growing up ours was HUGE, enough to can and freeze for the entire winter and then some. I stick with simple things, like tomatoes, zucchini, radishes, and green beans. We unfortunately have a groundhog living under our neighbor’s shed, so we definitely need a fence. I just use the rabbit wire from Home Depot, and that seems to work well enough. (You might want to do the same, too, or kiss those lovely greens goodbye!)

    1. Yes, I think that’s in the plans. I need to make sure, though. Hopefully we can keep them protected. I don’t want to lose them!!

  16. Last year my husband built me a little raised bed and I intended to do some square foot gardening however the spot we placed it didn’t turn out to get enough sun. I had really tall tomato plants but no tomatos. They were trying to find sun! This year we’re expanding our back fence and will have the perfect spot for a larger plot. I doubt we’ll get much this year since it’s so late but hopefully by next year we’ll have a plan and be able to attack with gusto.
    I’m excited to see how yours goes.

    1. That was one of my husband’s concerns so he put it right in the middle of the yard! LOL. It’s kind of awkward looking sitting out there, but it gets sun! 😉

  17. Jo-Lynne! I can’t believe you haven’t had a veggie garden until now. I’m rendered speechless. : )

    I don’t have one myself (I live in an APT) but my parents have always had one. Tomatoes, zuchinni, peas, peppers, oh my! We live in the NW, so we TRY and do bell peppers too but they never ripen. There’s nothing better than picking fresh veggies from the garden.

    Good luck and enjoy!


  18. Beautiful! I’ve ALWAYS wanted a garden, but I’ve been a little intimidated by the whole process. This, however, looks doable. When we eventually settle down again, I am going to plant one. Actually, I’m going to convince Tim to plant one. He has a definite green thumb!

  19. We are also doing the square foot garden this year. I have NEVER done this and hope that everything grows. Look forward to hearing how your garden grows.

  20. Looks great! We upped our garden from two beds to four this year. Yeah!!! There is nothing better than picking all of the ingredients for a salad out of the garden and eating it for dinner. Just hoping we can keep the stupid overgrown rats….I mean deer…our of them. I used to love deer until they spread their tics and ate all of my strawberry plants!!! Happy gardening!!!

  21. We have never owned our own home, so I usually grow tomatoes and peppers in big pots for salsa making. We are in the process of moving cross country so I havent been able to plant anything yet, I am so ready! Your garden looks great!

  22. We garden…I’m like you, and let everyone else do the planting, but I go pick the produce when it’s ready. We ALWAYS plant tomatoes and I love both fried green tomatoes and ripe red ones so that’s great for me…We usually plant peppers-hot and bell-and this year I (yep I got my hands dirty) planted some garlic! There’s nothing like home grown food, I’m looking forward to seeing yours later on in the year.

  23. This is a great idea! Chris and I don’t have any yard to do anything with – as of right now we just have a small patio slab…. then some grass that belongs to another townhouse, haha. But when we do have a yard we definitely want to start growing some veggies. This looks like a good way to start! I can’t wait to see what it looks like in a few months!

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