Written by Heather Zubiate
About a month ago, we decided to give growing vegetables another go. We have never been very successful at growing vegetables, flowers seem to be our thing. Recently, I -- we really, have drastically changed our diet since my thyroid cancer diagnosis, and getting 100% organic veggies from the stores is getting to be rather sketchy these days thanks to the greed and sub par organic standards allowed by the U.S. government and their agribusiness corporations. We tried to grow veggies in the southwest facing backyard, but the veggies just fried. So we decided to give the northeast facing front yard a try, and it looks like that move is paying off!
First, there was a debate about what to use to make the raised beds. Robert wanted to use wood, aesthetically speaking, it's much prettier than the concrete block, but it would require a great deal of investment. Not to mention it will deteriorate over time and will have to be replaced -- more money. I pointed out that we have the concrete blocks already. Sure, they are the prettiest things in the world, but you can plant flowers, like marigolds, in the holes to add beauty and utility. Marigolds are supposed to ward off unwanted pests. Robert agreed, it was the best option for now. If we really want to "upgrade" to wooden planter boxes in the future, then we can do so.
Step 1 - Placement
There will be two beds, of three beds in total, they will flank a straight path to our front door. I measured and set the blocks in place. Robert spray painted a live around the blocks to mark their placement. Yeah, I know, spray paint isn't exactly environmentally friendly, but the grass is going in the waste bin to make our resident garbage man happy.
Step 2 - Digging
Robert handled this part of the operation, he wouldn't let me help -- he deemed it too strenuous for me. Fortunately for him, it was a perfect day for digging, nice and overcast!
Step 3 - Preparing The Soil
Robert then broke up big clumps, we have clay soil in these parts, and picked out any big chunks of grass and roots. Then he replaced the concrete blocks and leveled them. The next few days I filled the cavities with raised bed soil purchased at Home Depot. It took 1 1/4 bags to fill 44 holes packed pretty tight with the crumbly mix. Then I planted the marigold seeds and kept them moist until they sprouted. It is taking forever for them to grow up into decent plants, but that is the trade off. Time is money. If you want to save time and buy mature marigolds, then you will pay more than starting them off by seed. Since we have more time than money, well, I'm just going to have to be patient.
Step 4 - Adding Compost & Soil
We make our own compost here on the Zubiate suburban homestead, and it's pretty good stuff, If I do say so myself! Thanks to the chickens and our higher consumption of veggies, it doesn't take us that long to make a fair amount of the gardeners black gold! When we were scooping and filling the bed with our compost, we discovered quite a few beetle larva -- ewh! But our chickens were happy to snack on them -- ewh again! When the layer of compost was down, then we added about 3 of the 2 cuft. bags of Kellogg raised bed soil.
Step 5 - Planting
In this bed, and for the time of year, we chose to plant spinach, lettuces, red cabbage, broccoli, and some volunteer mystery plants we saved that were growing thanks to our compost heap! They are probably squash plants, but we'll see! We even tucked in some Walla Walla sweet onions in the rows. We are making sure they are well watered, and fed. Robert is using an organic kelp fertilizer. I think that is where we failed in the past, not fertilizing the veggies. I should put a straw mulch down to help keep it nice and moist, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.
Step 6 - Harvesting!
As you can see, the veggies are thriving, and they are nice and tasty! There is just an indescribable joy in growing your own organic veg! You know exactly where it came from, and what you have fed it. We've noticed that those annoying little white moths aren't even touching our cabbages and broccoli. I have read that organically grown veggies don't attract pests! I have seen it with my own eyes, it's true -- well, for these crops anyway. I hope to learn much more, we are encouraged by our success, and we will be expanding our veggie growing capacity soon! There are carrots, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, beans, and peas to plant!