In the Garden: May

Hi friends! Today I wanted to share more about our gardening process with y'all. We get lots of questions from friends and family about this and it's easier to explain if I share pictures of the progress.

We do raised beds and use the concept of square foot gardening instead of traditional rows. There are many reasons for this, but our main ones for choosing this route are that we have less weeds, we plant tighter together (maximizing the crops we grow in a smaller space), and for me, I think raised beds are just prettier. I know the last reason is silly, but I'm motivated by lovely views, and when the garden appeals to me aesthetically, I'm much more likely to spend time there. 

This is our second year of starting our garden from seeds. Our garden has become something that we think and talk about year-round. Back in February, we made a list of all the things we wanted to grow this year. This is where I have to practice a lot of self control, because I want to grow ALL.THE.THINGS!! 

With the success of my flower bed last year, I knew I wanted to grow zinnias again and try my hand at a few other variety of flowers. We also wanted to go with our staples of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, & squash; but we threw in a few fun things like sweet peas, pumpkins, watermelons and giant sunflowers. 

We ordered our seeds from Burpee and when they arrived we got to work. We like to start our seeds indoors to get a head start on our garden.

This year, we started on March 9. This was a bit later than we planned, but still in the general time frame for the growing zone we're in. We gathered all of our tools on the front porch and called it a party! Everything is more fun when you add music and family! 

We use a mixture of potting soil and perlite for starting seeds. We had great success with using these small cups last year for seeds, so went the same route this year. I label each one with a sharpie, or if we're doing an entire pan of the same variety, just label the pan. 

I took this picture when we were about halfway through the seeds. We place our seed trays on a buffet table in front of our dining room window because it gets the best light. We had to add a shelf to sit on the table because we had so many trays and not enough room. 

Our first sprouts appeared on March 14, and the first to show up was my zinnias! I get ridiculously excited over sprouts. Maybe I'm getting old. Or turning into my mother. Or just a nerd. Don't know, don't care. This makes me happy! 

On March 18 a few more sprouts started appearing. This picture is from the top shelf looking down. We had 3 tiers of plants that I rotated around to make sure everyone had adequate light. 

By March 30th, we've got lots of growth! 

In mid April, we move the plants outdoors to our screened porch to start hardening off before planting. Hardening off is to prepare the seedlings for outdoor temps and much more exposure to the sun than they were getting indoors. This is a great post from Burpee, and explains the general way we go about the process. 

And after the last sign of frost, we plant! The first to go in the ground were squash and zucchini plants. They were already blooming before we even transplanted them. 

Followed by tons of pepper plants. We have several varieties here, and we didn't really keep up with what we where planting in each bed, just grouped them together and went for it.

Like last year, I have one bed dedicated to flowers. I started seeds for Dwarf Dahlias, Zinnias, Sunflowers, Peonys, and Painted Daisys. I planted all of these and then direct sowed more seeds for the in-between areas. 

We expanded our garden area this year, adding 4 new beds and an actual fence. This was much needed because our goats free-range in the yard, and they destroyed my garden by the end of last summer. Now my garden is protected from the chickens, goats, and dog! It's not kid proof through.... :-D 

We had a surprise pop up in the form of volunteer cucumbers. They've sprouted up everywhere in the garden. I have a feeling this year we will be overrun with pickles! 

That little sprout in the back is a giant sunflower from the seeds that I direct sowed. These supposedly can grow 10-14 feet. I can't wait to see! 

And here are sunflower transplants from our March seedlings. 

And here are a few more volunteer cucumbers that we transplanted from various places in the raised beds.

We aren't quite done with the garden beautification...but for now I'm focusing on getting everything planted rather than making it pretty. That can come later. 

This back view shows two of the new beds we put in this year. We planted tomatoes in these. I have high hopes for lots of canning this summer. 

This year we're trying our hand at growing bare-root strawberry plants in a container. This is just a barrel we had around the farm that I borrowed for planting. I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage, filled with soil, and planted 7 bare roots. So far, it looks like not much is happening but I'm hopeful.  

In our largest bed, I planted squash and zucchini around the edge, and we have corn planted in the middle. Our first corn sprouts popped up a few days ago. 

I brought this old wheelbarrow home from my Dad's shop. It was rusting through on the bottom, so I added layers of garden cloth, then soil. I planted 8 bare-root strawberries, and bee & butterfly wildflower mix. I can't wait to see how this grows through the coming months! 

Thanks for visiting the garden with me today! Come back soon for updates as we grow throughout the rest of spring and summer! 

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