Spring is in full swing and we’re finally planting our garden for the season. While we plant window boxes and an herb garden with everything from thyme, oregano, basil, lemon balm, and more, it’s our vegetable garden that takes the most work and today I’m sharing a big post about our 2018 garden and how we come up with what we plant.
We have a 16’x16′ raised garden bed that we built five years ago. Initially we used pallets to create the border, but upgraded to stones last year when the pallets were too rotten/stopped working as a border. After buying seeds our first year and failing miserably, we now buy our veggies from a local nursery who is only open from the end of April to the first or second week of June! They kill it, their plants are the best around, and their veggies are in line with our organic preferences.
To say we’ve had our fair share of trials and errors would be an understatement. And every year, we know something may do well and another thing will do poorly. Sometimes it’s our fault, and other times it’s just nature–too much or too little rain, cooler temps, or something else. Who knows! But, that’s gardening.
Growing our own veggies is essential in our home and helps us save a ton of money during the New England growing season. I’ll never forget a woman once remarked at how many vegetables were on the belt at the grocery store when I was checking out. Yes, vegetables have a leading role on our dinner plates most nights. But eating so many organic vegetables can be very expensive when we’re buying them at the grocery store year round.
I have fond memories of picking veggies in my grandparents’ garden growing up and eating them after wiping any dirt on my shirt. And Chris’s parents still grow a huge garden every year. So, starting our own garden–while a lot of work–isnatural. This means on top of participating in a local CSA where we get a full share, this year marks our 5th garden season and thankfully we have a pretty great plan. But how did we come up with this plan?
When planning our garden and picking what we’ll grow, we consider the following:
- What do we get a ton of in our local CSA share? And/or, what do they grow better than we do (either because they just do or they may have more space for a particular veggie)? We get a lot of all different vegetables from our local farm, some of which includes broccoli, cabbage, corn, and garlic. So we choose to fill our garden with other produce we may not get as much of in our weekly farm pick-up. Plus, they’re way better at growing some of these veggies than me. Or something like corn or potatoes would take up a lot of space that we can better use to grow something different.
- What can I buy for less money at the grocery store? I can literally buy 10 pounds of carrots for $10. So, I save the space carrots could take up in our garden and opt to buy them from the grocery store (plus we get some of the best carrots in our CSA share too!)
- What can I grow and freeze? We eat as organic as possible in our home, but year round, some organic veggies are very expensive. So, we plant 20 pepper plants. I opt to grow a ton of our own and freeze them either on their own to cook with later, or already cooked into recipes (who wants chili? My freezer is often full of it by football season in the fall!). We plant tons of zucchini for the same reason. Conventional zucchini is laden with pesticides (hello, dirty dozen item!) and organic zucchini is expensive, so we plant 6 plants and harvest all we can–either freezing it as is, or cooking it.
- What does our family really like to eat? Or not? Last year Isla loved picking fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, so I made sure I picked out 3 cherry tomato plants this year. I also got 3 larger sized tomato plants for salads, making sauce, etc. In the past we grew larger cucumbers, but I opted for the smaller pickling size this year because we love homemade pickles, and they’re easier for the girls to eat when reaching for a fresh snack.
Once you’ve figured our what you want to grow, it takes some practice to lay it all out and make everything fit. Truthfully, we overfill our garden. But I’ve never regreted it! We end up with so much of everything and nothing tastes better than fresh vegetables, literally picked minutes before dinner. We or the ducks eat it so I never feel wasteful. Eventually, I’d love to tackle growing things like sweet potatoes and onions. But for now, I think we have another great garden to look forward to!
Here’s what we put in our garden, and how we lay it out:
We normally need two trips to buy everything we need, but for about $150 we get all the veggies, herbs, and flowers we’ll need for the year. Seriously, you can’t beat that!
The first time I went solo with the girls and tandem wore them for the first time. My selfie attempt was a fail, but thankfully our trip was a success. So many people commented that I was a super mom, but honestly I just felt like a mom doing what she had to do. I was just so happy the girls behaved!
The second time we went, Chris joined and it was definitely easier. We both wore a baby.
And both times we bribed Isla with a donut treat if she behaved. Yes, I’m definitely not above bribery. With an almost 2 year old, it works. Our favorite donut shop is down the road from the nursery. Who doesn’t love an Elmo donut?
Once we have our veggies, they typically hang around until we have the time to plant them. This year we really waited to make sure the weather wouldn’t be freezing again.
Here’s a before photo of the garden, full of weeds (plus a cameo by a couple of our ducks):
And an after. We still have to place newspaper and shredded straw to block weeds, but we can’t wait until we can start harvesting some of these veggies in a few more weeks!
Tell me, do you have a garden? What do you plant? Happy spring all!