Nicole and I had been wanting to start a garden in the summer since shortly after we had our first daughter, but last year we made it happen!
We decided to start small as we knew there was going to be a bit of a learning curve to almost every aspect of it since we were new to the game.
We decided to just go with three 4′ square boxes. I used 2×6 material for the box frames.
We found a book called ‘Square Foot Gardening’ by Mel Bartholomew. We read through the book and decided to give his methodology a shot. I ripped some 2×4 material on the table saw to make some slat materials to use as the spacing dividers.
Once we had our beds set up, our seeds and plant starts on hand, we were ready to plant! The kids were lots of ‘help’ and made sure we had good ‘dirt dispersion’ everywhere. Planting day was lots of fun!
On two of the raised beds we went with 16 one foot square sections, while on the third bed we just made it into four equal quadrants. We had looked into what starts we would buy from the greenhouse and what seeds we were going to plant and having more of the one foot sections made sense. Plants like zucchini require more space to thrive and we utilized the larger spaces for plants such as that.
I knew we needed some sort of covering for the beds but didn’t have the material on-hand right away. Sure enough, we had visitors and had to temporarily protect our freshly planted greens.
The book covers a few different variations on how to cover your beds and I opted to go with the 1/2″ PVC pipe covered with visqueen. In the early months of gardening, the visqueen can help trap some heat for the plants that like it a bit warmer, but I was given advice to uncover them during the heat of the day as many of our choices preferred a bit cooler temperatures.
A few weeks into the project, we started to see some pretty tangible results. We utilized a small garden trellis to give something for our snap peas to grow up on.
The lettuce truly thrived for most of the summer. It was almost growing faster than we could eat it. A bowl of fresh salad greens accompanied our dinner nightly and we had to share the wealth with a neighbor at times as well!
Near the end of September we took the last out of the garden. We probably could have left the potatoes for a bit longer to increase in size some more, but the lionshare of what we harvested at the end was 13 pounds of potatoes, a handful of carrots, a small zucchini. Of course this doesn’t include our summer long harvest of lettuce.
This coming year, we plan on doing things much differently. For the relatively small space that we had to work with, we had too much variety. I think we tried
I think the biggest failure that we had was the tomatoes. I say that because of what we gained from them, which was pretty much nothing. We had a few green tomatoes that never ripened, but the plants themselves were HUGE! They were big to the point that they were choking out some of our other plants, and truthfully, they belong in a greenhouse to really grow successfully. This year we are planning on planting lots of potatoes, more lettuce, carrots and a few other leafy green choices.
Regardless of how much space you have or how much you don’t think you can do it, we recommend giving a small garden a chance! It’s rewarding to see what you can grow in your own backyard (or if you don’t have a backyard, grow a few plants on a balcony). Kids don’t care how terribly successful the garden is, they just like to see a bit of progress and enjoy being a part of the action. We learned a ton from doing this project and plan continue to bring fresh vegetables to our dinner table. It didn’t cost us very much to get started and once you get the hang of what works for you and what doesn’t you could have a fairly good ‘crop’ of whatever you prefer for a very small investment of time and money! Give it a shot!