Tuesday, March 13, 2012

make yourself useful and...

start planning your garden.
spring is here. i know it is. it doesn't say so on the calendar, but it's like 70 degrees out and they've started to send seed and garden catalogs. oh, and every store is selling bathing suits and flip flops. we usually start some of our seeds this weekend (St. Patrick's Day, for all you non-Irish) every year, and this year will be no different.
so what are you waiting for? start planning your garden TODAY.
if you've never had a garden, i'm talking especially to you. (if you have, you'll know what i'm talking about already.) there are literally hundreds of reasons to keep a garden, but for me, it boils down to about 3 really big ones.
  1. you'll know where your food is coming from. with all the GMO's and pesticides and other assorted gross things that your food can be/come in contact with, it's more important than ever to know about your food. this could include buying local and/or organic or just from people and companies you trust, making more things yourself at home, and yes, planting a garden. you'll know exactly what goes in and what comes out, because you'll be the one in control. that is a rarity these days, folks.
  2. you can get some sun and some exercise. depending on the size of your garden, you may get a lot of exercise. stooping, weeding, picking, pruning, squatting, and digging is a lot of hard work. like, skip the treadmill hard.
  3. you can save some serious dough. have you ever bought a little package of fresh basil in the supermarket? you can buy like 3 basil plants for that same price and have it all season long. and that is just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. i make "gourmet" local, organic sauce that would cost $5-$7 bucks a jar at the supermarket or farmer's market. then i use it or freeze it to thaw out later on and make my house smell like the summer in february. you can't put a price on that.
so make a list of what you need to start a little garden. if you think you don't have the room, you're lying to yourself. all you need is a window. sure, a windowbox is better, a patio or balcony is better still, and a yard? well then you're a lucky duck. because you can grow enough food in a little plot in the yard to save you hundreds of bucks and keep you and another person in fresh salsa (or salads) throughout the summer. when i started gardening, i had a total black thumb. my husband (who was then my boyfriend) built me a windowbox full of fun herbs...rosemary and lemonbalm and maybe catnip for my cats. i killed it within a week and a half, and hubs was super disappointed (his family has always kept a large garden). but eventually i learned what plants were the easiest to keep alive/hardest to kill, and started off small. things like mint take over everything and are super hard to kill, so they may be easiest to start with.
anyway, my point is i started out terrible at gardening, and now as a couple we win a few blue ribbons at the state fair for our produce every year. it's not as hard as it seems.
so besides the space, what else do you need to start? seeds or small plants, which can be had from any discount, dollar, hardware, or garden store or through a number of reputable websites and catalogs, and a small seed starting kit (ditto), plus some seed starting mix or potting soil. oh, and gloves, if you've got nice nails (i don't). you can grab some basic tools (such as trowels, watering cans, etc.) for about a buck a piece at any dollar store or you can use stuff you've already got around the house (or you could go for broke and buy good ones, if you know you'll use them). then just decide what you want to plant and get to work. read the back of the seed packet to see what the proper conditions for the plant should be (full-or partial sunlight, for example, or how frequently to water), and a little research on the internet or in a gardening book about the plant in question couldn't hurt. a little time planning can save you hours of grief later.
in smaller gardens, you may just want to plant what you can fit. herbs are especially good for small spaces, as well as some kinds of lettuce. if you have a bigger space where you can fit a few pots, try tomatoes, strawberries, bell or hot peppers, or "bush" varieties of cucumbers or beans. with much larger spaces, you can use your imagination and try planting almost anything that grows in your area. we recently added onto our garden and began planting more root vegetables, corn, sunflowers, and asparagus than we could before.

anyway, here's a few links to get your research started (or you could just look at the pictures and long for spring. your choice.):
GRIT is a magazine that is full of "rural American know-how" but has immensely helped this subarbanite (who btw lives on 1/10 of an acre) learn about gardening, composting, and cooking, among other things.
herbkits.com may sound a little sketchy, but they sell very space-efficient stacking planters in which you can grow several different things at once.
hgtv actually has a pretty useful site that covers topics like container gardens and raised bed gardens, among other things.

so get outside and get moving.

also, i know it's not monday. it's thursday. oops.Linksorry.

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