Starting a Garden

While I would never claim to have a green thumb, I do have a new garden project I am really excited about. As a science teacher, I am part of a garden initiative at my school. It has really inspired me to learn more about planting, seeding, and harvesting. I love the idea of growing fresh produce, so this spring we’re attempting a vegetable garden. It might be naive, but I have high hopes. Unfortunately, this is also one of those ‘wait and see’ kind of situations.

I lucked out that my boyfriend has a raised garden bed already built in the backyard. The soil is rich and full of worms so it seems like we have a really solid base to start with. Everyone I’ve talked to has said that raised beds are a necessity if you want a successful garden. While I’m no carpenter, they do seem fairly straightforward to build (as long as you have the space) or pretty inexpensive to buy.

When researching how to start a garden, I came across a method that is growing (literally!) in its popularity. Square foot gardening is really neat gardening technique. I like it on the principle that it’s simple and organized. To start, you split your garden into square foot sections. Our garden bed is 8 feet by 5 feet, so a total of 40 square foot sections. I put nails at every foot mark and created a grid with twine to help visualize the spacing. Then, I put together a document to start planning.Square foot gardening provides a guide (I read this book for reference) of how many plants can grow successfully in a square foot space, depending on what you’re planting. For larger plants like brussel sprouts and peppers, one plant should be grown per square foot section. For smaller plants like carrots, you can grow up to sixteen plants per square foot section. While spacing seems to be most important, I also made sure to consider location when planting. I placed climbing plants (beans and tomatoes) around the edges so that their height wouldn’t block any lower plants from the sun. We’re lucky that our garden gets pretty consistent sunlight throughout the day. In deciding what to plant, I considered what vegetables we buy most frequently and what vegetables are easiest to grow during our New England summers.

From what I’ve read, the end of March and beginning of April is the best time to prep your garden. Refreshing and turning the soil, adding compost, and clearing weeds is a great start. That way, you’re ready to add seeds by late April. I just planted our seeds and now my fingers are crossed! Any seedlings (we’ll have tomatoes and peppers) can be planted a little later on in May. Most plants can be grown right from seeds, but others are a bit more temperamental with transplanting.

Ironically, around the time I began prepping our garden, our science kit at school required I start a compost bin for my student to observe. I got a large plastic storage container and drilled a few holes in the top and sides to provide air circulation. Then I added soil, newspaper, leaf litter, and organic material. Then, we got red worms in the mail to add to the mix. Compost takes a long time to break down. I’m hoping that with a bit of turning, we may see some change before school is out for the summer. Until then, I’m going to be staking out my mom’s compost pile for any soil to steal and saving coffee grinds and eggshells. Apparently, once dried, they are great to crush and throw on top of the soil.

I think it’s important to start up a new project every now and again, and I like that this one gets me outdoors. The temperatures aren’t quite warm enough yet, for my liking, but I did actually get a sunburn the other day. Guess I’ll have to pull out my grandmother’s old gardening hat soon.

Unless things go terribly wrong (in which case I’ll pretend I never made a garden at all) I’ll definitely be posting updates on the blog. But if you have any tips or advice for me to start, comment below. I’d be more than happy to have the help!

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