Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Get Ready for Your Spring Garden and a New Addition

I garden every year but over the last several months I notice that I spend the bulk of my grocery money in the produce section. Its sad that the healthier you eat, the more money you spend. But let's not digress. It made me want to grow all of our own produce, not just some! So this year, I am going for it.

Of course the least expensive way to garden is to start from seeds. But every year I think it is too soon to start seeds and then before I know it, it is too late. Then I spend a small fortune buying plants that I should have grown myself. Not this year, my friend!

I'm no expert gardener, but I've learned a thing or two over the years that I've been growing veggies and for the last couple of years, I have had so much produce that I had to keep coming up with new things to do with it all, like zucchini cookies and pancakes!

My Wal-mart has put out these seed-starting kits, and this year they are just $4 for a 36-pack kit, or $6 for a 72-pack kit! It comes with a plastic "green house" to keep the seeds warm, and the soil pellets. The pellets expand when you put them in water (see photo above) and they are self-contained in mesh. When the seedlings get big enough to plant in the garden, you don't even have to remove the mesh - just plant the whole thing!

Now the seedlings are going to outgrow these pellets before its time to put them in the ground, so start saving plastic yogurt, butter, etc. containers to use as planters later. You can just poke holes in the bottoms and add a bit of dirt.

I enjoyed doing the 45 Days of Holiday Cheer so much that I've decided to do something similar with gardening. I did find it difficult to keep up with other posts when I was doing the dailies, so this will mostly be weekly. Like I said, I am going to try to grow enough to not even need to supplement from the grocery for produce. You can do as little or as much as you like and still follow along just fine! 

Last year I grew some produce in pots on my back deck just to see how it turns out for people who don't have the yard space for an actual garden. I found patio varieties of tomatoes and bell peppers from Home Depot, and figured out how to grow potatoes on a patio as well. So I'll share all of that as well, for those who want to container garden.  

Gardening as a family has many benefits! It gets you outside & working with the natural world, and there are so many homeschool lessons that can go along with it - there's measuring, counting, & computing for math, keeping records in a gardening journal for science & language, you could look up some agricultural history. Best of all? It is such a money-saver when it comes to feeding your family, even if you just grow a couple of veggies to go into your meals!

This Week for Gardening Through the Year:

So this week try to decide what you would like to grow,where you'll put a garden, and how big you want it to be. Remember that you'll need somewhere in your home to keep the seedlings! The top of the fridge is great for starting seeds because it is a consistent warm (and out of the way!) spot. But once you have seedlings, they'll need sunlight. Go to the store and browse through seed packets. They all tell how much space each plant needs in the garden. Or visit the National Gardening Association site for spacing & care for each kind of plant. Also find your average last frost date for your area . . .

Technically you are supposed to start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before your average last frost date (the last time your area typically has an overnight frost). You can find your local date at the National Climatic Data Center. Just choose your state & nearest city. You can also find great info if you have a nearby university because most have an agricultural extension and they have free gardening guides online. Our average last frost date is April 15, so I should start seeds indoors in mid-February to beginning March.

I am actually starting some seeds now, but I am an aggressive gardener. I have no problem taking up half my kitchen with seedling pots, using plant lights or moving plants in & out of sunlight, and making sure the soil stays warm. But I'll be starting more seeds each week in order to stagger the harvest. Veggies that can be started first are beets, lettuce, brussels sprouts, spinach, onion, garlic, broccoli, and peas. You can also grow kitchen herbs, to keep on your windowsill, anytime.

One other thing: my sister, who lives across the street from me, grew a huge, colorful flower garden last summer. She didn't feel like planting, so she tossed packets of seeds all over the ground. Well, of course, the "garden" grew into a mess and she kept asking me to come cut some flowers down! I found lots of flowers that grow on tall, straight, strong stems and that look fantastic in a vase in the house! So I will do some flower gardening as well, for the specific purpose of having cut flowers all over my home throughout the growing season. Flowers great for this are: small sunflowers, coneflowers, zinnias, aster, and snapdragons. Knock-out roses (a variety created for low-maintenence) are also great - easy to care for and lots of flowers!

Happy Planning!

P.S. Oh, what's the new addition? Our cat, Prissy, had babies two days ago. They are so irresistably adorable! Sorry if you think its gross!

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