Imperfect People

Imperfect People in love with a perfect God

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Imperfect People - Imperfect People in love with a perfect God

So ya wanna have a garden…

Did you know the National Gardening Association estimates an average gardening household experiences a 750% average return on their investment!

That means if you spend $50 getting your garden ready this year you could harvest $375 worth of fresh produce!!

So many people want to have a garden but they don’t know where to start.

I have the super exciting opportunity to guest blog at Sorta Crunchy today where I list several frugal and EASY ways to help ANYONE have a garden.

Come on over to learn some easy and frugal tips to help you have your ideal garden this year!!

Click here!

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Gardening Q&A

Imperfect gardeners you have blessed me by your encouragement and sweet comments during this gardening series!  Thank you for your questions!  Below are the answers.  Remember ANYONE can have a green thumb…I promise!

April asked: When is the best time to plant tomatoes?  And can you stagger plant all season long?

A:  Plants or seeds can be planted in the ground as soon as the last frost date has passed.  And yes tomatoes are the perfect crop to stagger all season long.  I have several started now and hope to start another batch in July or August.   FYI the same is true for squash and zucchini.  Mine were attacked by squash bugs in early summer but when I planted again in July the squash bugs have completed their life cycle and were no longer a problem.

April asked: How do I make a cheap rain barrel and what can and can’t be composted?

A: For the first question.  Here is a great how to video.  They used a recycled 55 gallon food grade drum.  If you don’t have access to a large container you can re-use a heavy duty plastic trash can will work just as good.

On the compost: As a general rule you can compost any kitchen scraps that are not meat or dairy.  Most of those are the “green contents” of a compost pile.  The “brown contents” are endless!  Anything from newspaper and sawdust to vacuum cleaner contents and dryer lint!

For a complete list of what can and cannot be composted click here

Suzannah asked: How do we discourage rodents? We fenced out deer/bunnies but the mice still got in and ate up our tomatoes.

A: Get a cat?  LOL Actually I have heard moth balls tossed around your garden will help.  They don’t see well and rely on smell to get them around.  The smell of moth balls will deter them.  Or you can make a homemade mouse trap.  Take a 5-gallon bucket and put some peanut butter or raw bacon inside of it. Place some bricks or blocks next to the bucket to work as a way for them to jump in. Once they are inside they cannot get out.

Robin asked Do you add coffee grinds in your compost bin or do you just mix them directly in the soil?

A: I do both.  When I get a big bag of them from a coffee shop who offers them to be recycled I put them directly in the garden.  But ours from the house go in my counter top compost container which gets dumped outside in the trash can turned composter.

Robin asked: How often and with what do you fertilize? Are fish emulsion and/or blood meal good organic stuff to use?

A: I am so “imperfect” I don’t really have a schedule but…as a rule of thumb the first of spring and fall are the best times to fertilize.  Spring is when all the growth happens and fall is when the roots get more established (a great time to plant trees and shrubs).

Veggies need to be fertilized more often as they have such a short but vigorous growing time.   If you plant in nothing but compost you don’t need to add anything but not everyone has that much compost for each plant.  I put a shovel full of compost around each veggie then water with fish emulsion every other week or so?  This garden sprayer makes the job much easier.

Blood meal is pure nitrogen and bone meal is pure phosphorus.  Those are great fertilizers but you need to use both of them.  They are in a powder form so when using them work them into the soil  and water well.  There is an organic multi purpose fertilzer by Espoma that includes all the major nutrients you need all in one.

Amanda asked When you have too much produce do you freeze it, can it, give it to your favorite people?

A:  Excellent question!  And at the height of summer this is certainly a problem…a good problem but yet an issue.  I do all of the above.  You can slice many veggies and lay them out on a cookie sheet, freeze for about 15 minuites then throw in a freezer bag.  This prevents them from all sticking together.

Also one more option is to give your local food bank.  Our local food bank LOVES it when people bring fresh produce by.  He says it is a big need too!

Thank you so much for your questions.  If you missed anything please read up on the previous gardening posts:
Cheap and Easy gardening…for the rest of us: The Basics
It’s all about the dirt  and Making a difference through gardening.

Cheap and Easy gardening…for the rest of us

You have a black thumb but you want a garden? Or maybe you have tried to garden here and there but got frustrated with the work and the cost? Well I think I can help you out. I used to kill everything I touched or even shared a residence with until I bit the bullet, gave it a legitimate effort, and I have been a full fledged garden junkie ever since.

My first experience was with a tomato plant. I heard something on the radio one day on all the crazy stuff they have to spray on tomatoes to get them “pretty and ripe” for the grocery store (which were never made to be shipped).

