Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How I Planted My First Vegetable Garden Sponsored Post #MiracleGroProject

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Miracle-Gro for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I am not a gardener, or at least I didn't used to consider myself to be. As a matter of fact as a kid I used to detest gardening in any and all forms (I have never been a huge outdoor person, I don't care for the bugs, and heat, and getting dirty). My mom on the other hand was a huge gardener. She actually enjoys gardening; I think she finds it therapeutic or something (I don't get it). And of course she forced us kids to help her in her gardening endeavors (which we all hated). Which is why I was surprised this summer when I decided that I needed to grow a garden. When we bought our house a couple years ago I planted a few tomato plants (I eat tomatoes like they are candy, so it was a necessity for me, worth the inconvenience and work). Last year I didn't get any tomatoes planted (despite the fact that I had some free plants given to me) because I had a young baby, and I am a procrastinator, and I didn't find the time to get around to it during the tomato planting season. I really missed out, but my mom being the good mom that she is did share some of her bounty with us :). Well this year I have been reading some books on saving money and trying to cut down on our grocery costs and I decided that I need to save some money on produce (without cutting down on our produce consumption, I am not willing to cut out the healthiest category of food). So I decided to try out this gardening thing for myself (I think my mom might have fainted, not really, she's smart, she knew I would come around eventually :)).

This year I have planted squash, zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelon, green beans, and peas. I also planted some fruit bushes, but that is a different post. I know super ambitious, possibly too much for getting started, especially since I am pregnant, but oh well. A lot of people recommend starting with herbs, but I really don't use that many herbs and spices, so that would be a waste of money for me, not saving money. The reason that I chose those vegetables to plant is because they are my favorite veggies and I want to be able to eat plenty of them without worrying about the cost. (And with the squash and zucchini, Mr. Random doesn't like them at all and I feel bad about spending our family's precious produce money on veggies that only I eat, but I didn't want to have to live without them). The pumpkins and watermelon I am doing because someone gave me free seeds a couple years ago so I thought I'd give them a try.
Here are the steps that I have gone through in my ambitious project of planting a garden:

1. Pick my seeds. I had some free seeds that I got at church at few years ago, but there were several other plants I wanted to try so I picked up some seeds on one of my Wal-Mart runs. I read the backs of the packages and looked for ones with good descriptions, that didn't require too much work, and didn't cost too much. I don't have time to start plants inside then transplant them outside (also we have almost no sun coming in our windows so it is almost impossible for me to do so, I did try with tomato seeds last year) so I made sure to avoid any seeds that needed that. For the tomatoes we bought plants at a local farmers market. I am not sure why, but my mom always buys tomatoes as plants instead of seeds, so that is what I do too.

2. Prepare your garden area. There was an asparagus patch already here when we moved in so when I planted the tomato plants a couple years ago we expanded that area. This year we expanded that area again. Mr. Random, wonderful man that he is, took on the task of digging out all the grass down past the root. Trust me, trying to do that while 6.5 months pregnant with my back and hips acting up would not have been good, so he was very, very nice and did it for me.

 Yes, the dirt is still piled up beside the garden killing off our grass, did I mention that we are procrastinators? Maybe the dead grass area will join our garden plot next year :)

3. Plan where to plant your plants. We only dug a small garden plot and I didn’t want to use it all up with trellises so I planned a little creatively (I had some help with the creative planning by my mom :)). By the time I got around to planting (procrastinator alert!) it was a little late in the season to be planting peas, because they can’t handle the heat (my mom told me that, I have no idea when things should be planted, other than what the little map on the back of the seed packet says :)). So I started thinking about whether there was anything I could do to still have them grow well. The front of our house is shaded by two huge trees and is always several degrees cooler than the back yard. Unfortunately that means that it is also full shade, but the side of the porch is partial sun and still has the benefit of being cooler (I think) so I decided to plant them there. It also has the benefit of the poles that the peas can climb up (although when taking the pictures I noticed that there is a decent stretch of concrete between the ground and the porch poles, hopefully the poor little plants will be able to find it, I will help them out if I can :)), and will be fun and easy to pick from. The green beans also needed something to climb and can tolerate the heat so I started looking for a good spot for them. As I was looking around the yard I noticed that there was plenty of chain link fence that would be great for plants to climb. So we planted the green beans along one side of the fence. The rest of the seeds we planted in the garden plot in rows or hills or whatever you want to call them.

