Last year my husband and I decided to grow our own vegetables. We live in a suburban community outside of Cincinnati. We have a nice corner lot with a decent sized fenced in yard but several large trees which shade our yard during the day. After tracking the sun shine and calculating the amount of sun and where it goes, we plotted out a spot and decided to build two raised beds for vegetables. This was our first attempt at vegetable gardening so we had no preconceived ideas of what we would get out of it.
If you remember last spring (2011), it rained non-stop in March, April and May! Finally on Memorial Day weekend, we built, filled and planted our two 4’ wide by 16’ long raised gardens! I began to keep a diary of what we did the types of seeds we purchased, which were live plants, and the cost of the entire project.
Within a few days (yes, days!) we had things sprouting all over the place. We were both thrilled! We had over purchased the tomatoes and peppers, not realizing the spacing requirements, so we ended up tilling up another spot or two to plant the stragglers. I talked to anyone and everyone who had gardened before, getting tips and subscribing to gardening newsletters on line.
By July 4th weekend (five weeks later) we had an awesome looking garden! We were harvesting some radishes, and a few pieces of lettuce. The garden kept growing and, to us, it was an amazing thing! Once the plants are in, it takes only a few minutes each day to keep whatever weeds pop through. We had an unusually dry summer, so we watered almost daily.
Our first garden consisted of three types of tomatoes, four types of peppers, zucchini, radishes, sugar-snap peas, bush green beans, cucumbers, green onions, lettuce, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, cabbage, and spinach. Not everything was “worth the space” as we began to notice. The diary helped quite a bit and we made notes. Also the internet was invaluable when I began to see bugs or “bottom end rot” on my tomatoes. I quickly googled what the problem happened to be and instantly I had a multitude of other gardeners who had the same issues and the way they handled them! I loved it!
By the first week of August, when we go on our family vacation, most everything in our garden was being harvested. I was able to take all our vegetables, except large onions and corn, without buying other vegetables!
We learned so much from our first year, that we began to plan the garden(s) for this year in the fall of last year. We expanded our area, added another full bed, not raised, and are trying “straw bale” gardening this year as well. We rotated our crops, as instructed, and preconditioned our soil. We scratched out all the marginal items and planted extras of things we loved the most.
Each evening (or morning, weather depending) we check our garden for cabbage worms on our broccoli (new this year) and Brussels sprouts (also new). We make sure we don’t have any critters eating our strawberries or bean sprouts. The straw bales are producing toadstools, which I have yet to read up on why, but I am sure there is a definitive reason for them. I love this thing called gardening!
We added another type of tomato and two different peppers this year, in addition to our Brussels sprouts and broccoli. I am already regretting the space the broccoli takes up and the green cabbage worms that can eat MY weight in leaves in day! We put in more zucchini plants, an additional type of cucumber, red onions, a separate space for herbs (cilantro, dill, basil, chives). We have garden peas instead of snap peas and an area of carrots and red beets. We have planted our bush beans (yellow and green this year) in our straw bales.
We just came out of Memorial Day weekend and already we have had fresh lettuce, radishes, strawberries, and spinach.
At the end of the season last year (which went well into October), we estimated that we had saved around $750 in fresh veggies for the summer. I canned 12 quarts of pickles (a first for me)—both dill and sweet; and froze another 12 quarts of fresh salsa. By February, I was down to our last jar of pickles and out of salsa!
I carry around pictures of my garden in my cell phone and show it lovingly to anyone who mentions the words garden, back yard or veggies. It is a thrill and a great way to save money.
We decided to create our own garden so we would know where our vegetables are being grown and with what chemicals and additives. We have selected to go all organic, not spraying or adding anything unnatural to our soil and plants. The results have been remarkable and we definitely tell everyone we know about our garden and the reasons it is good for our health! If you are thinking of adding a backyard garden to your spot in the city—go for it! It is well worth the effort.