**This will be the second 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. Check older posts to see the full story.**
Ok, now we had all the supplies...so what do we do next? Well we had a little sense and knew that we would need to till a plot. However, we did not have THAT much sense so we thought we would do it ourselves. Now, when I was at Meijer I saw that there was a manual hand-held gadget that was labeled "tiller" and I asked Ange about it. She said no way, that would take forever. Like I know anything so I just said ok. And clearly we didn't need to purchase some fancy piece of equipment that we may only use once a year (or maybe never again if this year's garden is a total bust). We decided to check a few places and see if we could rent a tiller. After checking a few places we found out that Lowe's on 10th St. had a rental section where you could rent tillers. So we headed over to Lowe's to check it out. It was a sunny day so they had all of their equipment laid out like a garage sale. So we checked out some of the tillers they had and saw a cute little tiller that just looked perfect. We could stash it in the back of the trusty little Cobalt and be tilling away in no time. We went in to check out the rental rate and see if we could get any tips.
Boo. Apparently our little baby tiller wasn't cut out to do the job. The guys start talking about tillers and the information is flying about 30,000 feet over my head and the only part I really heard was that "it would take several hours to till the minimum of 8 inches deep we'd need for a first time garden." Say what? We have to chew up 8 inches deep by 80 square feet of dirt. Yikes. Of course I didn't want to look like el supremo idiota in front of these two dudes so I was all "Oh yeah, totally." We ask what the cost would be. For a 4 hour rental it was $47. For a 24 hour rental it would be $65. Since we had never done tilling before they recommended the 24 hour period. And since they weren't open on Sundays we'd actually get the tiller until Monday morning. But since we were supposed to use a monster tiller to till the garden that meant trusty Cobalt would not be able to haul the tiller. That meant we'd need to borrow a truck. Hmmm. We told them that we'd have to find a truck and come back.
After we left the rental building I said to Ange "Dag, I didn't know we had to dig down 8 INCHES." And Ange goes "OHMYGOD I know!" which made me feel better. I thought I was just a major dumb head so I was glad that I hadn't just missed a major thing. We then realized that this was more of an undertaking than we realized. Not only was it going to cost us $65 but it was going to take hours and hours of back-breaking labor. Ok, maybe that's a little dramatic...but it was going to be hard work. More than we bargained for anyway. Queens of Craigslist we are we decided to see if there was anyone on Craigslist offering tilling services. We buzzed home, unloaded our goods and hit the interwebs.
Of course there were people offering tilling services! What were we thinking? We called a few people and sent a few emails and waited for estimates. The first one who got back to us quoted $65. Hey! That's not too bad. That would be the same amount as renting a tiller AND we wouldn't have to actually do anything! But of course we wanted to hear some comparable estimates. The second call we got gave us an estimate for $30! Holy smokes! That's crazy talk. Our third and final person offered their services for $50 and a guarantee that he would do it as many times as needed to get it done well and to our liking. We decided to go with the middle price point and scheduled him to come in a few days.
In the meantime I had to jaunt back to Bloomington to school but Ange had some days off so she decided to tackle some other projects. Like filling in the skamillion holes that Daisy has dug in the backyard and picking up the billions of pounds of dog poop that 5 dogs will produce. On a recent trip to IKEA I found a nice size bucket that I thought would work magnificently as a poop container for our new pooper scooper.
Now I must digress for a moment. Ange and I have very different personalities when it comes to housework and household projects. I am the thinker and the planner, but also the laziest of all lazies. I will think through something and try and meticulously plan things so that I know they will work out well. But then I get tired of all that thinkin' and then it might just take me a century to follow through with the rest of the project. Ange on the other hand is the complete 180 opposite. She rarely thinks more than 5 seconds ahead but she totally kicks butt when it comes to getting stuff done. So when I bought the bucket I imagined that it would be a great place to put a GARBAGE BAG in it and not have to hold open a garbage bag twisting in the wind and risk smearing yourself with poop while struggling with a floppy bag and a giant poop scooper. Well we had the pooper scooper and bucket for a couple weeks and for some reason the poop just stayed on the ground. Well in Ange's excitement about the garden tilling she went all gung-ho poop scooping. Without a garbage bag in the bucket, leaving poop smears all over the bucket. And left it sitting in the yard, uncovered. And then it rained, a lot. So then we had a bucket full of poop slush. Yummo. But at least the poop was out of the yard, right?
Ange also marked off the garden area with some spray paint (with slight adjustments made for some concrete slab we never noticed in the yard before) before Mr. Tillerman came to till. We had decided to use the north-east corner of our yard because it got the most sun and was farthest away from the rest of the yard and we could keep our poopy dogs away.
After all that work Ange was antsy to get the garden started so she decided to also plant our green bean seeds in the mini-seed starter. Basically the seed starter is one bad ass little incubator. You run water over the little pods, they puff up, you make a little nook for the seeds, put the seeds in, cover them up, put the cover on and that's when the magic happens! It takes very little time before you see some progress. A lot of seeds need to be started inside before transplanting them to the outdoor garden.
Finally it was tilling time! Mr. Tillerman came over and tilled us a garden! We thought we'd till the garden and mix in the manure and Miracle-Gro in with the dirt. Mr. Tillerman recommended that we not mix in the Miracle-Gro and instead put that on topically. Since we don't know anything and he has tilled many-a-garden and professed to being a pretty good gardener we decided to follow his advice. And presto! We now had a garden plot! Ange built a fence around it and then it was safe from the dogs who would like to play right in it and probably poop all over it. Bad dogs.
Also we read in our "research" that we should do a pH test to test our soil. Apparently if it was out of whack we would need to do something about it. THANKFULLY our soil is in the pH normal range which works great for most veggies.
The next weekend at the Farmers Market we saw that one of the vendors was selling some seedlings. They had some broccoli plants for only $1.25! He also said they could be planted ASAP as broccoli withstands some pretty cold temps so we didn't have to worry about morning frost. Sweet!
Now we just needed to wait for our seeds from Victory Seeds to arrive!