Tag Archives: organic gardening

Adventures in Gardening {Part 3: Planting a Square Foot Garden}

14 May

Square Foot Gardening

To catch up on my gardening experiment, read Part 1: Starting Seeds Indoors and Part 2: Building a Raised Bed.

Fortunately, last weekend I had time to transplant my seedlings into the raised bed! My grids for the square foot garden were already laid out, so it made spacing very easy. Mel Bartholomew came up with this method of garden and I’ve done so much research on square foot gardening, I feel like I’ve read his books, even though I haven’t!

20140514-220303.jpgMy precious little plants waiting to move to their new home!

One of the things that everyone says to do in advance is chart out where you want to place your plants in the box. Taller plants should go on the north-side of the garden and smaller plants on the south-side so they aren’t competing for sunshine. I also found that certain plants are “companion” plants and others don’t like to be near each other. For example, I had to be sure to plant my basil away from my cucumbers, because apparently they don’t like strong smelling herbs. Tomatoes, peppers, basil, and marigolds all do really well together.

Here is my plan on paper:


I planted extra tomato and pepper plants in case squirrels try to be sneaky with my food!

20140514-215622.jpgWow, I majorly need some sun! Sorry if my arm is blinding you!

I put in stakes and cages prior to planting, as recommended online so as not to damage the roots.


20140514-215751.jpgMy pepper plants have been doing so well so far. I hope they continue on like this!! Grow, grow!


My girls helped me directly sow the zucchini, squash, and cucumber seeds. We had a good bit of rain on Wednesday and most of the cucumber plants have sprouted already! Now, I’m going to have to figure out how to trellis these guys to grow vertically so they don’t take over my garden!




And here is my plan made 100% reality in my little 4×4 square foot garden:


Hopefully, my guardian owl will scare little critters away!


I can’t wait for these plants to start producing fruit and vegetables! Now I need to research how to harvest!

 Anybody else out there gardening this year (or has in the past)? What vegetables or fruits have you had the most success growing?


Adventures in Gardening {Part 2: Building a Raised Bed}

8 May


The last official frost date for Tennessee was April 30th, so that means that my little seedlings that I started indoors need to be transplanted! Last Sunday, my husband built the 4 x 4 raised bed and I prepared the soil. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to actually plant the seeds and seedlings but I’m trying to work on that this weekend as long as it doesn’t storm the whole time!

Please note: I am a first-time gardener! I’ve done a lot of research, but I’m obviously learning quite a bit as I go along. If you have any tips, feel free to share!

Here is a little overview of this step in my gardening adventure:

20140508-211130.jpgAdam bought some non-treated lumber to build my 6″ high bed. It cost about $16 for the materials.

20140508-211147.jpgThis is what I used for my soil. (WARNING – Don’t buy the red bags… read on for why.) Mel Bartholomew, the creator of Square Foot Gardening, advises a mix of 1/3 Coarse Vermiculite, 1/3 Sphagnum Peat Moss, and 1/3 Blended Compost.  I didn’t pay attention to the grade of vermiculite and was just happy that I found some at Lowe’s, so these red bags actually consist of fine-grade vermiculite. I had already mixed it before realizing the necessity of coarse vermiculite. We’ll see what happens this summer with the plants… I spent about $60 to create the soil mix. (Oh, and there is a special square foot gardening soil available, but I would have had to spend double just to ship the darn bags because they weren’t available in any of the Home Depot stores in Middle Tennessee. You may be one of the lucky ones that lives near a store that carries it, though! The cost of the pre-made soil is about the same as mixing it yourself.)


20140508-211205.jpgIt was such a beautiful day! The girls played in the sprinkler while we worked!


20140508-211230.jpgI read somewhere online that newspapers could be laid down in the yard as opposed to clearing out all of the grass first. (Can you tell we live in Nashville by the newspaper photos – Titans coach, David Nail, Dierks Bentley?) One of the strong points of building a raised bed is that it is supposed to be free of weeds! I’m all about less hassle gardening!


20140508-211251.jpgTo help minimize the chance of weeds, I put down some weed block over the newspaper. It cost about $10 for a roll. Also pictured above, are the three types of soil needed for a successful square foot garden! The only thing that will need to be replaced each year is the compost (as long as my fine vermiculite works out okay – fingers crossed)! Oh, and if anyone needs organic peat moss let me know! It was compressed and doubled in size once opened, so I have a ton left over!


20140508-211322.jpgHere is all of the soil mixed together! My youngest wanted to help too! It basically looks like a big sandbox, so what kid wouldn’t?!

A 4×4 bed is supposed to hold about 7.5 cubic feet (2.5 cubic ft of each potting soil element). I still have some room in my box, so I’m thinking about trying to find some coarse vermiculite and to add with a little more compost and peat moss.


20140508-211418.jpgI nailed plywood down to make 12″ grids, which is a highly recommended part of square foot gardening. I purposely left one marker off, because two of my squash plants will take up the space of two squares instead of one.


