(Somebody at my house put these eyes on our harvest one summer and left them out for everyone to see.)
When I posted on my February ProActive Pursuit last week, I showed you pictures of the garden we built last year. My contractor, and then my husband kept joking, “Wow, these sure are going to be expensive tomatoes!” You betcha baby! I have had enough of too much weeding, compacted soil with lower boxes by kids stepping on them and the sunniest spot was this south side of our lot in the front, so it had to be beautiful as well as productive. As you will see in the photo below, deer love our plants so the fence was also essential.
This garden is the 4th generation of our attempts to grow a vegetable garden. Our first vegetable garden was in Spring City, Utah in 1995, where we lived for a year. We had bought a condemned historic home that needed a ton of work and we were slowly bringing the yard back to life. When we finally had picked a spot for the garden and were trying to figure it out, I asked Craig, “How can we be 7th generation Mormons and not know how to plant a garden?” After taking 25 loads of garbage to the dump, we cleared a space in the back yard, dug out all the grass and planted our first vegetable garden. The grass came back with a vengeance and we weeded so much that first year, it was overwhelming. By the end of the summer the garden was overcome and choked with grass despite our best efforts. It was still worth it for my children. They were so excited as seeds turned into little green shoots and then plants they could recognize. I had read that I needed to thin out the carrots and when I explained to 7-year-old Ross that it would help the others grow stronger he begged me, with tears in his eyes, not to– “Don’t Mom! Don’t!” I couldn’t feel like a murderer of carrots to my son and I let them be. Later, on another day, Ross told me with shining eyes, “When you lean down, and get really close, you can hear the plants singing.” That little sentence showed me the magic and power of gardening with children. It spurred me on.
The 2nd generation garden was when we moved back to Provo in 1996 and I had a handyman build grow boxes out of 1 foot high boards. He said cedar was the wood of choice because it repelled bugs. We had two of those—4×8–and then a third one up against the house where we planted 2 kinds of grapes. This garden was more functional and not very exciting, but the weeding greatly improved. The grapes produced after 3 years but we had to protect them from the birds. The harvest was puny and not worth the space we had given the grape vines. We also tried square foot gardening, which also was a good experience but not so amazing I would do it again. This garden taught me that building grow boxes was worth it.
The 3rd Generation vegetable garden, above, was when my daughter Nikki gave me two grow boxes for Mother’s Day that were 4×4 and 1 foot high. She bought the boards and we built them together. That was fun and the weeding went way down as well. These beds produced more than are others because they got more sun. This garden plot taught me how important sun was for a successful vegetable garden. I also learned that in my neighborhood you need to fence the garden!
I hope to have this current garden for the rest of my life. We moved 4 years ago, in 2014, just down the street from our old house that we bought in 1996. Craig insisted on the higher boxes and they have been a dream for our backs. We got organic soil to further minimize weeds and because the boxes are higher there is no danger of people stepping on the dirt—a problem with our first three generations of gardens. Non-compacted soil is ideal because it lets air breath and circulate around the plants. This picture below shows the fence I found online, in the classifieds.
Because I am loosey-goosey in my gardening methods, I never knew what hardiness zone we lived in. That means you can’t plant certain plants outside in Utah and have them do well. Hardiness Zones also teach about frost-free dates and when it is safe to plant the plants that will survive in your zone. For instance, orchids wouldn’t do well here outside because they are a tropical plant. So in making a garden plan, hardiness is the first thing you should check on. One site said:
“Plant zones range from 1 (plants that will tolerate temperatures minus 50 degrees F) to 11 (plants that will tolerate temperatures 40 degrees F and above), according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map at http://www.usna.usda.gov.
Utah’s zones range from 4 in the northeast to 8 in the southwest. Salt Lake City and environs are safe with Zone 5 plants and lower. Some areas can grow Zone 6 and 7 plants and lower.”1
So as I make up my gardening plan, I will search under Zone 5 for the best results.
I searched a few sites online and then stopped at Cook’s Greenhouse in Orem for more answers. What I wanted to know is what I could plant in March and should I start some seeds indoors? I got my answers. The guy said to I could plant indoors but if I waited a few weeks I could just plant outside, which sounds much easier to me. Here is a list for hardy plants that I can plant that could take a winter storm if need be:
I will plant Broccoli, kohlrabi—I have never heard of this vegetable, it’s a cousin to the cabbage—peas, and spinach in my first planting in the middle of March. I used up valuable real estate, almost one whole box on beets and they were puny and disappointing. I am much more conscious after that experiment what we will eat a lot of and I am excited to try the kohlrabi. This is what one reviewer said about it on Allrecipes:
“Kohlrabi is a vegetable that reminds me of a potato crossed with an artichoke heart. I roast it with garlic and Parmesan cheese.”
My 2nd wave of planting in the middle of April will be cauliflower, lettuce, and swiss chard. My 3rd wave of planting, May 1st will be: corn, cucumber, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, egg-plant.
Anything I can buy cheaply, I won’t grow–organic carrots are 5.00 for a 5 lb. bag at Costco so I won’t be planting carrots. I also feel that way about potatoes and onions. Asparagus is somewhat complicated to grow. Every year is an experiment and I learn more and get better at it. What have been your best tips from growing a garden?