• Gardening 101
  • Gardening Withdrawl

    By my calculations, when all is said and done, it will be three summers that I will be unable to garden.  One reason I was looking forward to the teaching gig was summers off.  I could sit by a pool or toodle around in my garden.  That is proving to not be the case.

    Think about it.  Last summer was spent packing and moving and unpacking.  This summer will likely be spent undergoing chemo treatments.  Next summer will be recovery from reconstruction surgery.  Cancer is stupid.

    I bought this house mostly because of the kitchen.  The next reason was that it had a garden space I felt that I could make my own.  The existing garden here is horrible.  There are some redeeming factors in the back yard.  However, the front has 2.  There is a Wolf Eye Dogwood as a focal point and a plethora of lily-of-the-valley.  Oh, there’s a very large deciduous azalea as well.  Make that 3.  I hate the rest.

    Shortly after we moved in we began visiting nurseries in the area.  Our list of affordable options is quite limited.  The only “nursery” in Renton is a McLendon Hardware.  Surprisingly it has an incredible garden department so that is a bonus.  My go-to independent is Squak Mountain.  My favorite is Wells Medina.

    On our first visit to Wells Medina Derek began complimenting their planting areas.  He said he wanted our garden to have that kind of look.  He loved the colors and textures and lushness of all of it.

    I have to agree.  I loved the look.  There were a few plants in there that I didn’t care for, but I liked the mix of perennials and annuals.

    Then there came that day when we came home and there was a deer in my front yard eating the rose bush.  Then there was that bunny that ran across the street.  ANIMALS!!!  I didn’t have to deal with animals at the old house.  It was a luxury.

    Designing this garden was going to prove more difficult than originally anticipated.  I got to work researching deer resistant plants.  I started drawing.

    I am determined to have a plan with this garden.  The former one was more of a “collector’s garden.”  I had beds laid out, but would bring home plants and just plop them in.  It was beautiful, but very difficult to maintain.  This time around I am more deliberate with what I want.  I have a running list of plants I want for my garden.

    In addition to the garden at Wells Medina, I’ve taken inspiration from a section of the perennial border at the Bellevue Botanic Garden.  As an exercise in following a garden space for a year, I’ve taken my advanced students on a near monthly field trip to the garden.  Their job was to find a piece of the garden that spoke to them and then to write about it each month for the year.  I too selected a space.

    I’m not usually drawn to yellows and oranges, but I loved this space.  I’ve enjoyed watching its progress throughout the year.

    I have this inspiration and this drawing… I just don’t have the physical ability to create any of it.  It makes me very very sad.  My husband is wonderful.  He saw that I was struggling on Saturday.  I told him my frustrations.  I said I’d at least like to landscape the area around the mail box.  If I start in one section I can work my way around the garden.  He graciously said we could go get the plant for that section and he would plant them for me.

    Sunday afternoon he did just that.  I helped the best I could.  It involved me picking quarter sized weeds out of the ground and putting small rocks into a small nursery pot.  It was so nice to work outside.  However, I am paying dearly for it today.  I will admit I did too much yesterday, but not so much that I damaged anything.  My arms are painfully sore and sleep was incredibly uncomfortable last night.  If I had to do it all over again I totally would.  Only next time I would enlist the help of a few more people.

    Who want to come help shovel some compost?  I’ll buy you beer.

  • Elle's World
  • Who needs lemonade when your mom’s a horticulturist

    I’m going to mention that I wrote a post about a chicken coop here and then cross post this post there tomorrow.  I’m confused… are you?

