Sunday, March 13, 2011

Prepping the garden

It is absolutely gorgeous here in Georgia - a perfect weekend to start the garden! We were busy this weekend: selecting the right soil, putting together raised beds, filling those beds with soil, and choosing plants and seeds for the perfect garden. I also 'constructed' my worm bin. Here was my to-do list for the weekend:

Choose which plants to grow this year
Determine which plants will be grown in a container and which will be put in the ground
Map out a garden plan
Build a raised bed*
Build  a worm bin
Get cold-weather crops in the ground (carrots, peas, spinach)
Determine whether we want to join a CSA**
Celebrate the 70+ degree weather by drinking a mimosa on Sunday afternoon after all the work is done

I think we did a pretty good job with the list. Nothing is in the ground yet, but everything is purchased and I'll work on planting when I get home every evening this week.

Selecting the Soil
I really wanted to support a local business for all of my gardening needs, but I called around to all the seed/garden supply stores in the area, and none of them had organic soil in stock. I was considering going to Farmer D's down in Atlanta, but I decided I didn't want to drive the 25 miles to get down there. They take food waste from Whole Foods and turn it into compost. I love that idea - so much better than throwing food in the dumpster.

Anyway, I ended up getting organic garden soil from Home Depot for $6.97 a bag. I also got a couple bags of Moo-Nure (ha!) and some mushroom compost. And yes we certainly did stuff 13 bags of soil/compost into Tom's Acura.

{back seat of the Acura}


{I returned that bag of peat moss - decided I didn't need/want it}

Prepping the Earth
If you'll remember from Friday's post, the future herb garden was covered with some red mulch that needed to be removed. Soil from both gardens needed to be broken up with a hoe, and a wood structure needed to be put around each garden to keep in the new soil.

{Tom prepping the herb garden}

{The vegetable garden after I have loosened the soil}

Putting the raised bed frame together
Y'all, I have a big fat confession: I am extremely averse to construction and carpentry projects. I don't know exactly where this came from, but I'm pretty sure I can blame it on my father. Pa built the house that I grew up in (and that my parents still live in) almost single-handedly. Bit by bit the house grew and improved. The bulk of the construction was done by the time I was about ten (I think), but the home improvement projects were pretty constant in the Robison Residence. My childhood instilled in me two very concrete truths: 1) My father is awesome!!! Seriously, who is proficient enough in construction, plumbing and electric that they are able to build a house single-handedly?; and 2) Construction projects make me anxious. Whenever something is being built, I have anxiety about how long it is going to take. Habitat for Humanity, the last time I built a worm box, building this raised bed. All three are events that gave me mild to major bouts of anxiety.

All this is to say that rather than buying wood and building my own raised bed frame, I got one prebuilt four-sided frame and used two sides for one garden and two sides for the other. And since it was only $30 for the kit (also at Home Depot), I think we actually saved money by doing it this way (and definitely a lot of time).

{Here it is deconstructed. You can see the box in the back seat picture above.}

In no time at all Tom and I put together two sides of the box for the herb garden and two sides of the box for the vegetable garden. Minimal carpentry required - phew!

{herb garden}

{veggie garden}

Filling the garden with soil
This morning I got up first thing and put the soil in each bed. I used five bags of garden soil for the veggie garden, the whole bag of mushroom compost, and half the bag of moo-nure. The herb garden only needs to be about six inches deep, so I added two bags of garden soil and the other half of the bag of moo-nure. Herbs can grow in really poor soil, so I didn't put any compost in it (I used up all of my compost in the veggie garden).

Selecting Plants
The funnest part of this project was selecting the plants. I've been doing a lot of research over the past week on which plants would do well at our house, and was so excited to seem them in the flesh (sources of research and inspiration here and here). To choose the best plants, I thought about the foods that we eat on a regular basis. Even though I'll only be planting one or two of most of these plants, I bought seed packets rather than plants. For one, buying seed packets gave me much more variety. For another, seeds were $1 a pack (or $1.49 for the organic seed packs) rather than $3.33 for one plant. I did buy four tomato plants, some leeks and a rosemary plant because I didn't want to grow them from seed.

Garlic Chives
Organic Oregano
Fernleaf Dill
Organic Basil

Sugar Snap Peas
Organic Carrots
Garden Beans
Sweet Bell Peppers (Mix)
Tomatoes (one Roma, one Cherry, one Heirloom)

edible flowers
Bachelor's Buttons

Did I overdo it? Perhaps. But I plan on only growing one of each herb, and 2-3 of most of the veggies. Also, we'll be using our large deck area to support a little container garden so I think we can make all of the herbs and veggies happy here. 

All this is to say that I'll have lots of leftover seeds (with the exception of spinach, since I plan on doing successive plantings through the fall). So, if you'd like any of the seeds above please let me know - I would be more than happy to ship them to you for free! I just want these little dearies to have a forever home.

"Building" a Worm Bin
As I mentioned above, I'm not too big on the whole construction idea. Also, I like to recycle old items rather than buying new whenever possible. So when I was thinking of a home for my worms, I decided to save both a tree and the hassle of constructing a box all in one. I headed to the antique shop this morning and found an old box for $20. It was a little more than I wanted to spend, but if i didn't buy the box I would have been off to purchase some wood and nails to build my own - and suddenly $20 didn't seem like such a steep purchase. Behold, the house that 1,000 red worms will soon call home:

If you want to learn more about vermicomposting, check out this site. I would highly recommend using worms to turn your food scraps into high quality compost. And plus, they are about the only animals that this tiny homestead can support.

In addition to a worm box, I also got some other neat stuff when I was antique-ing. Like these dinosaur cookie cutters:

This was made in Mexico from reclaimed materials - love it!


When I saw this bowl I had to have it. This blue is my new favorite color - it is my color inspiration for the kitchen in the next house we live in.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend - Happy Sunday!

PS. As for that last thing on the to-do list at the beginning of the post.... we're taking care of that now. There's nothing like drinking a mimosa on a warm Sunday evening when spring is just starting to peek her little head around the corner.


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