Aside

Talking Dirt

Talking Dirt

Yummy oregano and my garden “helpers”

As an aspiring future dietitian, and as someone who just likes to eat healthy, I find it important to know a thing or two about growing vegetables at home. This is my second year using raised beds. The two previous years I lived in an apartment and relied exclusively on container gardening. The container, or patio garden, kept me in tomatoes, bell peppers and herbs quite nicely, despite the fact I was dealing with a shorter growing season since at the time, my sweetheart and I were living in St. Louis, Missouri. But once we moved back to the Sunshine State, my gardening ambitions escalated. One of the things about gardening is that you always want more, more, more! Thankfully my fiance was the voice of reason last spring, and mandated we just start with two raised beds, promising we could always add more later on. I occasionally bite off more than I can chew when it comes to projects (I just get so darn excited!), so that was a good call on his part. Last year’s beds worked out nicely. One of the 4 foot by 8 foot beds was filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, and  squash. I underestimated the amount of room squash needs to grow, and ended up just pulling it out when it became to cramped. Tomatoes and cucumbers will ALWAYS win out in our garden, as they are our absolute favorites. The other 4X8 bed was somewhat experimental, with out of season beets and carrots, garlic that floundered, and a “gourmet” lettuce blend that had the texture of wet tissue paper. Blech. I continued to grow my kale in the pots I brought from St. Louis, and I grew a plethora of herbs in my window boxes.

This spring, we plan to add a third raised bed, once of which will be exclusively tomatoes and cucumbers. I am also adding arugula, swiss chard, and more kale, lavender, and chamomile  I’m trying some beets again, since we are getting an earlier start and I just love beets so much. Wish me luck.

Smothering the "cover crop"

Smothering the “cover crop”

Before I plant my seeds, I am having to prep the soil. I followed the advice of Greg Seaman over at eartheasy.com. He suggested laying down black plastic sheeting to kill the out of control weeds cover crop. I’ll leave the sheeting down for about 3 weeks, then check the pH of the soil, add lime if necessary, then add in some of the good compost my worms have been making all winter in my vermi-compost bin.

La Casa de Worms

La Casa de Worms

The bin was a birthday gift from my sweetie last year and it’s been a great way to get rid of veggie scraps in the kitchen. What doesn’t go in the bin, I give to my chickens. For more information on worm composting, I have found Mary Appelhof’s book “Worms Eat My Garbage” to be invaluable. I also get all the free horse manure I want from an aunt of mine. It keeps me from having to use Miracle-Gro or some other synthetic fertilizers. Once my soil is set, I’ll be able to start planting those seeds! I can’t wait!

Do you have a home garden? What do you grow? What has been your biggest challenge? Do you actually eat all the produce you grow? I’d love to hear from you!

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