Saturday, July 10, 2010

Vegetable Gardening

One part of becoming Self-Reliant is having a vegetable garden when possible. If you live in a condo or apartment you can plant container gardens. If you have a house with a yard in only takes a small space to grow some vegetables.

When our children were growing up we always had a vegetable garden and taught them how to plant and maintain the garden. They loved watching the things we planted grow and eating what they grew. The three pictures below are our first attempts a growing a garden. The third picture of our children with the corn is the year Jonathan planted the corn by himself. The corm grew higher than our neighbors garage wall. He was so proud of his corn!

The last few years we got away from planting a vegetable garden. This year we planted a garden once again. Heidi's two boys Bradley and Calvin came over to help. What fun they had planting the plants and seeds. It has been such a joy to watch the fruits of our labors and whenever we need vegetables to go out to our garden, pick them, prepare them and then eat them. We are freezing and canning the excess for the year. Living in California gives us the great opportunity to have a vegetable garden almost all year long, planting the vegetables that grow at different times.

Here are some photos of our garden this year. This year we planted tomatoes (different kinds), pole beans, red and yellow onions, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli and cantaloupe. We just planted pumpkins and will be planting peas, romaine lettuce, and carrots (again) in August.

Great gardening book:

I found a book years ago that I just love and is simple enough to follow when planting a garden. I have had much success with our vegetable garden following this book. You may be able to find it at the library or online. The name is "Garden Way's, Joy of "Gardening", by Dick Raymond (1982). It gives step by step instructions with great tips.

Preparing the garden area:

First decide what size garden you want and measure out the area. Dig up the area and remove all grass and weeds. Mix in a good vegetable fertilizer (I like Miracle Grow). Make sure your garden will get at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. Important tip: plant a few Marigolds around in your garden, the bugs do not like to smell of them.

Decide what you want to grow:

Make sure you leave enough room for each type of plant, some take more room than others to grow. Plant the tallest vegetables in the back if along a wall, like corn and tomatoes. Plant as instructed on the seed packets. Watering is important, keep the soil moist, do not let it dry out. If you soak your seeds over night they will sprout quicker. I find some vegetables are better to start as a plant that you can purchase at any home garden store. I use already grown plants for tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, white and red onions (buy bulbs) and cucumbers and this year I did cantaloupe. I planted seeds for the carrots, beans, peas, corn, zucchini, pumpkin, and green onions.

If you have a small garden you can grow a variety of different vegetables, but only a few plants of each kind.

Type of vegetable garden bed:

1. The best garden is a raised garden. I found Home Depot has a kit to build a raised garden, or you can go online and find instructions and the materials you will need. You can build it out of wood and I found one lady that built hers from cinder blocks.

2. Cinder Block Raised Garden--she first measured off the area, then dug up the grass. She laid down her first row of cinder blocks all around the outside area, then she hammered metal rods into the round through the cinder block wholes. You can have just one row or you can add a second row to make it higher. Make sure the metal rods are below the cinder blocks so someone does not get hurt. She added a second row, staggering them. When she was done putting on the second row she poured sand into each whole filling it to the top. Then she filled the area in with dirt almost to the top. She then added vegetable fertilizer and mixed it in. Her raised garden bed was ready to plant.

3. Flat garden bed (level with your yard)--I have always used this type but next year I hope to do a raised garden bed (the soil stays warmer allowing your vegetables to grow better, but it is important to keep the soil moist). I dig up the size of garden I want. Take out all the grass and weeds and add in a good vegetable fertilizer (I like Miracle Grow for Vegetable Gardens). Then I make my plan and plant the vegetable plants and seeds. For carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe and pumpkins seeds I make a raised row (carrots) and hills. I like pole beans because they take less space, you can grow a lot of beans this way. I take 5-6 dowels and tie them together at one end with twine, then I fan them out and hammer them into the ground (see photo of our garden above). Then I plant the pole bean seeds around each pole, about 4-5 seeds for each pole. They climb up the poles. Cantaloupe and pumpkins take a lot of room. Usually some of the other vegetables are done when it is time to plant the pumpkin seeds (plant late June to have by Halloween).


This is great for those of you who have limited space, live in an apartment or condo with a small patio area or a balcony.  Just need to make sure it gets enough sunlight, about 6-8 hours a day.  Limited space, you can plant several different types of vegetables listed below in one bag. 

How to prepare the bags and soil: This is a weed free way to grow lettuce, spinach, radishes and even green onions! Take a 2 cubic bag of potting soil (Miracle Grow is the best), rumple it around quite a bit to loosen the soil, poke quite a few holes in the back side for drainage, then lay the bag, with the holes down, on a smooth surface that will allow drainage and not get too hot. In the picture they are using metal saw horses with a wire grate on top, or you could use 2x4's with just a little space between them so the water can drain through. The saw horses allow you to reach your vegetables without having to bend over so much, they should be waist level. Then cut out the top, leaving about a 4 or 5 inches border all around as seen in the photo above.

