Gardening is one of my big passions. I love growing things and knowing that what I’m eating and feeding my family came from my garden. Canning the produce that I grow is also a big passion. It allows my family to have all that deliciousness to savor later.
It’s about that time. Garden time! The garden has already been tilled for the first time and now we’re pretty much just waiting for this crazy Missouri weather to settled down. It’s actually supposed to snow tomorrow…on April 6th! But that’s Missouri for ya.
I am so ready to get this year’s garden planted. Last year wasn’t a great year so I’m hoping this year is awesome. Since I was pregnant last year we only planted tomatoes and they didn’t do all that well. So this year we’re reworking the soil, adding more compost and fertilizer, and checking the PH before anything is planted.
Why Do I LOVE My Garden?
One of the best things in the summer is a homegrown fresh tomato. Picked straight from the vine, sliced, and sprinkled with a little salt. There isn’t much that’s more delicious than that. And homemade pickles and salsa…to die for.
The Science of It All
Most people think gardening is simple. Just throw some stuff in the ground, water it, and Viola! it grows. But that’s not the case. There are actually plants that grow better when planted next to each other. And most plants need a certain amount of space to be able to grow properly, which varies by each different plant. They also each have different preferences on amount of sunlight and length of sunlight each day and amount of water that they need.
Tomatoes should be planted near herbs, onions, carrots, or celery but not close to anything in the cabbage family. Peppers are best planted with tomatoes, onions, and carrots but not the cabbage family. Cucumbers should be planted near beans, lettuce, corn, or peas but not with potatoes.
Check out this huge List of Companion Plants for veggies, fruits, flowers, and more.
This year I’m going big. Not in the size of the garden because since we live in town there’s only so much space to make our garden. So the actual size will be the same that it’s always been, but I’ll be planting a lot more than I usually do.
Tomatoes are always a must. We love fresh tomatoes and homemade salsa. So we always try to do a lot of tomatoes and a variety to give us different types for different uses…grape size for salads and just popping in your mouth, big boy for slicing, and beefsteak for salsa.
Peppers. Another one that we use a lot. We use them in salads, in dinners, and in my homemade salsa. I also pickle them which my husband loves.
Cucumbers…delicious. I love fresh cucumbers just sliced with a little salt. We also love pickles so I use a lot of cucumbers to make dill pickles. I also use them in salads and make cucumber, onion, and tomato salad.
Those are the three main things I usually grow, but this year I want to add more. This year I’m going to try lettuce, onions, celery, and carrots also. I’ve tried them all before (except celery) and never had much luck. But I’d like to try them again this year and see how they do.
My garden is small, but I can fit a lot into that space. I have 2 options for my rows, 5 long rows or 7-8 short rows. I’ll probably go with short rows this year just because I have more veggies that I’m wanting to grow. That way with the short rows I can have an individual row for each of the new things I want to try, and one extra row which will probably be more tomatoes.
Tomatoes love water and sun, but not too much. Too much water and sun can damage your plants and cause damage to the tomatoes that grow. A sunny place that gets around 8 hours of direct sunlight is perfect. Generally we water our garden daily, usually at night when the sun isn’t directly hitting the garden and it’s starting to cool down a little. If we get rain then we don’t have to water that day, obviously. If you use stakes or cages then your plants only need to be 12-18” apart.
Peppers are pretty easy to grow. They aren’t persnickety like other plants. They can have a lot of sun and be okay. And as long as they get water every few days then they’ll give you plenty of peppers per plant. They should be spaced 12-18” apart depending on the variety, bells like to be closer together and hot need a little more space. When watering, once a week is generally enough. They need about 1” of water a week and like the soil not too wet and not too dry. Their stems and branches are usually weak so staking or caging them is a good idea.
When growing cucumbers you generally don’t need a whole lot of plants to get a lot of cucumbers to grow. Cucumbers go crazy, literally. The vines grow out everywhere and they try to take everything around them over. They also grow a ton of cucumbers on each plant as long as they are getting plenty of water. Cucumbers LOVE water, you pretty much can’t over-water them. One to two inches of water a week is generally what they require. They also like sun and a lot of heat. As long as they get plenty of water then they can usually withstand extreme temps and still produce well. They should be planted 24-36” apart in rows that are spaced 3’ apart. They need a lot of space. Trellises or fences are a good idea for growing cucumbers, it gives them somewhere to go when growing.
Since this will be the first year I’ll be trying some new stuff again, I’ve been doing a little research on it to see what I need to do to grow them properly. I’ve been kind of successful in growing green onions, lettuce, and celery in a window box in my kitchen over the winter. They haven’t gotten too big which is likely from lack of drainage being in a window box versus the ground. So hopefully trying them in the garden will prove more successful.
The first thing to do is to decide how many of each plant, what types of plants, and where you want to put them. This should be done before starting any planting or even buying seeds. I always draw out a garden plan before anything so I can decide exactly what we’re going to do.
Our garden is 200 square feet, 10’ x 20’. Not very big at all, but definitely big enough to grow some delicious stuff. Tomatoes should be planted 1 per square foot, possibly a little less if you’re staking or caging them (which we do). Peppers should have the same amount of space but like tomatoes can be staked or caged (and actually should be) so they can be slightly closer together. Cucumbers can be planted 2 per square foot, but since they do grow enormous I generally don’t like to put them this close together because they can choke each other out and hinder growth.
Keeping the Weeds Out
In the Beginning
In the past we’ve had major weed issues. For a few years we didn’t do anything to keep the weeds out of the garden. Weekly we would pull them up, which eventually got to be a pain by the end of the summer. That’s when the weeding would stop and they would take over.
A couple of years ago we tried black paper which did work for the most part at keeping the weeds to a minimum. The only problem with the black paper was that our plants didn’t get as much water as they needed so we didn’t have a very good crop that year.
The New Method
Last year we tried something new, it’s actually what my mom does in her garden. We used old carpet to cover the entire garden and cut holes out for each plant. This was by far the best way we’ve found to keep weeds out of the garden. And if you turn the carpet upside down then the fibers in the carpet help to keep the water in the ground longer.
Come on Spring Weather
The warmer weather can’t get here quick enough. I am so ready to start this year’s garden and to harvest, eat, and can all that deliciousness. Gardening isn’t hard. It’s calming and provides your family with some delicious, homegrown food. Try it, you may find a new hobby.