About 5 years ago when we decided to grow my first organic vegetable garden in our back yard. I watched my neighbors garden grow big and tall while I struggled to keep my vegetable plants alive and the weeds away. I had to remember to water, weed, fertilize, and harvest. We had a lot of waste whenever we decided to take a road trip or extended vacation with our young kids. I knew that there had to be a way to have have my cake and eat it too. So I sat down with my husband, a stack of gardening books and magazines, and devised a plan.
We came up with a system that has worked for us so well, that I simply have to share this with other parents who desire to grow an organic vegetable garden on their property while traveling with their family during the growing months. This is what we did:
- Location, location, location – find an area in your yard that gets at least 8 hours of sunlight.
- Whether you have great soil, or nasty clay like us it doesn’t matter when you erect a raised bed square foot garden using 2″ x 6″ planks and fill your square foot planters with rich organic soil or your own compost. Our planters are 4′ x 6′ each.
- Use Trex or other synthetic decking wood when you make your square foot planters. It will last for years even under the harshest weather conditions. The synthetic wood is more pricy, but you will save in the long run by not having to replace rotting wood.
- Loosen up that soil as best you can and then fill your planters with black, rich organic soil. If you compost, this will be a lot less expensive.
- We have three 75′ maple trees on our property and every fall, instead of raking and putting hundreds of bags full of leaves out for the trash; I now compost the leaves which make some of the best soil for our garden.
- If you raise chickens, put their chicken coop waste onto the garden beds. This makes a great fertilizer but be sure you let it sit in the planter beds for a couple of months before planting. You can also contact a stable for horse manure or if your city police department has mounted officers you may want to find out if the stable the horses are kept at gives away the manure.
- Cover your square foot planters in the winter, and they will be ready for planting in the early spring.
- If you live in an arid climate visit your local hardware store and purchase a water timer, and irrigation hose with drips (they have irrigation kits for beginners that I would highly recommend for getting started). Setup your irrigation system (you will want to take a little time to plan this out, but the system will last for years once it’s in place).
- Lay down weed guard fabric before planting to making gardening so easy you will feel like you are cheating when your garden is in full bloom. Cut out circles of the areas you plan to plant seeds or starter plants when the time is right).
- For your Tomato planter, lay down Red Mulch which helps promote strong healthy plants that yield more Tomatoes per plant as well as earlier harvests (up to 3 weeks earlier). Use Green Mulch for melons, cucumbers, squashes and peppers for the same results. It’s called mulch, but it is a plastic barrier that also prevents weeds so you are getting two great results for the price of one.
- Secure your irrigation drips over each circle cut out of the weed guard fabric so your garden is ready for planting. Not only will your garden thrive, but your water bill will be completely under control all summer since the drip system minimizes wasting water.
- Build your own green house by setting up rebar in each corner of each planter bed, then cut irrigation hose (about 10′) and slip each end over the rebar to create an arch.
- Cut some plastic to fit over the arches and use clips to secure the plastic in place. You now have a green house that will protect your plants from early frost, light hail and snow.
- Grow your seeds indoors starting in early February using a good quality seed starter kit with a plastic green house cover and self watering system, good quality organic seed starter soil, heat mats, and a grow light.
- Use good quality seeds (I purchase mine from Terrritorial Seeds.com who are located in Oregon they have a wide variety of seeds that are suitable for our climate here in Denver).
- When your plants are ready to transplant into the back yard, be sure to harden them first by taking them out doors for the day, then bringing them back in at night. Do this for a week to toughen them up, or your plants won’t survive the shock of the temperature change when planted outdoors.
- Use rain water to water your seeds and young plants for the best results. Rain water has not been stripped of all the nutrients and minerals that the plants need so they tend to flourish. Rain Collection Barrels can be purchased at your local hardware store, or online at Gardeners.com and simply hook up to your rain gutters to collect rain and snow melt. If collecting rain water is illegal in your State, find a lake, stream or pond to collect some buckets of water from for your seed growing.
- Occasionally, you will need to pull a few weeds that are trying to grow under the weed guard fabric. Simply pull them and admire the growth of your beautiful vegetable plants.
- Fertilize once a month to promote growth and fruits or vegetables.
- Use a trellis for melons, cucumbers, squashes and use a cage for tomatoes, peppers, egg plants, etc.
- Keep your planters covered with the plastic green house setup you have built, turn on your water timer set at 10 minutes every 6 or 12 hours, and just walk away while your plants grow. You can now take a trip, jump on an airplane and see the world. Be sure to come home during the harvest though for all that yummy fresh organic food.
Now you can have an incredible garden growing in your back yard all summer while you travel with your family. You will probably want to learn how to prepare, cook, grill, can, freeze, and dry your various vegetables, fruits and herbs for winter storage since your plants will produce so much food, but that’s another article!
Source by Linda Walsh