 Not really wanting random chemicals on my tomatoes, I figured I would give this gardening thing a shot. My husband and I had just gotten married, we didn’t have kids yet and this tomato plant became my child. I tended to it’s every whim and not surprisingly had a great crop that year. Over the years as my garden and my family have both grown I have realized that tomatoes (and a million other plants) can do quite well without all the fuss. With children (besides plants), a job, and just life, I don’t have hours to dote on my plants anymore and I am assuming you don’t either.  Thus began my cheap and easy garden.

First things first: WATER

The number one killer of outdoor plants is lack of water (the number one killer of indoor plants is too much water…but we’ll stick to outdoor pants here).  I suggest a drip irrigation system.  It is MUCH cheaper to install and uses way less water than a sprinkler irrigation system.  It is also very easy to do yourself…no really it is.  Step by step instructions here.    Most garden centers sell everything you need. 

I have my drip irrigation on a $30 timer that automatically waters my  garden everyday and a hose on the other end for watering plants not on the drip.  A hose splitter like this is less than $5.

This makes watering much less of a chore and gives my veggies the water they will need EVERYDAY during the heat of the summer. 

Established trees and shrubs do not need to be watered so often.  But the first summer you plant anything it will need to be watered at least every other day (except when it rains) to become established….this is why irrigation is helpful.  Cooler climates may not need quite so much water, the best way to tell is stick your finger about an inch down in the soil, if it is dry water it. 

If a drip irrigation is for some reason not possible, make life easier for yourself and plant your garden on a regular route you walk everyday.  The walk to the car, the walk to the mailbox etc.  Above all, CLOSE TO THE HOSE! 

Know your zone

A lot about gardening depends on where you live.  This map will let you know your USDA hardiness zone.  Very handy information on determining planting dates and what will grow best in your area. 

Pick a spot

When growing herbs and veggies you will need a full day of sun (at least 6-8 hours).  Making sure you get enough sun and you have access to a water source you may also want to consider how close it is to the kitchen.  Not a necessity but if you have the option a veggie garden close to the kitchen is a nice plus. 

Get the soil ready

Wherever you choose to plant your garden chances are right now it is currently growing grass (and or weeds).  If you have a tiller, a friend with a tiller, or a budget to rent one that is the ideal way to go…but for the “rest of us”  Here is a good solution:

First get your irrigation laid, then lay several layers (about 10) of damp newspaper, or cardboard over the surface of your garden.  This is a great chance to reuse/recycle your waste.  If you are anxious to get started and don’t have that much newspaper or cardboard on hand you can ask some friends for theirs,  or contact the local newspaper as they often have end rolls of paper without print that they discard with LOTS of paper left.  FYI cardboard from cereal and cracker boxes work great too. 

Make sure you overlap every piece because grass is RELENTLESS!   Then cover it all with mulch.  I use pine straw since I can rake it up for free but crushed leaves, bark, or cedar mulch is all great too.  When you are ready to plant just tear a hole in the paper/cardboard, plant the plant or seed and viola!

Believe it or not your plants can grow without ever having their leaves touched by water or fertilizer…its all about the dirt. Imagine the roots as the mouth of the plant. Everything it needs to eat and drink will be obtained underground.

Making the dirt “yummy” for your plants is all about what you put in the dirt. Being that I like cheap and or free, I use compost. I collect all my kitchen scraps (most anything but meat or dairy) in an empty coffee container on my countertop. But any container will do the job.
When it gets full, I take it outside to my compost container. A.K.A a trash can with holes drilled in the sides and bottom. I also add a shredded newspaper about once a week. I put the lid on and roll it around the yard a few times a week and there you have my $12 compost container that works way better than anything else I have ever tried. Instructional video here.

Compost has all the nutrients your plants could need but if you don’t think you are up making compost there are several commercial fertilizers that are great too.

Organic or Synthetic fertilizer?

I bet I don’t need to tell you what approach i use, but let me tell you why:

According to Paul James, my favorite expert gardener, synthetic fertilizers are like a plant drug. They give plants a quick high, produce abnormal behavior (growth), and are horrible for their health. They add salts to the soil which hinders water absorption AND microbial activity (earth worms and other helpful creatures). Not to mention all those chemicals are absorbed into the fruit or vegetable you will soon be eating.

For a backyard garden organic is cheapest and healthiest option for everyone involved. When I don’t have enough compost I buy Espoma fertilizer or chicken manure. A grab a few handfuls and throw it toward the base of the plant and water well.

Some other free organic fertilizers:

Coffee grounds
 when raking your yard in the fall dump those leaves in your garden!
Animal waste: if you have access to it, animals such as horses, cows, chickens, sheep, and even bats have the best fertilizer in the form of…well poop!

When your soil is well watered and fertilized your plants can’t help but flourish!
Even the blackest of thumbs can grow a good crop. 

Happy gardening!

Share your thoughts what are some of your cheap and easy gardening tricks?


Part of the Green Resource at Sorta Crunchy, the Greenbacks girl, Life renewed, and a Delightful home