Since we are all at home more and going to the grocery store is kind of a pain right now the idea of gardening may sound appealing. We have been growing a garden since we moved into our house 8 years ago. I have learned a lot through trial and error. We are not experts by any means but we have enjoyed learning about gardening. Now my kids are getting to help and it has turned into something we do as a family.
I took a poll and gathered the most common questions I received. If there is something else you would like to know please leave a comment below and I will be happy to answer it.
Why I prefer raised beds:
The first year we had a garden we tilled up the ground in the middle of our side yard. It was terrible. We had a ton of weeds, it got too much sun (morning and afternoon), and rabbits enjoyed it more than we did. We switched to a raised garden bed and have had much better luck. We still struggle with managing the weeds but I find the beds make it easier to work in.
We have 2 sizes for our beds. 3 beds are 4’x8’x16” and our newest ones are 4’x4”x10” (I like this size much better).
To build a 4’x4’ raised bed:
2 – 8’x10”x2” pieces of treated lumber (cut in half)
1 – 2’x 2’ piece of treated lumber (cut into 4 8” pieces)
16 – screws
14 – bags of topsoil
2 – bags of compost
1 bag of potting soil or gardening soil
I recommend assembling your beds on a flat surface like your garage then moving them to your yard, it makes getting everything straight much easier. Use the 2x2s in the corner to secure the corners and make your beds more sturdy.
We have bought some really bad dirt and we have bought some really good dirt. We have had good luck with purchasing bags of topsoil from our local hardware store. I can’t remember where we bought our first batch of dirt but it was awful so I have been adding compost and topsoil and it has made a huge difference in the growths for our plants. So you can redeem your garden beds if you don’t have good dirt in them.
Every year you will want to add some compost to your beds to add nutrients and replenish what may have washed away or the rain will pack it down. You can also add garden soil. I very rarely add it. Compost seems to work well for ours.
I do not use organic dirt. It is just a personal preference. It is completely up to you in what you want to spend. I do not spray our plants either with pesticides or fertilizers. I plant them and hope for the best.
Since I don’t spray we get lots of weeds. The only thing I have found that helps with keeping your plants far enough apart to run your garden hoe between the plants and then pull the ones that are close to the plants. I would love to hear your tips on this one in the comments.
Sun & Shade:
When you purchase your plants it will let you know how much sun the plant requires. Most garden plants need full sun. My raised beds sit on the back of our property so it gets day and afternoon sun. Moving it back allows it to get some shade in the evening. If you are looking to put in a raised garden bed watch to see how much sun your garden would receive. I would suggest your garden getting at least 6 hours of sun each day.
I have tried most of my plants in different places in the garden to see how they do. I have one bed that gets more shade than the others and not had a lot of luck growing much in it besides herbs. Those seem to handle the shade better. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your garden.
Seeds versus plants:
We started out buying plants and they did great, but that was getting expensive as we expanded our garden. Then we tried starting seeds in the house and it was a disaster. Now we put the seeds straight in the ground and have good luck, once we learned not to bury the seeds very deep (like the package says haha). I usually wait until the end of April to put my seeds in the ground to make sure we don’t have any more cold snaps. The only downfall with putting seeds in the ground is my vegetables come in a little later than when I use plants. I usually have vegetables into October though. I also plant a few extra in case they don’t all grow. I pull up the smallest plants once I see which ones are growing well to keep from overcrowding.
What I grow in my garden:
Early Spring Veggies:
Lettuce: This is the easiest plant to grow. I leave it in the garden until we need it. I cut what we need for the meal.
Onions: Again a very easy plant. We just pull them when we need them
Peas: I learned that I have to put out the whole bag of seeds or we didn’t have enough for a meal.
3 kinds of tomatoes: Cherry, Roma, and a Beefsteak. I put mine in the back because they grow very tall and I don’t want them to block other plants from getting sun. I also put them in my bed that gets the most sunlight. My dad says you are supposed to snap the tops off to keep them from getting too top-heavy and lets them get full. It makes me nervous, so I let him handles that.
Cucumbers: I have had the best luck with them when I let them grow up a trellis.
Bell Peppers: I plant a couple of these plants because we go through a lot of peppers and feel like with one plant I would only get 1 pepper a week.
Green Beans: I get the bush plant so I don’t have to worry about a trellis. Also like the peas, I put out the whole bag of seeds so we have enough for a meal. Otherwise, I was collecting the beans for days in hopes to have enough for dinner.
Jalapeños: These also produce a ton in late summer. I end up having to make Jalapeño jam to use them all.
Squash: This plant takes up a ton of room so you want to plan it beside something that is growing up a trellis-like cucumber or a pepper plant since they are small.
Okra: get the kind without spikes. You have to keep a close eye on okra because you don’t want it to get very big or they are tough. This is another plant that has grown very well for us and likes lots of sun. I moved it to a shadier place one year and it did not do as well.
Herbs: Some of my herbs have lasted a few years like sage, parsley, oregano, and thyme. Each year I replant basil and rosemary. I do buy these in plant form. I can’t get them to grow from seeds for some reason. I also have mint in a planter to keep it from spreading.
What I cannot get to grow:
Cilantro: for some reason, I cannot get cilantro to grow. I may need to try it again.
Carrots: I either have not planted them in the right depth or early enough. I am not sure.
Broccoli: It grew up never fully developed. Again I may have planted it I too late.
Brussel Sprouts: These also grew but did not produce anything. I may need to start them earlier, I didn’t realize they take so long to grow.
Comment below with any gardening tips you may have. I am constantly learning about gardening and love to hear what has worked for you.