Over at BeCentsable today they are talking about gardening. I have been getting excited about gardening as well. I am working at creating healthier foods for my family and getting lots of fresh produce certainly helps with that goal. I have been involved in gardening for as long as I can remember. My parents are avid gardeners and we always had large gardens and a large harvest. Ever since I have had a home of my own I have had a garden as well. I don't do things perfectly and I don't tend to have a totally weed free garden but I thought I would share some of the things that I have learned.
Starting seeds indoors instead of buying plants saves a ton of money. I like to plant the seeds in recycled containers versus buying something to plant them in (I like the financial as well as environmental aspect of this). In years past we have mostly used milk jugs to plant in. I would use the bottom of one milk jug for the container with little holes punched in the bottom and then I would use another one cut really short for the tray.
It works well if you have a growing light for your plants, I have never had that though I have just used a sunny window which works well too. You just have to turn the plants every so often as they tend to lean towards the sun.
I lay an old shower curtain on the table I am using to protect it from the inevitable moisture.
Composting is another very frugal and very helpful addition to a garden. The above is a picture of my rather messy composting area. I made a very simple bin from old pallets which I got free. I made it with two compartments to aid in turning. We work to fill one side with all our household compost materials (potato peels, egg shells, hair, dirt from my vacuum, moldy bread and all fruit and veggie scraps) we also add leaves and manure(which I haul in from my parents farm). Any weeds that I pull during the gardening season also go in there. When one side gets full I use a potato fork and flip it to the other side. I am always amazed at how much good black dirt I will find at the bottom. On the other side then I will just begin the process again. It does speed up the process if you turn it more often but I am a little lazy about that. Do be on the alert mice, shrews and then snakes like to hide in compost piles.
Mulching is a great help in gardens. One of the ways we like to mulch is with old carpet. I like to use strips for paths in the garden. It is very hard for the weeds to grow through and also makes it so you don't have to water as much because it keeps the soil from drying out. Other mulching methods I use are Newspaper with dirt or grass clippings or pulled weeds on top to hold them down, and leaves. Mulching is a huge time saver and the methods I mentioned are free.
Another gardening tip that I love is to add flowers. Not only do flowers make gardening very fun but they also attract bees and other good insects that help with the pollination which helps up your yield. Also a lot of the good insects that they attract will help get rid of the bad insects that will eat your crop. Last year I had a ton of fun with flowers, being able to bring them inside to enjoy, take to decorate at church and also give to others.
This picture above is not very good as I took it at night but it shows how I raise my beans. I like to grow climbing beans as they are nice to pick and I think you get more harvest from the space you give them compared to bush beans. An easy and cheap method for letting them grow is to make tipis from very tall sticks that you have around your place. I tie them together at the top and then make sure the bottom parts are stuck in the soil and then plant a bean plant or two around each stake. At the end of the season it looks very neat to have these tall green tipis.
Another method I like for gardening is the wide row method. Instead of just planting a long row of lettuce seeds, onions or carrots I make a row as wide as my garden rake and just scatter the seed across. Wide rows save space and also leave less plain dirt available for drying out. The plants kind of mulch each other. I learned about this and lots of other neat gardening ideas from the book "The Joy of Gardening". The wide row method doesn't work for everything (like corn, squash and tomatoes for example).
We have a while to wait still before we are actually out in the garden (right now we have about a foot of snow and our last frost free date is usually around Memorial day) but I am getting excited about it and am working to get prepared. Happy Gardening to all of you. If you would like to share any of your favorite methods or anything about gardening I would love to hear from you.