    This year I thought I would take a chance and try growing my tomatoes from seed.  I tried it last year, but I started them in the unheated greenhouse late and my germination rate was a little lackluster.  I wanted to grow 10 different types of tomatoes (one of each color).  I purchased my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and planted them in February.  I didn’t want to do just one seed of each because what if it didn’t germinate.  So I planted at least 12 seeds of each (2 seeds in each cell of a 6 cell pack).  The majority of them germinated.  I’m not one to throw away seedlings so I potted up the best of what came up into 4″ containers once they were up to size.  They got moved into the greenhouse and then I potted up those into gallon sized containers once they were up to size.  In the end I came out with 42 tomato plants.  I only wanted 9 from what I grew (I had to buy a tomato plant since I couldn’t find seeds for that one).  That meant I had 33 tomato plants to unload.  Since my dear friend Rai has been watching Oleg this Spring she got to take home what she wanted.  I still had plants left.  I decided that we should try selling them.  The idea was to make extra money to go toward our chicken coop.  It would also be a good lesson for Oleg about business.

    Last Tuesday the weather was supposed to be quite nice so it was as good of time as any to sell some plants.  While he was at school I headed to the mega home improvement store to purchase some “marketing” material.  I bought 2 2’x2′ pieces of plywood and a large piece of wood-like material to make signs.  I painted the plywood with “Organic Heirloom Tomato Plants $5.00” and made it into a sandwich board.  When Oleg got home from school he was so excited to start selling “his” tomato plants.  He’s been saving his money to buy an iPod touch*.

    We walked the sandwich board up to the main street and came back to set up our shop.  On our walk we talked about the most important aspects of owning a business (marketing, customer service and merchandising).  Shortly after setting up our neighbor went by to get Oleg’s friend off of the bus.  On the way back he stopped and purchased 4 plants from us.  Oleg was $20 closer to his iPod and had a feeling of satisfaction.  His friend stayed for a while to help him sell plants and they sold another all by themselves.  She had to go home and I sent Oleg in to get a snack.  He came out of the house bent out of shape.  He claimed that there were no snacks.  Not true.  I sent him back in and out he came with a snack.

    I was cleaning up the front patio and came around the corner to find my child crying (there’s a shocker).  I asked him what was wrong and he said, “I’m having a very bad day,” in the most dramatic tone my child could muster.

    We had a conversation and it came out that he had expected people to flock to his little tomato stand.  I had to explain to him that’s not how it worked.  He was so sad that people wouldn’t want to buy his plants.  It broke my heart.  After a bit I got him calmed down and at that moment 3 people showed up to buy plants.  Of course they were more interested in talking to me, but they gave Oleg the money and he put it into his treasure box.

    His take for the day ended up being $55.  I sold 2 at a meeting I’d had that morning and the lady picked them up while we were at dinner.  I’m so proud of my little guy.  We still have a few plants to sell.  If the weather gets nice I might see if he wants to put up his stand again.

    I drew the sign in pencil and then he painted over it.  The little lunchbox is his “treasure box.”  And in true Oleg fashion his store had to have a flag.


    *Yes, I would allow my 6 year old to have his own iPod touch under the conditions that 1) he pays for it himself 2) he must follow all of my rules once he gets it (homework must be done first, it must be put away when told, there is no crying over it, he must purchase his own apps and it will be taken away for not showing nice behaviour toward his friends or family).

  • Elle's World
  • Autumn is in the air

    Thank you for all of your opinions.  I’ll let you know our decision once they come to live with us.  It is still a few weeks off yet.

    In the mean time you can have a few photos of some lovely October.  I’ve been busy in the garden and when that happens it reminds me how much I do so love my garden.  It is starting to look nice again.  We have one last area that needs an overhaul, but we are working to correct the issues (improve the soil) and that all should be taken care of by Spring.  The Winter vegetable garden is a bit hit and miss.  I made the choice to plant it in our oldest beds which was a bit of a mistake.  I should have given those beds a serious till and worked in cover crop.  They are tired and deserve a rest.  However, the new beds also need the cover since the “soil” in those gets depleted quickly.  The photos are not of the vegetable gardens (they are mostly bare patches of dirt) but rather (a portion of) our pumpkin harvest and the re-do on the front window boxes.

