4/27/15

Easy Vegetable Gardening: Tutorial and Tips

You'd think with a blog name like Crafty Garden Mom I'd actually do a little more gardening than I have in recent years. After all, planting a garden with my oldest daughter who was 3 at the time, is how I came upon the name for this blog and the subsequent podcast. But limited time, and an admitted laziness to actually getting outside and my hands dirty, has kept me from keeping it going. 

Here's our sad little plot prior to Maddy (the youngest child) declaring she wanted to garden and grow something.




She and Sam had grand plans of planting about 30 different kinds of vegetables and fruits in this little 3' x 7' plot. Bringing them back down to reality, I convinced them that since we were just "getting back in the game" this year, let's keep it simple and grow a few things we know we will eat, and decide at the end of summer what to do next.

I have been a big fan of the Lasagna Gardening method for planting a vegetable garden, and was happy to pull out my copy of the book for a refresher on what to do, buy, and prep for a quick turnaround (from ground to planting) in about an afternoon.

I highly recommend you buy or borrow the book if you're interested in gardening this way. The main benefit to me is that there is no tilling of the ground, because you build the garden from the ground up. This really is the best way to minimize the work for maximum harvest in your vegetable garden.

To kill the weeds and encourage earthworms to start doing their soil magic, lay down newspaper or cardboard to completely cover the area you will be planting. Then use a hose to saturate the paper so it "sticks" in place, which makes it easier to start layering on top without shifting.

 Don't skimp on the newspaper, put it down 3-4 sheets thick, 
it really does take the weeding down to a minimum!


Next, add a 2-3 inch deep layer of peat moss. I bought mine at Home Depot.



Then start adding alternate layers of grass clippings, straw, dried leaves, soil conditioner, manure, more peat moss, and compost. We don't have manure or compost laying around, so I bought mine at Home Depot. 


It is OK if you need to purchase all of the items for this first garden, don't worry about it. I used to have a compost bin going in our kitchen, but found keeping one in the house with a toddler was....problematic at best. I also live where every ant in town thinks a crumb on my floor is an open buffet, so having food scraps around in a container that has to "breathe" is also problematic. Plus it just got kind of gross after awhile. I am fine with purchasing some "black gold" from the professionals, and our local garden center has a very good blend.

Keep layering (like a lasagna!) all of these items until your garden is about 18-24 inches deep. This may seem rather high, but it will break down by about half over the upcoming months. Plus you want to give your plants lots of room to let the roots dig down deep without having to break through your original ground cover which may not be as nutrient rich.



The girls' loved helping plant our garden, and getting their hands right in there. 
Maddy had more "issues" with the bees buzzing curiously around.


End on a peat moss layer, and add a little bonemeal and wood ash if you have it. Now you're ready for planting!


We chose to plant vegetables, but you can plant just about anything that grows: ground cover, plants, flowers, small trees, fruit bushes.... Patricia Lanza uses lasagna gardens all over her yard, front and back, for all of her gardening.

After much debate, and a long conversation with Maddy about not being able to plant a gummy worm bush this year (she is still very  skeptical of my knowledge on this subject), the girls and I decided on romaine lettuce, spinach, zucchini, several varieties of peppers, sage, thyme, cilantro, and chocolate mint. Samantha loves the idea of chocolate mint. It smells divine, but I will need to look up some recipes to use with it because I'd never even heard of it before.

I put the 2 zucchini plants on the far left side, and will need to keep a sharp eye on them as I know how they can completely take over a garden if you're not careful. I also used several pepper supports I purchased years ago (you know, when I actually gardened annually) from Burpee. I highly recommend these supports if you're growing peppers or eggplants - they are so worth the money. They allow the plant to stay upright as the weight of the peppers pulls it down. Once your peppers start touching the ground, they are quickly susceptible to bugs, slugs, and blight. Burpee still sells them as a customer favorite, you can find them here.  

In the book, Patricia Lanza goes into great detail of the best plants and vegetables to grow in your lasagna garden, with many tips for each variety. In fact, since the actual lasgana layering part is so simple, the bulk of the book is about the plants not the planting!

We planted our little garden about 2 weeks ago in a single afternoon (about 2-3 hours, including lugging all the supplies from the car to the back yard) and things are moving along well. We've had several evenings of rain which has helped to keep the ground moist, and the lettuce has been filling out nicely, almost ready for the first picking.

Lasgana Layers Tip! Just yesterday I scored what I think is a 25-30 lb. bag of coffee grounds while getting my daily caffeine fix at Starbucks. I've known they offer these leavings (there are signs in many stores, often overlooked) but hadn't taken advantage of it before because...hey, just getting back into it after years off. The barista was SO happy to have me take this rather heavy bag off her hands so she didn't have to drag it all the way in the back dumpster. I would have liked to have been able to use the grounds as I was originally layering, but the garden will still benefit from me sprinkling a good amount all over the current top layer, and use a hand rake to mix it in.

I will keep you posted as our garden grows!

CGM




2 comments:

  1. Maybe if you and Maddy make some gummy candies, she'll know they (like money) do not grow on trees. http://candy.about.com/od/gumgelatinbasedcandy/r/gummy.htm

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