Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Project Green Thumb

Since moving to the farm late last summer, I decided that this year I was going to grow a vegetable garden.  After all, what farm is not complete without a garden?

That and I am starting to get irrigated irritated eating iceberg lettuce at every meal because it is the only affordable option at the grocery store.

But before we get into what my gardening plans are, I need to be very honest here:
I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.

The only experience I have in growing plants of any kind are some flowers that my mom, sister and I would purchase each year at Bachman’s and plant in the brick planters leading up the steps to our front door.  Typically my dad would take over most of the watering duties after my sister and I got lazy lost interest towards the end of summer – it was hot and there were bugs.

Later in life, I had some potted plants in our apartment that I had purchased from Ikea, but all of those were disposed of once we had Charlie since crawling babies and potting soil indoors aren’t a good combination.  Oh, and one of the floating shelves in our office that held some of the smaller plants tore off the wall since I failed to find an appropriate stud and crashed down onto Travis’s computer.  He was really happy about that.

I have no experience what-so-ever as far as growing plants for consumption.  I also have no experience planting directly into the ground.  Thankfully, I will be able to ask Travis’s grandmas, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and nieces for advice whenever I need it as they all of experience in vegetable gardening.  I also checked out a few books from the library as to completely overwhelm myself with the different techniques and terminology.

I was able to gather from my reading that the farm is located in Zone 4a, which has a minimum temperature of -30 to -25 degrees F (otherwise known as freezing your "assets" off).  However, we are very close to Zone 3b, which has a minimum temperature of -35 to -30 degrees F (you have lost all feeling in your limbs and are entering hypothermia).

The farm has had a garden in the past.  Just a couple of years ago my sister-in-law had a garden there, but it has since been re-seeded with grass.  Our garden will be in the same location, as it gets full sun and has a spigot nearby.  It happens to be where the original farmhouse stood before it was torn down in 2001.  All that remains is a single car garage which houses an old cop car that Travis drove in high school.

I don’t have any pictures of the area, but that is not too important since it is currently covered in snow.  During non-winter months, it is basically a flat grassy area with a shelter belt (mature woods) to the north, some grain bins and trees to the far west, the small garage and gravel driveway to the south, and our house to the far east.

I have no idea what size we are going to make the garden.  I don’t want to make it too big so that it is impossible for a beginner like me to keep up, but I don’t want to make it to small either since we have a lot of mouths to feed!  And don’t even get my brain spinning on whether we are going to go organic or not…

After all, what could possibly go wrong???  I have two full-time “helpers” for the job.

Charlie is already a professional at digging in the dirt.

And Levi has mastered using the watering can.

Right now I am just going to focus on picking out what we are going to grow and order the seeds.  I figure we can plan everything else from there.

Here is the list of vegetable seeds that I am considering purchasing: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, chard (no idea what it is, but I hear it’s easy), cucumbers, green beans (bush), lettuce (a blend, not iceberg), onions (red and yellow), snap peas, spinach, and summer squash.

I think I am going to purchase tomatoes (cherry and regular…whatever regular is) and some bell peppers in plant form since the idea of growing seedlings in our house with two curious boys playing in the same room makes my eyes twitch.

I also will be purchasing some herb seeds: basil, dill, parsley and oregano.  And to really put myself out there I am considering watermelon and cantaloupe, but I am drawing the line with any sort of berries at this point.

I am planning to put in an order for the seeds within the next week, so if you have any recommendations on any others that I should add to my list (or maybe take off), I’m all ears.  Also, if you have an affordable company that you purchase from and have had success with, let me know!



  1. you need to grow corn dana :)

    1. We already grow a couple hundred acres of that. I realize that there is a difference between the corn in the field and sweet corn...we'll put it on the "maybe" list.

  2. We grew corn one year and it took up lots of space for not much payoff since the outside rows dont produce much. But you have more space than we probably do! We always buy tomatoes and peppers as plants, usually from a local greenhouse. We usually do a couple different types of tomatoes. Ben's the expert but I want to say we've had good luck with Early Girl. Make sure you prune them occasionally- we didn't last year and ended up with a tomato jungle.

    Carrots are fool proof if you remember to thin them out per the directions. Not doing that has backfired on me! With green beans make sure during harvest time you pick them every day or two- the get too big fast!

    We have gotten onions and potatoes just at the grocery store and I don't know seed brands... We usually get from Ben's dad or whatever big box store we are near!

    If you haven't tilled yet, I would consider doing several smaller square plots and leaving grass between for ease of access when/if there is a rainy period. We don't have that but I know people who do and I wish we did. Easy access and less weeding! They also plant in clumps in those plots rather than long rows. Haven't tried that yet though.

    Can't wait to hear how it goes. We are still experimenting! Good luck!
    Ashley Strukel

    1. Thanks for the advice! I think that we are definitely considering doing the smaller plots with walkways between them. I am hoping that it will cut down on the number of trampled plants from the boys.