    I love Autumn.  I love the color, the smells and the fresh air feeling.  Yesterday I burned some of my favorite candles and made pumpkin muffins.  The house smelled so nice.

  • Elle's World
  • Funny thing happened when I checked my email

    Yesterday afternoon I was checking my email minding my own business… as I’m apt to do when I noticed an email with the subject line Pecha Kucha – Invitation to speak. ?If I weren’t an art geek I would totally think this was some other random spam mail offering to help me enlarge my penis. ?However, I am an art geek and I know what Pecha Kucha is.

    Around these parts it is something that happens every 2-3 months.

    Pecha Kucha is a group of people that get together to give presentations (often about a specific topic) in a “20×20” format. ?This means each presenter is allowed 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide to speak about it. ?6 minutes 40 seconds in all. ?It is a growing worldwide phenomenon with nearly 300 cities participating. ?It started in Tokyo 7 years ago and the first Tacoma PKN started last June. ?Check out their website to learn more about it.

    I’ve never been to a PKN, but I know about it. ?I’ve always wanted to go since it is an intriguing concept to me. ?Well on April 20th I’ll not only be able to watch, but participate (bites nails down to a nub). ?I was contacted by one of the organizers asking if I would like to be a presenter. ?They are holding the next PKN on Earth Day and the them is “eARTh.” ?Andy, the organizer, had read Sprouting Off and thought that I might be interested.

    I milled over the idea for most of the afternoon wondering what the heck I would talk for 6 minutes and 40 seconds about and then I agreed to do it. ?Now I have 3 days to come with a title for my presentation, 2ish weeks to compile 20 slides (my photographs) and a 6 minute and 40 second presentation on said slides. ?Holy hell.

    So I need some help interwebpeoplz. ?Like I said, the theme is “eARTh.” ?They contacted me because of Sprouting Off. ?So I’m thinking something along the lines of the changing food system in America, why I am covering over 1/2 of my lawn with vegetable garden, organic, good food, blah, blah and more blah. ?To be honest I don’t know. ?I have no direction here.

    Help me out… what should the title of the presentation be? ?They would like the word Earth to be in the title some how. ?Give me some ideas.

  • Elle's World
  • A weekend for the record books

    I have a whole crapload of work that I have to do between now and the 31st. ?So instead of sitting behind my computer and actually doing it, I took 4 days off and enjoyed myself. ?I’m certain I’ll regret that decision later this week, but looking back on it, I’m glad I did.

    I have a few photos, but am really too lazy to resize and edit them so you just get the verbal rundown.

    Friday was one of the trusty husband’s flex Fridays (he has every other Friday off during the summer). ?It was handy that it coincided with our monthly wine club night so he helped me clean the house and get ready for company. ?We spend Friday evening sipping Viognier with our friends and the weather was nice enough to start a fire in the back yard and have dessert. ?I love wine club nights

    Saturday was Salsa Day. ?I have been looking forward to this event for about 2 weeks. ?Windmill Gardens in Sumner hosts a salsa festival in the spring. ?One would think that it would be in the summer and you get to taste all kinds of delicious salsa. ?Nope. ?It is their big tomato and pepper sale. ?Complete with Mariachi band and Ciscoe Morris. ?Oh, and they had gallon heirloom and rare tomatoes and peppers for $3.99. ?We rounded out the remainder of out tomato and pepper collection with 7 new tomatoes and 6 peppers. ?We also picked up a few Thai Basil plants and 2 Mexican Orange shrubs. ?The remainder of the day was spent preparing the area the Mexican Orange shrubs (and a whole host of other plants) would live. ?Derek built me the first of 2 retaining walls and shoveled more dirt and rock than he did in his days as an Archaeologist. ?By the end of the night we washed about 20 tons of dirt off of us.

