Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I have a garden!

This post is not going to include a recipe. It may have some useful info on doing your own vegetable garden though. Keep in mind, this was my first time planting anything edible. Last year I had some tomatoes in pots but that was it. So if I can do it, so can you. It wasn't nearly as complicated as the numerous gardening blogs and magazines etc make it seem.

     This summer Joseph and I have our first vegetable garden! We're located in Atlanta so we planted kale, broccoli, carrots, spinach, beets, lettuce, and onions toward the end of march. We had a couple more frosts after that and we were worried but our garden is doing fantastic!! Two weeks ago (mid May) mom came to visit and she helped me plant two tomato plants and one yellow bell pepper plant as well as some acorn squash and two rows of bush beans.
     Prepping the garden was the hardest part and even that was pretty easy. Our yard already had a fenced in area that had been used as a playground for the previous tenants children. It looked like the whole area was mulched but when we started to dig around we realized that under the layer of mulch was black plastic sheeting. We kept it in place and scraped the mulch off of it where we wanted to plant our rows then we used a utility knife to cut long lines in the black sheeting. Underneath the soil was great! We mixed in a little bit of mushroom compost (Just poured it in a line down the row) then planted our seeds according to the package instructions. We also planted about 12 marigold plants around the perimeter because we heard they keep out pests but a lot of them died in the frost. Oh well.
     For the past couple weeks we've been harvesting the kale, spinach and  lettuce. We could have been doing it earlier and eating baby spinach etc but I wasn't really sure if we could or not (I know that sounds silly- I can be a very by the book person haha so I was scared of doing anything wrong)
Having a garden has been really fun and because of the mulch that was already there weeding is not that hard. We decided to keep everything chemical free so we haven't used any weed killer or store bought pesticide on the plants. Every few days I go out and rake in between the plants with a small hand rake to get rid of the majority of weeds. It takes like a half hour max.
     As far as pesticide, I looked up a homemade non toxic one and bought a large spray bottle from Home Depot and put the mixture in there. I keep it in the shed and I try to spray the plants after it rains. Sometimes I forget, but its not the end of the world. Our spinach has some little chewed holes in it but we just wash it off and eat it anyways (I looked it up- its safe haha yes I google everything). I will include the homemade pesticide recipe at the bottom of this post.
   Having all these leafy greens in our garden has been great. It saves so much money especially because Joseph and I have become pretty healthy eaters and we were buying like 2 big containers of those pre-washed salads a week.  I learned the hard way that a salad spinner is one of the best investments ever. After picking the greens I put them in a mixing bowl with cold water (and a few ice cubes) I let them soak for like 4 minutes and swirl them around a couple times to wash them off. If they're really dirty, I'll empty and refill the mixing bowl a couple times to get rid of the water. Drying the greens I've found is the most important part and it can be hard without a salad spinner. After a couple tries of blotting my lettuce with paper towels and still finding gross wilted lettuce in the fridge the next day, I gave up and went to Target to buy a salad spinner. It's really fun to use haha. They only had the small salad herb spinners left but that's fine I just do a couple batches. To keep our greens fresh I fold up a couple paper towels and put them at the bottom of plastic salad containers we've kept from our store bought salad mixes. Then I put the greens on top and another paper towel folded up at the top. This helps keep moisture away from it and if the paper towel gets really wet I just replace with a dry one.
    I'm hoping my tomato plants do well. The acorn squash we got is actually some seeds that Joseph saved from one we bought and cooked (the recipe is on this blog!). He saved the seeds and put them in Tupperware with damp paper towels in the fridge. I rolled my eyes like usual. A little later he put them in a cup and put some dirt on top. Again, I sighed, but I've learned to tolerate his eccentricities haha. However a couple weeks later I was eating my words. Every seed had turned into a tiny seedling. When my mom was here, we separated the tightly packed seedling and planted about 6 each in the top of some mounds we had made in the garden. Two weeks later and they're doing great! The acorn squash is the one part of the garden I didn't even google a little bit haha so we'll see how it turns out.

Homemade SAFE NATURAL garden pesticide:
The Caffeine keeps aphids away, the herbs keep most insects, mosquitoes and squirrels etc away, and the soap works really well on soft-bodied insects.

1. Gather any or all of the herbs, spices, and roots listed below 
(in any form although fresh is best):

2. Place in a crock pot with 2 tbsp coffee grounds (used or fresh)

3. Add enough water to cover your mixture plus about 4 cups. 

4. Cook on low for up to 24 hours and atleast six hours. 

5. Let mixture cool and sit overnight, then strain it and discard solids

6. Add 2 tbsp of liquid soap to mixture (use a biodegradable one- it will say on bottle, my dishsoap was and it was just from walgreens)

7. Use a funnel or a friend! to pour into a spray bottle. You can keep extra in the fridge (just make sure to clearly label it as non-edible!)