 The side of the porch where I planted the peas
 The chain link fence where we planted the green beans
 The garden plot - squash and zucchini in the first two rows, tomatoes in the back right corner, pumpkins and watermelon in the back left corner

4. Dig holes and plant seeds. I have to admit that we did not completely follow the directions as to how far apart they were supposed to be planted. Hopefully that won’t cause a problem, if it does, oh well.

5. Water like crazy. There were several days that we had rain, I didn’t worry about watering those days, but if it had been a couple days since it rained or I watered I tried to get out there and water again.

 Little Man likes to help me water, he stole the hose from me :)

6. Watch plants grow. I enjoy going out there and seeing intentional plants coming up out of the soil. At first I wasn’t for sure if the plants I was seeing were intentional but now I am pretty sure (and my mom confirmed it :)).

 Squash and Zucchini plants, I cannot remember which is which, I guess we'll find out when they grow :)
 Tomato plants
 I am pretty sure that the plant in the middle is a green bean plant
 I am pretty sure that these are pea plants

7. Weed. I wasn’t sure which of the plants were my plants and which were weeds. My original plan was to just let everything grow and see which ones produced fruit and vegetables (I think my mom just about fainted when I told her that, I could practically hear her thinking that she taught me better than that, but all she said was something about picking the weeds so they wouldn’t take all the nutrients, oh yeah, that’s why you weed, totally forgot that :)). So since I didn’t know for sure which were which I asked my mother-in-law (who is also an expert gardener) when she was here the other day.

 The bigger intentional looking plants are not weeds, the smaller plants that are mostly in the back left are weeds

8. Fertilize. I don’t remember if my mom fertilized her plants or not. I know she had a compost pile so she probably used that. For me I would normally not worry or even think about fertilizing (I don’t know if I should think of it, but I wouldn’t). However last year we had a pretty bad drought that seemed to leave our soil not very nutritious for our plants (the reason that I think this is because several of our bushes did not do as well this year as in previous years). Also I am worried about this year with the planting is that the plants will wait too long to produce their fruits and vegetables. Since I am expecting Little Man 2 at the end of August I would like for the plants to produce at least some before then, and I will try to keep up with picking them after he comes. Because of those reasons I think I might try using some fertilizer in the garden to kinda help it along (we’ll see if it works :)). I also found out by reading the fertilizer bag, that this step probably should have come after preparing the garden, before planting the plants, but oh well, live and learn, this whole process is a learning process.

This is my gardening project this year, and I am really excited about the possibility to eat produce that I have grown (yes, mom, I did say that, go ahead and say “I told you so” :)). It seems that I am not the only one who is embarking on this growing adventure this year. Miracle-Gro has organized a community of gardeners to share their wisdom and stories and show their green thumbs. They have started The Gro Project to encourage those of us who are beginners to try a gardening project and enjoy the benefits of plants in our lives. If you are stuck for inspiration you can check out all the fun garden projects on Miracle-Gro’s pinterest page. You can follow them to keep up on the new inspiration.  You can also check out other tips, videos, and advice from other gardeners on the Miracle-Gro website. You can see what The Gro Project is about with this video: .

For my project I would need to use a fertilizer formulated for the outdoors like LiquaFeed All Purpose Plant Food Advance Starter Kit, but if you are growing plants in a pot (most of these plants could be grown in a pot if you don’t have garden space) you can use Shake’n Feed All Purpose Plant Food and Moisture Control Potting Mix.

What do you think? Are you going to grow a garden this year? Any plant related projects on your to-do list?
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