    Sunday we hosted a BBQ for our friends. ?Since we were tired from the day before we slept in causing us last minute issues with food and preparations. ?In the end we pulled it together and had a fantastic time in the sun. ?The children were none to happy with me because I kept shooing them outside. ?It was a nice day. ?Children should play outside when it’s sunny. ?We ended the evening in front of the fire with guitars and good music.

    Monday was back to the garden. ?We had one more retaining wall to build, but not bricks to build it with. ?Off to the mega home improvement store… they were out. ?Next mega home improvement store… doesn’t cary the kind we need. ?Mega grocery/everything store… bricks are $1.99 each as opposed to the $1.69 that we paid at the mega home improvement store. ?Third mega home improvement store… has the bricks. ?Only trouble is that I crack my head on a shelf loading the bricks onto a card and Derek smashes his finger. ?Now I’m down to one brain cell and he can’t flip people off. ?There could be worse things, although that last brain cell might get awfully lonely. ?In the end we finished the wall, shoveled and raked more dirt and installed an irrigation system for the area. ?We were on the go from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. ?We tried to watch a movie after the boy went to bed, but I kept falling asleep.

    We are all officially worn out, but can’t take a moment to rest. ?Not only do I have tons of work to do, I promised the child that we would plant flowers and go to the pool this week. ?Oy. ?Next weekend doesn’t look much better. ?Hockey, Point Defiance plant sale, 2 birthday parties and the dedication of the new addition to our church. ?I guess I could rest in September.

  • Gardening 101
  • Sprouting Off

    Last year I tried to create a regular feature on this blog about gardening.? Some readers were really excited about this project.? Sadly, I got distracted by writing about other things and it fell by the wayside.? Moreover, my gardening fell by the wayside.? I haven’t spent hours in the yard like I used to in 2 1/2 years.? I guess that’s what happens when you become a parent.? Yeah, we’ll blame the kid and not that I’m lazy.

    This year we (meaning me and I”m dragging the trusty husband along with me) decided that we were going to do something different with our lives.? Our goal is to lead more natural and healthy lives.? We started this last year by buying as much produce locally as possible.? We are continuing that, but also growing as much produce as possible too.

    I ordered a few new gardening books and once again I got that bug to spend more time outside than in.? I longed to get my hands dirty and stand in the sun with the hose in my hand watering my plants.? Problem is that I’m the type of person that needs motivation.? What a better way to motivate myself than to write about my experiences.? Even better would be if I had someone to share that with.? I proposed this idea to the trusty husband, but seeing as he is horribly overworked, coming home to work more wasn’t his idea of fun.? The next logical choice was my mother.? Lucky for me she agreed.? Acutally, this is going to turn out better working with her because, well… she and I need something to do together that won’t cause me to cut off her caffine supply.

    So we (mom and I) are starting a project called Sprouting Off.? It is a blog that brings you gardeing know-how in a way that even the newest gardener can understand.? We are going to talk about growing your own vegetables, how to properly prune your trees, tell you what books are the best, point you to the local farmer’s markets, take you on tours of garden centers and basically get you out into your yard.? I’m also going to chronicle our personal vegetable garden this year.? We are trying a new technique that I’m hoping will keep us in fresh veg all year long.

    If you’re looking for something that I’ve written and you can’t find it here, try Sprouting Off.? Odds are I’ll have somthing new.? Also, don’t be afraid to pose your gardening questions to us.? Just don’t ask us to design your yard over the internet.? But we’d be happy to tell you how to prune your roses or when to plant your broccoli.

  • Elle's World
  • Answers to Gardening Questions

    Evidently you guys didn’t have too much to say about gardening this week.? Of course you never do.? But for the amusement of those who did ask questions I’ll oblige.

    Next week I’ll get back to stories about the boy like how he chased the cat around the house asking her if she wanted bacon.

    A few weeks ago Jake asked: if I had suggestions on keeping rabbits out of her yard.

