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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.



There’s enough concrete in Wake County (NC), don’t you think?¬† So I’m talking some back for agriculture.may_gardenwide

This is the third year I’ve turned my half of the driveway into a tomato garden.¬†

Tomato plants like sun and the driveway is the sunniest spot on our property.¬† There’s also lots of reflected light from the pavement and large white garage doors.¬†

This is such a good spot that the garden keeps expanding.  Along with tomatoes, I have other sun lovers like peppers, eggplant, and herbs in the driveway this year.  (Kudos to my loving husband  for being such  a tolerant fellow.)may_gardenpot

If you are going to grow vegetables in pots, make sure they are large pots.  Straw mulch helps retain moisture, but in the middle of summer, I will water my pots every day.may_gardenwater

Good thing my 500 gallon rain barrel is just around the corner at the back of the garage.may_gardenlable

Labels also matter.  Knowing what varieties perform well will help me make better choices next year. may_gardentall

And these brightly colored tomato cages look great, but they’re not tall enough by a long shot, so I add wooden stakes and trellises.¬†

BTY, growing up in the South “the garden” always meant the garden we got our meals from.¬†¬† Daddy always had one. His mother raised 5 kids on “the garden” and a dead soldiers pension.¬† Bless her heart.¬†

What foods are you growing this year?

And Sachel Paige was pitching stars to heaven…

I think of that line about the old school baseball great every time I throw a rotten tomato, pepper, or cucumber as far as I can  into our Wake County (NC)  woods.

Kudos to my Daddy for teaching me two important life lessons:

How to throw like a boy (not a girl) and to get all my vegetable garden trash (bad fruit, spent leaves and vines) as far away from the garden as possible. 

It’s something to remember as our gardens wind down and we start thinking¬†¬†about doing it better next year.

Veggies, especially¬†veggies like tomatoes are prone to soil bore viruses.¬† Wilts, mosaics–the list of diseases that attack plants¬†in our hot humid weather¬†is daunting.¬†

Ideally we’d all have enough land to rotate our edible crops.¬† Never growing¬†tomatoes, peppers¬†or cukes¬†in the same spot¬†two years in a row¬†would help control diseases a lot.¬†

But few people have that kind of space anymore. 

Back in the day,  I remember farmers burning off their fields to sterilize and kill  plant viruses.  You can also lay down black plastic to raise the soil temperature for weeks and solarize.   

Mostly, ¬†I just¬† get by¬†growing ¬†wilt- resistant tomatoes,¬†¬†keeping¬†sick plants out of my compost and tossing bad vegetables as far as I can–

What about you?  Any advice to make my garden healthier?  I do wish my tomatoes and cucumbers would look as good as they taste.

You go, Mandy–

Just this spring my pal in Peoria asked me how to turn her boring yard into a garden.  5 months later, the girl is buying canning jars to preserve her homegrown vegetables.   

Here’s Mandy’s yard BEFORE.¬†

And here are parts of her garden NOW.

Impressive–I asked¬†Mandy¬†to share¬† the¬†3 keys to her¬†first time garden success.¬†¬†¬† Her¬† very wise reply follows:¬†

1. I ended up only digging out half of the size garden I’d originally planned. Only did one side of the patio instead of both at once. Turned out to be less overwhelming. I didn’t really set out to do it that way, it just happened that way. But now I’m quite glad of it.

2. You once told me that not all plants are meant to survive. So I planted a bunch even though I wasn’t sure what I was doing (like with the carrots) and figured that I’d see what happened and not pain over anything that didn’t make it. So when a bunny ate¬†most of my carrots, no big deal. And now that I’ve made three jars of pickles, my cucumber vines seem to be slowing down and I’m ok with that, too. If they suddenly turn out bunches more, I’m ready. If not, I’ve gotten to try my hand at pickling. (Still waiting for the week of marinating/brining to be finished!)

 3. Water. We had a sprinkler system for the yard installed last fall and we had them put in specific garden sprinklers where we had planned on eventually digging out the garden. I only remember to give my child water when she asks for a glass… I need all the help I can get.
A long-time gardener and a passionate beginner share the dirt on their NC gardens-

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