20140508-211434.jpgHere are my seedlings hardening off outside and patiently waiting to be planted… they’re still waiting! I had too many long days at work this week and not enough time to plant! My tomato plants, especially, are dying to be transplanted!


20140508-211446.jpgI did manage to transplant a basil plant and a tiny mint plant to these two front containers. As you can see it’s dark outside in this photo! I finished with a few minutes of daylight left Sunday night! I planted parsley in the back green pot. It’s supposedly really hard to germinate and grow from seed, so we’ll see. It doesn’t hurt to try!

I’ll be posting Part 3 of this series soon! If you missed the first step in this adventure, read Part 1: Starting Seeds Indoors.

Adventures in Gardening {Part 1: Starting Seeds Indoors}

15 Mar

Starting Seeds Indoors

My long-time dream of starting a vegetable garden is underway! As my (almost) three-year-old likes to say, “We’re making a kindergarten!”

After doing A LOT of research on raised beds, square foot gardening, and vegetables, I now know Nashville’s last frost date (April 30th) and terms such as “germination”, “thinning out”, “hardening off”, and “damping off”! I may know how to talk a good gardening game now, but given my track record with plants, growing a successful garden is going to be very challenging! Let’s just say that I  have fake flowers in the nice planter on my office desk because someone *ahem* did not water the real plant very frequently. Even the dog’s dish gets a little too low on water sometimes!

I’m taking a huge risk in documenting my gardening adventures! I may fail miserably or this underdog could prove that anyone can start a garden! Today, I’m posting about our first step in growing organic vegetables – starting seeds indoors!

First of all, here are a few reasons to start certain seeds indoors instead of directly sowing them into the garden bed:

1. It’s cheaper to buy seeds than transplants.
2. Plants are often healthier when started from seedlings.
3. It’s a way to get a head-start before the official frost-free date for an earlier harvest!
4. The kids can watch the seedlings sprout!

seedsnow.com seeds

At the end of last week, my Non-GMO seeds arrived in the mail from SeedsNow.com! I researched a few different seed catalogs online, but settled on SeedsNow since they sold $.99 sampler packs of 100% Non-GMO seeds and these non-hybrid seeds can be used from these plants after harvest in future years.  I’m only planting a 4×4 raised bed and couple containers of herbs, so I knew I didn’t need to spend extra money on a packet of 300 seeds. I spent about $10 on 10 different kinds of seed packets.

Burpee Self-Waterking Kit and SeedsNow.com seeds

I bought a self-watering seed starting kit to start growing my tomato, pepper, basil, mint, and marigold seeds indoors. Some of the other vegetable seeds can, and should, be planted directly in the ground once any risk of frost is gone. Seeds can be started indoors using yogurt containers and egg cartons, but given my poor watering habits, I figured anything that can help me consistently water my little seedlings would be a smart move! I need all the odds in my favor that I can get. This Burpee kit cost just under $12 at Home Depot.

Burpee Self-Watering System

This kit comes with a tray with seed-starting pellets, a watering mat, another tray to hold the water, a germination cover, and a paper  grid to keep track of where seeds are planted.

Pellets in Tray

Here’s a close-up of the pellets that will expand when water is added. I bought an XL cell kit, because I knew that the tomato plants needed room to grow, so I thought I might be able to avoid transitioning them into bigger containers prior to planting them outdoors in the raised bed. We’ll see…

Girls watering pellets

I let the girls use their new watering cans to add water to the pellets. They expanded quickly! (What you don’t see in this picture is the huge puddle of water at my feet after Little A energetically dumped all of the water out of her can. After quickly wiping her chair down, we tried it again!)

Seeds planted in tray indoors

Here is a close up of my tray after all of the seeds were planted in their cells. I used a pencil to create little holes for the seeds. I then added two seeds to each hole. (Let me tell you that mint seeds are nearly impossible to pick up – even with tweezers I had a hard time!) I made these nice, easy little popsicle stick labels before remembering that I would need to put the germination sheet on top!

seed tray

I used this handy plant-o-gram sheet that was included in the kit to keep track of where I planted everything, though!

Seed Tray with Germination Sheet

To help the seeds germinate and sprout, warm soil is needed. I used an inexpensive tip from another website that suggested putting a heating pad in between two towels on a cookie sheet to create a heat mat. I really didn’t want to purchase an expensive seed heating mat and thermostat to be used for only 1-2 weeks. We make sure to turn off the heating pad at night and when we’re out of the house.

Once sprouts come out of the soil, I will move the tray to a sunny window where we get lots of direct light. The germination sheet will no longer be needed!

The next post will be an update on how the seedlings are doing and what my plans are for the layout of our garden! If you are a gardener, feel free to leave any tips that you have!


Keep Your Change

This has been part of my Keep Your Change series. For more money-saving posts, click here!