    Yes, yes I do, but you may not like it.? Rabbits are deterred by natural predators.? They are also animals with a heightened sense of smell.? That being said you could “place” a scent in your yard that simulates that of a natural predator.? In Kansas we used to send people over to the hunting department at Galyans across the street to purchase a product called Concentrated Fox Urine.? Why one would sell such a product is beyond me, but it makes a nice rabbit and deer deterrent.? However, if you are the frugal gardener and have males in your house you have your own “scent” built in.? Send your son or husband out into the yard to “mark their territory.”? It works.? Gross, but works.

    Rhonda asked: This new house has 7 flowerbeds. SEVEN. How in the world am I going to keep up with it? This is not exactly my strong area. OK, here?s my gardening question. My grass is trying to creep into my flowerbeds. In fact, there?s some areas that could be mowed already. How do I kill the grass without killing the flowers?

    The answer to the first part of the question is child labor a yard service.? If I had the money I would hire one myself, but I don’t so I do it myself and am currently drowning in a yard full of weeds.

    The second part of the question is not so easy.? I believe there is a product out there called Grass Be Gone.? However, I don’t condone the use of this product since it is not organic.? Nor do I condone the use of Round-Up, Casaron, or Weed-B-Gone.? I do suggest a citrus/clove mix that is organic and effective in killing annual weeds.? But it is a broad spectrum weed killer and will destroy the good plants too.? To get rid of grass the best thing is to pull it by hand (sorry) and then keep it under control.? Use edging to keep the grass out.? If you can find a product called Ryerson Steel Edging that is the best, but it is expensive and sooooo hard to find.? So hard that I can’t even find a good photo on the internet.? But it does exist.? Brick edging, concrete or even a non-ugly plastic will work too.? We manually edge with (currently) a shovel or our trimmer.? It’s manual and a pain, but I hate grass.

    Rhonda also asked: is it too late in the year to plant anything?

    Go to your local nurser (not a mega home improvements store or grocery) and look for vegetable starts.? You may still find gallon tomatoes, herbs or a few other things.? Herbs are probably your best bet and easiest to start with.? Especially if you’ve never edible gardened before.? Just stay away from Mint and Catmint (catnip).

    Lauri asked: how can I add color to my front beds?

    Again with the local nursery.? If it is a shadier area plants like impatiens or wax begonias are a good bet.? I am assuming it is since you mentioned Hostas.? If it sunny petunias, geraniums, million bells, marigolds or salvia will work.? For this year I would start with annuals (mentioned above) and next year find a few perennials.? Perennials bloom for a shorter time in the year, but are lower in maintenance (ie, you don’t have to replant them every year).? My entire garden is shrubs and perennials, except one area where I plant a few annuals.? I also do my window boxes and a few hanging baskets.

    Liv asked about greenhouses

    I would love a greenhouse personally.? It is worth it where I live.? I’m not as familiar with South East climates so I don’t know how helpful I can be.? I would stay away from a glass house.? This is the greenhouse I want.? They have automatic venting, come with tables, the company installs them and moves them if you move.? They have an upgrade policy and they are economical.? But they are in Tacoma so that won’t help you.? I found them at our Western WA State Fair.? State fairs are good place to find deals like this.? This particular company offers a discount if you order during fair time.? Greenhouses are a lot of work (cleaning and such), but can be very rewarding.

    Thanks for the questions.? I enjoyed it.? Now if you’ll pardon me I have to prepare myself for some chalk drawing.? I wasn’t planning on participating this week, but competition got the better of me and I came up with something fun to draw.? If you would like to vote for (me) any artist (me) you can vote (for me) here after 1:00 p.m. until midnight Pacific time.

  • Gardening 101
  • What to do with all those edibles

    I have very little time to whip out a post this morning.? I have to get the boy ready for school and get us both to the church soon.? But I promised a whole week of gardening so I’ll follow through.

