Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tales + Fails of an Accidental Gardener // The Plan

Last week, I posted an update of our little backyard garden. Since then, I started to receive even more questions about what is planted, where and how I have it all laid out. I've been getting the whole, "I wish I could have a garden like that" comments, and here is my response to them - and to you. "You can!!!" If I can do it, you can too! If you have any sort of outdoor space that gets sun, you CAN grow something. And that's the point... just grow SOMEthing!

So, when I first started to "garden" at this house, I had a tall box planter that Jeff bought me for Christmas similar to this one. That was three years ago. Since then, I've moved that stinkin' planter around our yard a few times and eventually we built the raised garden in our existing beds last spring.

As I've talked about before, the bunnies ate so much of my plants last year in our raised bed. I had virtually no fruit and nothing, yes NOTHING, thrived. It was a frustrating gardening season, to say the least.

I was ready to throw in the towel and just say I can't grow anything in the yard... it's the yard's fault, not mine, of course! But then I had this raised bed in my yard. I couldn't just give up. (Or Jeff might shoot me!)


So in the off-season, I began to plot, research and plan for this year. I tried almost all of the same things I tried last year but I spread everything out a bit more and put the plants in different places. I learned that I should put my tomatoes and peppers in the hottest hot sun. The leafy things don't need as MUCH hot sun. So I started there.

The main raised bed sits in an existing flower bed that we had when we moved in. We took out a rose bush (which was diseased anyway) and a few Indian Hawthornes to put this baby in. It was super easy to build and you can find so many ideas on pinterest. I'll try to put a plan together for how to build it. My hubby was super handy and did it all in one Saturday!

I have a few pots of flowers sitting right outside, hoping to encourage bees to visit. Yup, you heard me right - you need bees!  We have grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes this year - since that is what we eat the most of. I did two bush bean plants from seeds (I had four, but pulled two up to make room). My pickling cucumbers are growing up my fence nicely and I'm training them to go into that empty space you can see here. (That is where I planted rows of spinach, baby greens and butterhead. EPIC FAIL.)

The straightneck squash is becoming monsterous - maybe due to fertilizing and the fact that I have two. They like it here, I guess, and we eat a lot of squash so I will let them grow as big as they want.

The chile + poblano are blooming but not growing really well. When I had my first "garden" years and years ago I planted cilantro and peppers. That's it. Basically what I needed to make a good fajita. The peppers were low-maintenance and grew so big. But I haven't had luck with them since we've moved into this house. They might just need more sun than we've been having lately!

Like I mentioned last week, my tomatoes were overtaking my peppers, so I moved them to another place in the yard. Straight into a large (and relatively inexpensive) whiskey barrel I purchased from Home Depot. I was worried they might go into shock, but they seem to be doing just fine. I added basil because my other little basil plant by the tall planter isn't doing well. I have no idea why, but it just doesn't seem to be growing. Again, I am no expert but learn the best way I know how :: Trial + Error!

My tall planter is truly about to fall apart. When we cleaned it out this year it was COVERED with fire ants! We had to treat it, wash it down and nail some boards back down before we filled it back up. This is Charlotte's bed. She planted the radshes, carrots and strawberries. I added the orange tree (that I've somehow kept alive for two years) in a big tin pepsi bucket next to it. I've tied a huge stake to the tree so that it can take the Texas wind. My thyme is in it's own pot as is my cilantro. I've never had luck with cilantro... it's always bolted (i.e., started to flower) before I've gotten to use it. This year I'm still doing okay with it. I also have oregano, purple basil and basil over here.

The key with herbs is to keep cutting them!! Even if you aren't using them, the more you prune back the more they'll grow. Now, don't cut them to the bottom, but maybe once a week trim them down a little bit. Put the cut pieces in a vase on your counter and you can smell that freshness for DAYS!

There are so many resources I have used over the years in my planning process.

First, going to my local nursery (Calloway's is honestly my favorite) and talking with them about the issues I had last year. For example, my squash would bloom but then there would be no squash. Same thing with my tomatoes.

The solution they gave me was twofold. First, fertilize. Second, try planting two of the exact plant to increase my yield (a new-to-me planting term for the amount of fruit I get!)

And just those changes have increased my success tenfold, y'all! I am not lying!!

Instagram is an awesome + quick resource too.

I follow Lesley and although her garden is HUGE, she posts a lot about what she's planting and how it's doing (and what she makes to eat!). Natalie is also a great resource.

I also love this book and this book book. I devour them each season. I have to have illustrations so I'm sure there are tons of gardening books that aren't as pretty, but that wouldn't work for me!

And, of course, google! Google is your friend, y'all! Just today I googled why my squash blossoms keep falling off the plant. Turns out, there are male + female blossoms and only the female blossoms end up with fruit. So you'll have blossoms falling off all season - and that's normal!!! 

There is so much information out there and so many possibilities! I hope you feel encouraged + inspired to get to planting today!! Digging in the dirt is beyond therapeutic for me and has become my ultimate happy place! I hope it's yours too!

Here's to green thumbs for everyone! Happy Wednesday!

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