I spent my younger childhood years in western Nebraska where my grandpa grew a large garden every summer and I often 'helped' with watering, weeding and picking. Mostly, I just wanted to hang out with my grandpa, but I also learned a thing or two. I distinctly remember neighbors coming over with an armful of vegetables from their garden, and of course we would hand over an armful right back--ha! Having a garden was a part of life in small town Nebraska. My dad also grew up on a farm and so even when I spent my summers in Utah, there was always a garden...and thus always something to weed. And lets just admit right now that weeding is the WORST chore in the history of kids' chores and might as well be called "the best method for torturing tiny hands." Anyway, as I grew up and moved away from Nebraska we didn't have a garden and I wouldn't spend anytime near or working on a garden until many years later... in college.
I moved into a small house for a summer in Provo, Utah and ended up staying in this house for 3 years. There was a small plot of land in the back corner and I asked the landlady if anyone had ever had a garden there. She said some had tried, but not successfully. I decided to give it a shot. I spent a day digging up the weeds, overturning the dirt and digging out the rocks. Then I headed to the store for some top soil, seeds and a few starter plants for things like tomatoes. The back row I decided to grow some giant sunflowers just for fun. That first summer my garden was a huge success...fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, and yes 12 foot tall sunflowers. Too many cucumbers I remember...I changed them out for zucchini the next summer. I loved that garden and spent so much time out there watering it and tending it. I don't believe there was a more weedless garden in the history of gardens. No matter, I cranked up my stereo (The Shirelle's greatest hits were on high rotation back then) and would go outside tending to my watering and checking for weeds anyway. For the record my landlady was impressed and said it was the best garden anyone had ever planted back there.
Since being married we've grown some tomatoes plants and herbs like basil from time to time, but we haven't lived in a space long enough to really set up a garden. Finally, last weekend we made raised garden beds, and we just had soil and mulch (for other areas of our yard) delivered today. We are going to be building cages with more wood and chicken wire to completely cover the top as there are so many critters in this area, we don't want to chance our hard work going to waste as has happened with our tomatoes over the years.
The one thing that is going to be new for us is composting! I've never composted before but have wanted to for a really long time. I've started a little compost bucket out back and keep a bowl on the kitchen counter for easy disposal until I can get to the bucket. Right now we're currently weighing and researching our options. Initially I was steered toward a 3 bin compost system. But I realize that this may not be the best way to go for small batch composting and especially if you want to add to the pile continually. I like the idea of vermicomposting (worm composting) but from what I can tell you need to buy or specially make a plastic compost container with many layers and it seems like this may be a little too small.
Besides the personal connection I feel toward gardening I'm excited for my girls and our family to share in this experience as well. Just building the raised garden beds together was fun--I love working on projects together. Additionally, I can't wait for our girls to be part of the magic that is growing food in your backyard. I really took it for granted that as a child I was often sent out to the backyard to pick food for dinner. I also think having had a lot of fresh vegetables as a kid is one of the reasons I have always loved vegetables so much. I'm excited for my girls to participate in this process, see where their food comes from and hopefully feel a sense of joy from eating things we grew ourselves.
And if nothing else, the threat of weeding all summer long should keep their attitudes in check. Wink.
I would love to hear from experienced composers out there! What method do you use and why does it work well for your needs? Would you recommend one type or another for a compost newbie? Also, anyone else relate to the garden vs. houseplant dilemma? I can't be the only person who has successfully grown a garden, yet sometimes kills houseplants. Also, do you have a family garden? Do your kids like it? What's the best lesson or experience to come from keeping a family garden?