    If you’ve ever vegetable gardened before you know it is a bit of trial by fire.? Some years you’ll get a ton and some years nothing.? Then there are some years it looks like you aren’t going to get anything and then half way through the season your zucchini plant starts churning out giant fruit that you can’t compost fast enough.? The question becomes how much to plant.

    The ideal answer would be no more than you can eat.? If only it were that easy.? Mainly because of the aforementioned viability issue.? So I thought I’d share how I figure out how much to plant.

    I start by picking the veg I’d like to grow and think we can eat.? This year I opted for peas, spinach, green beans, lettuce, carrots, beets, tomatoes, butternut squash and pumpkins.? This is in addition to the 4000 strawberry plants, rhubarb and currants we already have.? We also added 2 blueberry plants (but those won’t produce fruit this year).? I opted out of zucchini this year because we simply cannot eat it fast enough.? It grows too big too fast and I always have bug problems with it.? I am trying the pumpkins and squash because I’ve never done them before and thought the boy would enjoy them.

    Peas are easy.? Normally we can’t eat enough.? I do successive plantings to spread out the harvest.? In one 5’x10′ bed 3/4 is peas, the other 1/4 is spinach (which is nearly done).? When the spinach is done I’ll dig it up and put something else in.

    Carrots are another we can’t eat enough of.? I also can’t grow enough.? I don’t have the space.? I always over grow on tomatoes, but the boy and I eat those for snacks.

    But what happens to the stuff we can’t eat?? There are a few options.

    1) you can preserve it.? Freezing is the best, but you need space.? We have a stand up freezer and assuming the plug doesn’t fall out of the wall again anything freezable will be frozen.

    2) can it.? I typically only can jam.? I don’t own a pressure canner so I can only do certain things.? I plan to make my own salsa, and tomato sauces and purees.? Those can be hot water canned.

    3) give it away.? When we lived in that apartment without an outside the trusty husband would bring home bags of vegetables from a co-worker.? It was like our own little CSA share.? I loved it.? Now I give away extra stuff to people who will take it and for the most part they are happy.? They will be even happier to know that I didn’t plant zucchini and did plant extra peas.

    The best thing to do with all of those edibles is to eat it.? Vegetable stir-frys, giant salads, or just grazing in the garden.? You planted it for a reason.? Now enjoy it.

  • Gardening 101
  • Resources for the newbie

    I realized I come at this gardening thing with years of experience and a degree under my belt (now where did that diploma go?).? I also try to avoid telling people that I used to be a landscape designer.? Especially my neighbors.? Otherwise I get the constant harassment (from the lady across the street) to tell them what they should put here or there.? Oddly enough it isn’t just that easy.? Sure I can pull the botanical name of a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) out of the A-file and use them as party tricks, but to tell you what perennial will grow nicely in dry soil with little sunlight is a little tougher.? From my current vantage point answering that question requires me to look up and find the right book out of the over 60 I own on the subject of gardening.

    It’s true.? Like any good professional I have resources.? As a graphic artist I have a few books on programs I use and a whole host of web bookmarks.? Can’t live without my bookmarks.? As a horticulturalist I can’t live without my books.? I find the internet to be much less useful when it comes to growing plants.

    My arsenal of books is geared mostly toward the Pacific Northwest despite the fact that I started my horticulture career in the midwest.? This is because the majority of my books were school “text books.”? And some of my favorites are truly text book like, but for me the offer the type of information I am looking for.

    One such example is Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael A. Dirr.? However I don’t suggest anyone rush out and spend the $61.97 + $400 in shipping it takes to get that book.? It is a monster and not very practical.? But if you really want to know the leaf structure of a Horse Chestnut or the seed viability of a Ginko go right ahead.? A better choice might be a different book by Dirr, Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs.? Also not practical, but oohh look at the pretty pictures.

    I thought I would give you a peek at a few of my favorite, and actually useful books.? Some are better for those in the NW, but you get the idea.

