Our 2012 Spring/Summer Garden Rocks our Faces Off!

14 Apr

Our garden turned from a small project last year into an all out hobby this year.  After the success we had last summer/fall with the peppers and with the kale, lettuce, and brussel sprouts over the winter, we decided to go all out for the summer garden.  We hope to have an abundance of tomatoes and peppers, as well as cucumbers, string beans, peas, radishes, onions, scallions, leeks, shallots, garlic, okra, beets,  potatoes, broccoli, eggplant, kohlrabi, strawberries, lots of different herbs, tomatillos, ground cherries and even peanuts!  All of these are in already and the kale and brussel sprouts from the winter garden are still in as well.  I went a little overboard.  Can you tell?  For a while in March, every time I went to the store I seem to come home with a new plant or five.

I started watching some videos on YouTube, mostly the Growing Your Greens channel, and it has inspired me to grow more and more.  I took some of his tips and ideas and incorporated them into our garden to maximize our space and yield.  Two things I took from him were his vertical gardening techniques and I started using some organic fertilizers he recommends.  The garden is flourishing!

You’d think with all of the variety I listed, our garden should be a city block wide.  Not so.  In fact, it’s only about 12×18 feet.  To do the vertical gardening, I took three 10’ x 4” PVC pipes and cut them in half and cut 2” holes around the sides.  Initially we filled the pipes with soil and then dug into the holes to plant seeds.  We learned the hard way and found this doesn’t work very well.  It took quite a while for the seeds to sprout and then soil would just fall out as we watered—no matter how much we compacted (or thought we compacted) the soil.  What worked better was to place starter plants in as we filled the tube up and packing the soil slightly around and over them.  This led to much less soil erosion.  The four inch diameter pipe seems to be working so far, but I would guess the 6” diameter would work better for some of the plants.  In the planters we have strawberries, herbs, edible flowers, broccoli, cayenne and jalapeno peppers, and some grape, cherry and Homestead tomatoes.

One of the biggest difference, I think, in the success of this year’s garden compared to all the gardens in the past, is the organic fertilizer.  This year we are using three types.  For the base, we are using organic compost (some ours and some we purchased locally).  The next two things are new ventures for us and are recommendations from Growing Your Greens.  They are Xtreme Gardening’s Mykos, a beneficial microbe supplement, and Azomite, an organic mineral supplement.  Both are organic additives and both have done wonders to our garden.  We have them on the majority of our plants this growing season.  However, they are both hard to locate in most garden stores.  I found them easiest on Amazon.

This year I got a little carried away with tomatoes.  I started some seeds back in early February and they took off well.  However, when I transplanted them they all died.  I think it was a combination of the plants still being a bit too small to transplant and the fact that it might not have been quite warm enough to survive outside.  I resorted to buying some Bonnie starts from Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes.  Initially I bought a Roma, Brandy Wine, BeefSteak, and Lemon Boy for the main garden.  I also bought a Tami G grape for the PVC planter and a 4 pack of Homestead, two of which are in pots and 2 are in the PVC as a trial.  I thought this was a great little variety for us.

A couple days later I bought a Cherokee Purple to add a little more variety.  On the same day, the neighbor asked if we wanted some of her extra starts.  I couldn’t say no.  From her I got a couple Mortgage lifters, another Cherokee Purple and 2 that are a mystery.  About a week later I decided 1 grape tomato plant wasn’t enough and bought a Husky Red Cherry and a Roma Grape and discovered 1 of the SuperSweet 100 Cherry seeds I started in the PVC actually sprouted.  I thought we were set!  Then a week later, I was in another garden store and found some new varieties.  I bought one last one for the main garden- a Green Zebra!  Needless to say we are going to have a great tomato harvest this year.  Tomato Salad, BLTs, Salsa, Tomato Sandwiches, Tomato Soup, Tomato Sauce…Yum!

Initially I thought I went overboard on the peppers too, but we use them so often that they definitely won’t go to waste.  We have 11 hot pepper plants.  6 jalapenos, 4 cayenne, and 1 pablano.  I love hot peppers!  I will pickle the jalapenos at least once and we will make fresh jalapeno poppers a few times too.  The cayenne may be a little overboard, but we will find something to make with them.  When we eat spicy peppers at least once a day, you can imagine the odd feeling we have in the off-season…paying for jalapeños?  Who does that?!

We planted other peppers as well.  We all love them—including the girls.  The sweet pepper plants we have aren’t in a minority—we have just as many.  11 plants and 7 different varieties stock our garden in total.  We have 4 green peppers, 2 red peppers, yellow, orange, lilac, chocolate, and a snacking pepper.  I can’t wait for July when these all really thrive.

We couldn’t be happier with the garden so far this year and we are very excited to see the results.   We will post picture updates as the season progresses.  The new obsession of mine has its place.  Yes, it costs money to start it up, but what you reap—pounds upon pounds of homegrown, organic goodness–well, it doesn’t get much better than that.  We’ll be purchasing a digital scale for the kitchen to keep a runny tally of what we harvest.  Well, minus all the nibbling we do when we’re out there—some of the goodness never makes it inside.

Just so you can see the difference of one week’s time in our garden, here are two still shots to compare–followed by a slideshow.

Garden 04/03/12

Garden 04/10/12

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


2 Responses to “Our 2012 Spring/Summer Garden Rocks our Faces Off!”

  1. Diane H April 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    Love your Garden! I started ours in the back yard aka sand pit. I’ve planted mine in pots thus far but I would like to make a raised bed. Our soil here is literally sand. I have 3 tomato plants, 3 cucumber, 3 red pepper, 3 green pepper, 2 strawberry, and jalapenos. I am thinking this weekend I may have to add to it after reading your post. I think I might try some lettuce variations and some swiss chard! I need to add to my herbs too, I have mint and basil in pots in my kitchen window. Keep posting pics as your garden grows. I would love to see the growth and progress! Keep up the awesome blog!

    P.S. The little red wagon peanut planter is super cute! What a great idea.

    Diane H.

    • mmeschmitz April 22, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks, Diane! We’re loving it too! And we actually found an awesome business yesterday at the Earthday Festival for more natural garden supplies–closer to our house than we’ve been going (or instead of ordering online)! I’m sure P will be there soon! Ha! I hope your plants grow well! I’m hoping ours still look good when we go out there later today after the storms we had last night! Oh, and I figured the girls hadn’t been using the wagon and I don’t like pulling it, so it might as well be useful!

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