Planting the seeds: Lightly rake through the soil to even it out and loosen it even more, then carefully and evenly sprinkle the seeds around. You can put the seeds (they are small) in an old spice bottle with large shaker holes, add some cornmeal, shake it all up to mix well and sprinkle them out of the bottle holes. The cornmeal allows you to see that you covered the soil evenly. If doing radishes or spinach, just make the lines the depth mentioned on the seed package, plant the seeds and cover appropriately. Do not bury them to deep or they will not germinate. Sprinkle just enough soil over the seeds and cornmeal to cover the seeds. Then spray mist them to water them.

Watering: Spray mist the seeds and plantings at first when watering, until they are established, then you can water more vigorously as the plants mature. You will probably need to water more often, since the depth of the bags are not as deep as a regular in-ground garden. Keep them moist, not sopping yet.

Harvesting:  When harvesting the lettuce and spinach all you need to do is use scissors and cut what you need--magically they will grow back. You do not have to pull out the whole plant. The radishes and green onions you will pull out when mature.

5. Love this idea too...Here is another way to grow a salad garden or herbs without using yard space. These are rain gutters attached to the garage wall. Drill holes in the bottom of the rain gutters for drainage before attaching to the wall. Fill will potting soil, plant the seeds (lettuces, radishes, green onions, spinach, etc. and herbs). At first spray mist to keep damp but not sopping. Once they germinate you can water a little harder.

Tips on Drought Gardening...

For those of us living in drought areas with a vegetable gardens this may be very important information. I am  a little concerned about my vegetable garden this year and if the county calls "water rationing" again.  Would my vegetable garden receive enough water to flourish? California vegetable gardeners are being advised to start planting their vegetables gardens now and not wait until April due to the extreme hot dry weather we are having. Click here and  here to read articles about ideas on drought gardening.

Weeding and Fertilizing:

It is important to keep the weeds out of your garden. Fertilizing is also important. I use the Miracle Grow Vegetable spray fertilizer, I find it works great. Watch for insects--the Marigold flowers really help with this as mentioned above. If you do get insects contact a gardening store as how to handle them. Armstrong Gardening on Crenshaw in Torrance is great for help in this matter. Home Depot and Lowe's Gardening department can also be helpful.


Each seed packet or gardening book will tell you how long it will take when the vegetables you planted will be ready for harvest. Zucchini goes all summer long and continues to grow new blooms. Tomatoes will ripen at different times, remove as they ripen to avoid birds and insects eating them.

Next years vegetable garden:

Make sure you rotate where you planted your vegetables this to a different place in the garden next year. That way they do not take all nutrients out of the soil

Freezing and Canning your vegetables:
Once you have harvested your vegetables it is best if you can eat them right away (when the freshest), freeze or can them. Freezing: If you freeze them you can either freeze them in two ways: 1) cut up into pieces (zucchini is best sliced) and freeze them in freezer plastic zip lock bags for up to 4 months (make sure you put the date on the bag) or you can blanch them and freeze them for up to 12 months. To blanch, cut into pieces, boil in water for 3-4 minutes, then put in icy cold water for 4 minutes to stop the cooking progress, let drain and cool, then freeze. Canning: If canning them following canning procedures for each kind of vegetable. You can find this online or in canning books.

Container Gardening:

If you have a small yard or live in an apartment or condo with little or no ground to garden in you can grow some vegetables in containers (large round or oblong pots or window boxes made of plastic, ceramic, wood). Spreading vegetables like zucchini, pumpkin, cucumbers and cantaloupe may not work well. You can try pumpkins, cantaloupe and cucumbers but they will need lots of room to spread out their vines. Tomatoes, onions, green onions, bell peppers, carrots and broccoli will work well. There are several great online sites showing you how to do this. Just put in Contain Gardening Vegetables in Google and check out the several sites there.

Involve your family and make it fun!

Our children loved planting a garden and watching the success of their efforts. It also important to teach them how to care for the garden (weeding and fertilizing). Also involve them in the freezing and canning progress. If you grow pumpkins and when the pumpkins are small, carve their names in them and as the pumpkins grew their name will get bigger, children love this.

I will be happy to help you plan and plant a vegetable garden. The best time to plant most vegetables is in March-April. Some can be planted in June-August.

Updated 03/2014

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures! I can't believe that all of your kids have children of their own !!!

    Alexia Saunders