Happy Favorite Things Friday! Today our FTF post is going to take us outside to – the garden! I know, it seems like it should be somewhere more exciting, but A) COVID-19 pretty much makes even going to the backyard exciting and B) I want to share some tips on gardening that have helped me get huge amounts of vegetables out of my backyard plants. Gardening is a great stress reliever and a great way to get yourself and your kiddos outside doing something fun, and who doesn’t need that right now??
Last year was my first garden attempt in our new state, and was poorly planned simply because I didn’t expect everything to literally grow taller than me and end up have one plant take over an entire garden box! I had zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant coming out of my ears! The neighbors were NOT complaining about all the sharing, but I definitely need to learn more about preserving my yield this year.
This year, I planned better with spacing and learned more about supporting my plants- for example, using a tomato cage around the zucchini and cucumber plants not only keeps them from horizontally taking over a garden box. This allows air to continue to flow around the stalks and fruit so you don’t have to worry as much about the plant rotting on the wet ground. I also did a little more research on companion planting to make sure the plants I have together are good for each other.
here are my baby cucumbers working their way up a tomato cage. look at how cute they are!
Hubster built me raised garden beds out of untreated cedar wood, you’ll catch a glimpse of them in the plant photos. He’s awesomely handy ;). We try to keep it natural and organic, including fertilizer and pest control, so it made sense that the box they grow in be untreated and free of chemicals. (Our soil here is heavy clay, so raised beds significantly increase the chance of things growing!)
Last year we used a mix of topsoil and Miracle Grow Organic soil for the first time, and it really was miraculous how HUGE these plants got, full of repeatedly producing vegetables. This year we prepped what was left of last year’s soil with some more organic soil and topsoil, and just used the Miracle Grow Organic Granules to build up the soil nutrients. It’s super important to start with a healthy soil foundation for healthy plants no matter which method you choose to get there.
Here’s a link to learning more about the Miracle Grow Organics line of products:
You can buy them almost anywhere garden supplies are sold, as well as online. There are tons of organic/natural fertilizers out there, this one is just my choice, so experiment with what works best for your garden.
I crush up washed and dried eggshells to add around the base of plants to help deter the slugs we tend to have issues with. I’ve tried copper tape around the outside of the box which is supposed to work as well, but I had minimal luck with that last year.
slug proofing in a jar- we eat so many eggs a week this isn’t usually empty for long!
This year I planted my sunflowers with the cucumbers, as this is supposed to give the cucumbers a better flavor. And as a bonus, it gives them a sturdy stalk to climb up while the sunflowers provide some shade during the hotter parts of the day. I also use trellis support, as based on last year’s plants my sunflowers would soon be horizontal with the weight of cucumbers, and my zucchini will get so huge it will fall over and pull it’s own roots out! I planted my basil near the tomatoes to help with their flavor as well.
Companion flowers in the garden are a great natural deterrent to many insects, so don’t forget the trusty marigolds everywhere to help deter pests!
We also rotated our plant placement to help decrease the chance of disease. This of course depends on where you planted things the previous year, but is obviously not an issue if this is your first garden.
I always get excited when I see flowers and vegetables taking off in the garden! For me, nothing tastes as good as tomatoes and cucumbers fresh from the vine. We even share fresh garden beans and peas with the dogs, though I suspect they are starting to learn there is food in the yard boxes and we may soon have a whole different type of pest to deal with ! 🙂
We did have an issue with my first pug tunneling his way through any gate and fencing we put around our tomatoes because he loved eating them off the vine – we found him trapped in the garden with evidence all over his face more times than we can count!
I love getting my hands in the dirt and watching food grow that I know came from my work and care. (And that I don’t have to worry is contaminated with who knows what!). I shared a lot of seeds with my neighbors this year, as everyone was looking for COVID ideas during the stay at home situation. Between all of us, we should have quite a variety of crops this year and I’m excited to see what everyone grows!
And we’ve had so much rain this last month I swear my plants double in size overnight every week! Seriously, did not plan for that, but hopefully more spacing this year means there’s a lot more room before they get crowded.
If you have never tried gardening and are interested, go for it! It’s a lot of fun to do with or without kids helping and there is just something about being able to grow your own food, even if it’s just an herb garden in pots. Garden fresh food tastes so much better too! Pinterest is a great source of gardening advice for every level, so start there if you’re intimidated.
And that’s a wrap on this Friday Favorite and some of my favorite tips and tricks. What are you gardeners out there growing this summer? Share your favorite tips with us below!