    #1 all time favorite book on plants, with lists for growing situations, and a useful climate zone map is the Sunset Western Garden Book.? This is a must have if you live anywhere on the West Coast, Alaska or Hawaii.? I have 2 copies (1 old school and another when they did the first color update to it).? I’ve seen the newest version at Costco and must have it.? I just haven’t bought it yet.

    Other books I pull of the shelf on a regular basis are The Pacific Northwest Gardener’s Book of Lists, Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables, and The Green Thumb Garden Handbook.? The last is sadly out of print but you can still purchase it at used book stores or from Amazon used.? It is well worth it.

    A few book I recommend to people are a series put out by The American Horticulture Society.? Pruning & Training, Plant Propagation, Pests & Diseases, and The Encyclopedia of Gardening are all fantastic books.? The Encyclopedia is a great one for beginners.? AHS also publishes an Encyclopedia of Garden Plants that is similar to the Western Garden Book, but geared for the entire nation.

    I could go on and on with a complete list of the books I own, but that is a lot of linking and you’d get bored with book like Grower Talks on Retailing and Greenhouse Operation and Management.? Even better are books such as Nursery Management and the Handbook of Successful Ecological Lawn Care.? Books so dry and boring that even I wouldn’t read them.

    I hope this gives you a few new resources to kick start your garden.? Spend some time in the book store browsing the gardening section.? Look for the books that are tailored to your learning style and geared toward what you want to grow.? A good gardening book should be bookmarked, dog eared and dirty.

  • Gardening 101
  • The food life

    Since I declared this week the week of gardening posts I thought I’d fill you in on what’s growing in our side yard. That garden tour didn’t show you the best part of our yard… the back and side.

    The trusty husband and I have been married for 11 1/2 years. In that time we’ve moved 12 times. Most of those moves were to apartments. One apartment was without an actual outdoor space. No deck. The majority of those 11 1/2 years I have had some kind of plant or another growing on the deck. The first year was flowers and a wayward mint fiasco. One year we had a fantastic wrap around deck and I had hanging baskets, roses and a few tomato bushes. The last apartment we lived in with an outdoor space was so full of plants you couldn’t see out. That could be because I was finishing up school (with that horticulture degree) and I brought home plants from school and work on a daily basis.

    I vowed that when we finally owned our own home I was going to plant a vegetable garden. When that happened we had spent so much money renovating the inside and out there was little left to build raised beds or order the soil needed for such an endeavor. But, not to be defeated, I marked out two little plots in my side yard and started digging. I quickly ran into 4″ of gravel and other archaeological artifacts such as plastic bottles and carpet. Not to be deterred I rigged up a screen and screened out the gravel. I bought a few bags of compost and worked them in.

    That first garden was mediocre at best. I grew peas, green beans and lettuce. All tasted fantastic, but the soil was rocky and with little organic matter. However, my friends would come over and devour my peas and said they were the best thing they’d ever tasted. I also planted strawberries and an herb or two throughout other parts of my garden.

    Today my garden consists of 2 raised beds 5’x10′ and 2 raised beds 5’x5′. I plant all of my annual herbs in containers and have a plot on the corner with (hopefully) enough room for pumpkins and squash. I still have perennial herbs scattered throughout the garden, and I’ve added more berries (currants and blueberries) to the already growing strawberry patches.

    The goal is to expand my garden to a full 1000 square feet or more. With that amount of space I could feed my family fresh vegetables year round relatively easy. We have plans to till up the side yard on the other end of our house and the slope down to the street, but at the moment we run into the money issue again. And then comes a point where you begin to weigh the cost of growing compared to the cost of buying.

    In my opinion the cost of growing, although it may be more expensive, is insignificant. The satisfaction you get from walking out to your back yard and picking an ear of corn is beyond any trip to a farmers market or to some guy on the side of the road with a truck full of corn. Because I grew it. Can’t get any better than that.

    Don’t forget to submit your gardening questions for the end of the week.? Post them in the comments or email me at elle @ lifeofelle . com