Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Our Garden: Part 1--Garden Prep--Shopping & Mapping

**This will be the first in a series about our experience as first time vegetable gardeners. Hopefully it will inspire others, or maybe other people will stumble across it and find it helpful. Let me be clear: WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BUILDING OR MAINTAINING A GARDEN. Hell, I've never kept anything green alive for more than like 2 weeks (besides grass or weeds and really those don't count because I've never done anything about them). Ange has kept houseplants alive but that's it.**

As you will recall, last year Ange and I got really into reading and learning about farmers markets and organic foods and like like. Last year we batted around the idea of starting a garden, but it was too late in the year to start one. We kept saying "Maybe next year." We even bought a book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Edible Gardening. And then...it sat on the shelf for several months.

Spring started springing and the market started to look more promising so we decided that maybe we should revisit the garden idea. Actually I was pushing hard for it, but Ange was not so sure. After discussing it the truth came out: she didn't think I could do it, or at least hang with it. I'm so sure! I mean, I know I haven't been Miss One-with-Nature all my life and yes I don't like bugs or being dirty for no reason, but I've come a long way! I still hate bugs, but I can always use bug spray. I don't mind getting dirty if there is a purpose (veggies!) and I'm not just wallowing in mud like a barnyard animal or something. So I promised that YES I was really invested in this and YES I was aware there was dirt and probably bugs involved, but I really wanted to do it! Team AL (Ange & Linds) can accomplish anything together! So thoroughly convinced (or maybe half-way convinced) we ordered some heirloom seeds from Victory Seeds (carrots, 3 varieties of peppers, 2 varieties of onions, 2 varieties of tomatoes & 2 varieties of squash). So you might have a few questions...

Why Heirloom Seeds?

Um, we read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver last year and she talked a lot about the benefits of using heirloom seeds. Long story short (the book IS 384 pages): heirloom seeds keep other varieties of veggies alive, kind of like protecting endangered species of animals. Just doing our part to keep the earth healthy.

Why Victory Seeds Company?

Um, their website was easiest to use. I looked at some other ones, Heirloom Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and Seed Savers Exchange. They were all fine, but less easy to navigate, order and supply info about seeds. I know, totally lame. Basically it was a spur of the moment thing and since we hadn't read our lovely book, we just wanted the bare minimum info and the easiest point, click, pay. It was the 4th site that came up in our Google search. Other than that, we know nothing about them.

Why did we choose those specific veggies?

Again, laziness was the major factor. We thought about veggies we like, looked at both the website and our little book (we actually did pull it off the shelf!) and tried to guesstimate what would grow in our backyard, and what ones didn't seem to high maintenance. I know, totally well thought out right? Anyway, for the most part, we did ok. We seemed to pick out things that will work ok (although only time will tell!). The one thing we didn't look too closely at was planting guidelines in terms of space. This will become important in a bit.

So after picking out our veggies we go to the checkout page. Apparently lots of other slackers were getting on the seed buying wagon because they were backed up and said it would be at least 8-15 days before our seeds shipped. We were ok with that. It was going to take us a while to prepare the backyard for a garden anyway.

After all that rigorous prep work we needed a break. We took about 3 days off. Hahaha. Seriously, we did. When the weekend rolled around we finally decided we should get serious about the garden. On Friday while Ange was working I decided to go to Meijer to check out some tools and such. I thought it wouldn't be too hard to pick out some stuff. Wrong as usual. I was seriously at Meijer for like almost 2 hours. And I walked out with a hoe, a long handled cultivator, a hand-held shovel, a hand-held cultivator, a seed starter and 2 pairs of gardening gloves. But I did check out dirt and other things garden-y.

The next day Ange and I mapped out our garden plan. This took longer than you think. First we actually did have to find out some info about plant spacing and planting depth, etc. This is when we realized our impulse buys were not completely spot on, but not too bad. Apparently squash need to be reallllly far apart, and since we didn't want a ginormous garden we decided to shelf those for this year. We then thought we would find a replacement when we went back to the store. After arguing about the importance and sizing of space around the garden we finally had a map:

(Click to enlarge)

We then borrowed my stepmom's truck and went on a shopping rampage. Ok, maybe not rampage, but we did spend some decent money on our goods (I plan to do a cost-analysis post later, just FYI). We ended up buying 1200 lbs of dirt (30-40lb. bags), 200 lbs of manure (5-40 lb. bags), 200 lbs. of Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Flowers and Vegetables (5-40 lb. bags), some green bean seeds (our replacement for the squash), a small seed starter, some garden decorations, and some mulch.

The 1200 lbs of soil wasn't for the garden. It was for all the holes that Daisy the jerk has dug in the backyard:

The mulch was also not for the garden, but for Ange to beautify the front flowerbeds. We had mixed feelings about the Miracle-Gro. They are part of the evil empire of agro-business but since we have never had a garden in the backyard and our soil was questionable we decided to put aside our values for a few and roll with it.

We also bought a soil pH tester kit, a roll of plastic fence and some stakes to block of the garden from nosy ned dogs, a pooper scooper so we could keep dog poop out of the yard and off our shoes, and a bucket to scoop poop into for easy removal.

Whew that was a lot of work. You definitely need to rest after that. We actually did a little bit more, but that falls into the next post: Garden Prep--Pre-Planting. Look for it soon!


ange said...

Daisy is a bad dog...a really bad dog. So bad I'd like to cut her legs off sometimes.

And you forgot that we bought tomatoes!

Diva of Diversity said...

Whoops, I swore I wrote it. Blogger must have ate it. I edited it so they are back now :)

My mom said Daisy is bad too. And she also wonders where all the dirt goes. I told her it is a mystery.