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This time of year my phone blows up…why? Lots of friends and colleagues get the spring fever and want to start their own garden. ¬†LOVE IT!

Instead of emailing or telling them on the phone, I thought I would write a post for all.

It’s really quite easy, but it does take a little investment and some sweat equity. Get your garden gloves, it’s going to be dirty ūüėČ

Fastest I have ever put in my veggies, all due to my Mantis!

Here is my garden bed. ¬†It’s a picture from last year..I will put my baby plants in next weekend after fear of frost is gone.

Here are the 7 steps to starting your own vegetable garden this year.

  1. Raised bed – You need to create a raised bed for your plants. ¬†Why? Usually in this area you have 1 of 2 types of soil and they are all bad ūüėČ It’s Clay or Sandy depending on if you are more east or west. ¬†Again, it’s all bad. While we may be an agrarian state, our soil honestly wasn’t blessed with the best conditions. ¬†Raised beds, not only give you some room to add the right nutrient-rich soil, but also it helps keep about your grass and other weeds from encroaching.

You can usually buy a kit, or you can go and get some 2X4s and make your own.  How big? It depends on how          much time you have to take care of it. Height matters, you want at least 1 foot above ground.

  1. Nutrient rich soil – the best investment you can ever make in your garden isn’t the sexy stuff…no, it’s the soil. That’s the foundation and really the secret to being successful. ¬†You can go to your local nursery or big box home improvement store. It’s usually labeled on the package – soil for veggies. ¬†You don’t have to get the name brand, the generic will do.
  2. Compost – If you have your own, awesome! If not, you can buy some. I usually get 1 of the expensive Black Cow and then one of the generic.
  3. Fertilizer – you can go organic or not…up to your philosophy. ¬†Try to get a slow release fertilizer.
  4. Mix Рjust like a good DJ, mixing matters.  I do 2-1 soil to compost.  Then I add the fertilizer in according to the instructions on the bottle or box.
  5. Plants – add¬†plants. Here in the south tomatoes are a must. ¬†Other vegetables I have had luck with in the summer are cucumbers, squash, zucchini, eggplant and herbs like parsley and basil. ¬†There are others, but those are the staples, and I would say the easiest to manage if you are starting out. <There may still be time to grow your lettuce, kail and spinach…they usually like a few cooler nights to do really well. I like to put a few of these in pots near my house, so I can cut and eat easily.>

Plants or seeds?  That depends.  I find if you are just starting out, you will usually have far more success with           baby plants than seeds, but they are more expensive.  If you are going the seed route, make sure you look at           the germination and growth times and plant accordingly.

6. Water – it sounds so simple, just add water. ¬†After you plant your crop, remember you must water them…almost over water them that first time you transferred them from pot to bed. ¬†I think of it like this…those plants just ran a marathon and are super thirsty and need some water to rest and get settled. ¬†After the initial watering, you will need to keep an eye out for them. ¬†The first few weeks are critical. ¬†Make sure the soil doesn’t get too dry, i.e. cracked, etc. ¬†Don’t drown them…they aren’t trying to swim.

Voila – your first garden. ¬†Kids love them, because they get tp see the magic of something growing. It’s a good lesson for us all in patience too.

NOTE – if you are eager to do this now, beware of the danger of frost. ¬†Usually in NC we wait until after tax day. These summer plants aren’t up for any winter shenanigans. ¬†Have no fear, if you have already done it. ¬†Just keep an eye on the news and if the weather folks say it will frost, get some sheets and cover over night. ¬†Enjoy! Go out there and get dirty!

Happy Gardening.

Melissa


My parade of herbs

One of the most powerful gardening experiences is eating what you grow.¬† While it is a powerful experience indeed, being southern makes it a cultural expectation. This notion was so brilliantly articulated from the character ‚ÄúOuiser‚ÄĚ played by Shirley MacLaine in the movie ‚ÄúSteel Magnolias‚ÄĚwhen she¬† shares this cultural expectation involving growing tomatoes. ‚ÄúBecause I‚Äôm an old Southern woman and we‚Äôre supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt.”

So here is what i just planted:

Tomatoes galore.  From cherry variety Sweet Chelsea to grape variety Red Jelly Bean to giant Goliaths.  I foresee salads, bruschetta and tomato sandwiches.

Yum...future tomato sandwiches

Summer Squash and Zucchini.¬† A staple for any southern summer vegetable garden.¬† Yum…sauteed squash and onions, squash casserole and zucchini bread.

Cool Cucumbers.¬† I went with the burpless and have both a pickling kind and salad slicer.¬† I need to go to a nursery and see if I can get my hands on this lemon cucumber I have heard rave reviews about.¬† Let’s see…images of old fashion cucumbers and vinegar and dill pickles come to mind.

A new one, eggplant.¬† I have never grown this one, but thought I would give it a whirl.¬† I got the japanese variety so wish me luck.¬† Don’t have a prep plan for those yet…but have some time to research.

A new one...Japanese Eggplant

Finally a showcase of herbs…basil, italian parsley, cilantro, dill, thyme and sage…this rounds out my culinary planting for now.

Basil is simply a "must grow." Plant it in pots near your house so you have easy access!

What’s in your edible garden?¬† Any must plants I need to add…I still have a little space left.

Happy Gardening.

melissa


Hunkered down at the Blaisdell estates…too cold. Don’t get me wrong I love winter…in fact, I love that in NC you can experience all four seasons. It makes you appreciate each by comparison to the others.¬† But it doesn’t mean that I don’t treasure ‘lil reminders of seasons before…like homemade pesto from my summer basil.

Blaisdell Basil Summer '09

Ooh..look one of my garden friends…his name was “Blant Jr.” Gotta look REAL close to find him.

Anyway, I took my garden basil and made pesto and froze several jars.¬† They make great gifts…and great reminders of the freshness and beauty that summer brings with herbs and other edibles. Grill or bake chicken, cube and add in some pasta and you are livin’.

MKB Basil Pesto

Recipe is easy.¬† I used pistachios instead of pine nuts..they are cheaper and you can snack on them in the summer. And I use parmesean instead of percorino, just cause I have that on hand. Then just get some ball or kerr jars, fill and freeze.¬† I haven’t tackled canning yet, but freezing works!

What about you? Got any ‘lil tastes of a season you would like to share?

A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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