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grow your own

city boys, garden

Grow Your Own: 5 Lessons from Our First Garden


5 Lessons from Our First Garden | This American House

Now that the temperatures are starting to fall and most of the “crops” have been harvested, it seems like a good time to look back on the lessons learned from our first year gardening. For city boys I think we had a pretty respectable season. But there are plenty of ways we can improve for next year.

We kept it pretty simple for our first garden. Even though they’re not very aesthetically pleasing, we kept the raised beds and concrete blocks that the previous owners left behind. We were so overwhelmed with all of the other landscaping this spring that it didn’t seem like a good idea to start from scratch with the garden. We both hate those blocks with a passion but they did make it easier for two novices to feel like they know what they’re doing. That said, the blocks are coming up this year! We’re going to start fresh with one big garden plot next spring.

Speaking of next spring, it’s going to be a much different planting experience. This year we were faced a garden that had been unattended and hadn’t been cleaned out at the end of the season. It was covered in a mass of leaves, dead plants and weeds, weeds, weeds. We’re already prepping the garden the next year. We’ve started pulling plants out of the beds and, as we do, we’re also taking up all the concrete blocks. We kept up on the weeds this year and we’ve started putting organic matter on the entire garden plot. Here’s hoping that next year we have rich, healthy soil.Looking Back on Our First Garden | This American House

But enough about next year, let’s look at what learned this year.

Lesson #1: Better planning would help. We planted two beds of potatoes, one bed of onions, one bed of green beans, three tomato plants, a row of beets and some carrots. It was all very haphazard. I bought the seed potatoes and onions early in the season so they went into the ground first. And then as we would pick up other seeds and seedlings we’d fit them into one of the empty beds. Next year we should start earlier and really map out the garden – especially since we won’t have the raised beds.

Lesson #2: Sometimes weeds are actually plants. The carrots that I planted never made it to harvest. In fact, I’m not even sure they made it past seedling stage. Thanks to some overzealous weeding early in the summer, the carrots were pulled out and composted. Oops.

Lesson #3: Starting indoors might be easier. We wouldn’t have lost the carrots if I had started them indoors. Placing seedlings in the ground will make it easier to know which little sprouts are plants and which are weeds. Since I dumped the carrot seeds into a bed that was also very weedy, they were bound to be pulled up before they got a chance to grow.

Lesson #5: It’s easier than it seems. Even in our bungling way, and despite many weeks when the garden went completely unattended, we grew food. We definitely have a lot to learn but it’s good to know that it’s not all that difficult to garden. That said, I’m glad we don’t have to live solely on what we grow!

Lesson #5: The food you grow is the tastiest. I’ve never liked tomatoes. I mean, I don’t hate them but I’ll skip past tomatoes when I’m dressing a hamburger or whatever. But when it comes to the tomatoes that came out of our garden, I want to put them on everything! They’re that delicious! There’s something about growing your own food that makes it taste all the better.

We have a long way to go before we’re gentlemen farmers, but I think we’re well on our way. Happy harvesting, folks!

Images: This American House


Designer Produce: A Colorful New Take on Gardening



At first glance, this photo may look like beaded jewelry, a bracelet perhaps. But it’s actually corn. Yes, corn. As in corn on the cob! Have you ever seen such a beautiful vegetable? It’s just one of the gorgeous specimens in NPR’s blog post Gardeners’ Gems: Designer Crops That Will Wow The Neighbors.

The corn shown above is called Glass Gem Corn. And as beautiful as it is to look at, its story is equally awesome:

The story begins decades ago with Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer and breeder in Oklahoma who started crossing different Native American corns for beauty. He chose vibrant, translucent colors and eventually ended up with Glass Gem Corn. One of Barnes’ students, Greg Schoen, gifted the seeds to Native Seeds/SEARCH, a non-profit seed conservation group, in Tucson, Ariz.

We already have our potatoes in the ground but it’s not too late to plant some of the other designer produce that’s mentioned in the post. Maybe pineberries, the pineapple/strawberry hybrid that dates back to 1750’s Europe. I mean, why settle for plain ol’ strawberries when we could have the white and pink pineberries that were saved from extinction by Dutch strawberry breeder Hans De Jongh?

Check out the full post – Gardeners’ Gems: Designer Crops That Will Wow The Neighbors – on NPR.

Image: NPR

garden, how to, small town life

Grow Your Own: The Novice’s Guide to Planting Potatoes


How to Plant PotatoesAs a young boy in the Midwest, I was surrounded by skilled gardeners. I have a memory bank full of images of me standing in my grandfather’s garden as he reaped and sowed his way to a bountiful harvest. And, yet, I absorbed very little of that garden knowledge myself. I was always preoccupied with singing the latest Madonna tune and dreaming of my future as a famous celebrity correspondent for Entertainment Night to pay attention to what my grandpa was doing. Why the hell would I need to know how to farm?! I was going to go live in the city!

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