I have never grown anything on my own before. No herbs. No veggies. Not even flowers. In fact, my poor houseplants (which I only have from funerals I have attended and the birth on my kids) have always relied on my husband for survival in the past. I could never remember to water them and so it has always been John's job. When I was younger my parents did have a garden. I remember them growing tomatoes every year and some other things like potatoes and carrots one year. They still do tomatoes every summer. My husband suggested a garden back when we lived in Kansas City. The idea was great but then he told me about all the work involved and I passed.
This year is different. This year, I am determined to feed my family TONS of fresh organic veggies which as most of us know, can get expensive. I have suddenly found myself fascinated with gardening. Of course I am a complete and utter novice so when my in laws were in town this last week and asked if I hoed my garden I just stood there and went, huh? So today I got my hoe on (had to say it) and to my great surprise, realized I don't have to hand pull every single weed!! The garden hoe does that for me. Who knew?!
Here's a few other things I've learned so far:
Plant Bug Spray
One of the first things we noticed after our plants started to come up was little nibbles on the leaves. It could be from our many squirrel friends but I have a feeling it was due to bugs. So how do we treat for bugs without chemicals? I've looked into a couple of methods but the one I chose was a vinegar/garlic solution. It's really simple. Save your onion and garlic peels in a container with a lid in your refrigerator. Once you have a good amount, cover with water and set the container with the lid on it outside. After about a week, strain the pieces and bottle up the solution. Use a spray bottle to spray it on the plants. Bugs will be repelled but beware - when you water you will wash the solution off so be sure to spray a few times a week. I used a hand held continuous spray bottle I bought at Walmart for about $7. It works great! You can spray it at any angle so you can reach the plants from where ever you're standing.
Epsom Salt Fertilizer
A lot of people might use Miracle Grow on the garden and the lawn. When you walk up and down the lawn and garden aisles at Walmart you might get a little headache or lightheaded from the strong smells. That's because, you guessed it, it's full of harmful chemicals. So no Miracle Grow. How do I feed my plants? Do they need it? Well, it turns out a little bag of "bath salts" is the perfect food for my peppers and tomatoes. Epsom salt is made up of magnesium and sulfate - both nutrients that certain plants LOVE and thrive on.
Mix a tbsp of Epsom salt with one gallon of water. Use a watering can or spray bottle to water your tomato and pepper plants. Some people do this every other week but that may be too much. Once a month should be just fine.
this is the same container I use for the bug spray, just rinse it out well
Compost Tea Fertilizer
Another way to feed your plants is to make a compost tea. Take a few cup fulls of your ready-to-use compost and mix in a bucket of water. Let it sit for a few days to "steep." Strain out the dirt and solids using a cheesecloth and bottle up the solution. This can be used on any plants and is not only good for the nutrients in the soil and roots, but also for the leaves themselves.
I confess I do not know a lot about this yet but I visited an organic gardening store and looked at tons of different organic fertilizers. They range in ph levels so I bought one that they said would work well for my garden. It cost about $14 dollars for the box but a little goes a loooooong way so it has lasted quite a while. When I planted the garden I put a very small sprinkling under the seeds. Now that my plants are growing I decided to try making a tea with this as well. I'm hoping it will be a good way to get nutrients to my veggie plants as my compost is not quite ready to use yet.
Where NOT to plan a garden plot!
One of the lessons we have learned about our garden is to pay attention to the surroundings. We were most concerned with sunlight when choosing our plot. I think we did a decent job as it gets plenty of rays. However, what we did not take into consideration was the two gigantic cottonwood trees near by! They are losing their cotton plumes now and it is ALL OVER my garden. Some of the plants have prickly leaves and it just won't come off of them! I am really hoping it doesn't hurt their growth. Too late now.
Check out that branch full of cotton hanging above our garden. Thankfully hoeing the garden several times a week keeps it at bay for now.
Our first fruits...