This Little Miggy Stayed Home: Summer Garden

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Summer Garden

I have killed a fair number of houseplants in my life. And for some reason the "so easy to keep alive" air plants are at the top of that list. What gives? However, lately I've been doing a lot better and I can report for a while now I've kept a fair number of houseplants alive. (I find that the sunlight issue seems to be the biggest problem for me. It's really important to have the right plant in the right space.) Despite my less than stellar houseplant record, gardening is in my blood... and frankly gardening is really different from house planting. And while my husband still has his doubts about my ability to grow and maintain a garden based off my houseplant record (so different!) I am very excited that we are finally going to have a real garden this summer

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? 


  1. I am planning to plant our first garden this summer as well! What kind of wood did you use for your beds? We've done container gardens the past few years in pots, but it is time to branch out into a bigger area. My kids especially love cherry tomatoes that they pick off the plants themselves.

    1. So we used cedar. Apparently it's good for garden beds because it doesn't rot easily. And yes I LOVE cherry tomatoes in general are just SO different from store bought tomatoes. I miss garden tomatoes the most!

  2. Worm bin!! I got mine at the county fair (!) and I love it. All veggie scraps go in there. But I'm in a small space (townhome patio) and if I had the space I'd just go for the traditional compost heap. But the worm bin is very, very easy... they essentially take care of themselves. It's not that pretty once it gets going and you open it up, but it does the job!

  3. i totally get the houseplants vs. gardening thing. i can't keep anything alive inside, but i do well with gardening. we made raised beds at all of our rentals in college and my husband got so sick of having to abandon them each time that he refused to build them at our most recent place. of course, we've been here four years (the longest we've ever stayed in one place), so this would have been the place to do it. but i've been doing pots on the patio with tomatoes at least, because i can't live without fresh tomatoes during the summer.

    good news, raised beds reduce the need for weeding significantly (at least in my experience). you usually just have to pull out the occasional weed that you notice while picking veggies.

    wish i could contribute with the composting questions, but i've never ventured into that, either.

  4. Yay for gardens! I love gardening of all sorts.
    As for composting, we do it, but I'm not even sure we're "good" at it. There are whole books just about composting that we haven't read, and the people that I know who HAVE read them have told me that pretty much we're doing everything wrong. Whatever. We have a metal bin under our sink and we add food waste to it. Then we compost paper sometimes. And grass clippings. Also, ash from our fire pit. We don't generally compost clippings from our roses or other bushes. Sometimes those are too woody and hard to work with.

    Best of luck! When you have stuff growing, I'd love to come by and talk to you all about it, see how it's going, all that! ... I should join a gardening club. Sheesh.

  5. I compost very casually in a large black bin I got from our city's water & power company (for free!). I'm no pro, but here's what I've learned: compost needs brown (like autumn leaves) to go with all the green, fresh stuff (veggie scraps, fresh cut grass, green leaves) if you want it to break down in a timely manner and not get too stinky. It helps if you can stir it occasionally, too. When my compost heap is healthy, worms get in there naturally (it sits directly on the ground). I've done vermiculture but it gets too hot here in the summer and inevitably the worms end up dying off so I've given up. Finally, compost attracts critters. It's worth it to have a completely closed up system.

  6. I want to be a good gardener, but I'm really just mediocre at it. :) I'm trying again this spring, and so far appear to be very good at growing green beans at least. I have a toddler and a baby, and it's fun to include them in the process. One thing I've done to let my 3 year old 'help' but not accidentally destroy anything is buy a bunch of fake flowers, cut to manageable size for her, and let her plant them in her own little area. She loves it, and it keeps her pretty occupied while I do the real gardening. We compost, too, in one of the large rolling bin types. I pretty much do it to keep organic matter out of the trash, since I haven't actually managed to make usable compost yet. Good luck with your garden!

  7. I keep a 5 gallon bucket with lid under the sink. Everything goes into it, except meat and cheese. Once a week, sometimes, twice, my son dumps it outside in a hole covered with plywood so dogs don't get in it. We leave it alone all winter and then starting in the spring we pour grass clippings on it and then more stuff from kitchen, alternating it. Next winter we start a new hole before snow comes. Rich black dirt is ready by fall, every fall. No, I don't stir it. Too hot and gross for me. By fall, it smells rich and earthy and heavenly. Love new black, wormy dirt.

  8. Anonymous6:29 PM

    I hear you on the air plants, I have killed so many of those things! Then it hit me one day in Home Depot- no one is watering them and they are alive... So I didn't water mine for several weeks, and it is doing great now. I give a spray every 2 weeks or so and that seems to do the trick. (Also its not in direct sunlight). Good luck!