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It’s Starting…

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Planning for the 2016 garden has begun. This year will be a little complicated because we’re planning to move this summer once we buy a house somewhere in Northern VA. Since the exact dates are still unknown, I started seedlings a little early this year so that the main crops would be ready in June to July.

First step: Off to Lowe’s for some potting soil, Jiffy pots and other supplies. I went with Jiffy pots for seedlings this year so I can just plant the whole pot in the ground.

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Time to go to Lowes!

Then, the first batch of corn, cucumbers, green beans and beets got planted.

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The seedlings stayed outside for a few days, but then an unfortunate cold snap came, and everything got moved into the guest room. The cold delayed the seedlings from sprouting, but around 2 weeks after planting, it began!

The corn seedlings had a 100% germination rate again. Cucumbers and beans closer to 80%, beets were at 100%. Overall within expected results.

Corn grows fast, within a few days of sprouting they were 6 inches tall, and they’re still growing fast.

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Corn!

Next Step: Getting the plants into the actual garden!

 

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2015: Final Result

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My 2015 garden did well. Almost too well. Between managing the garden, doing 60-75 mile bike rides on the weekend, and planning for my wedding, I dropped the ball on updating this blog. The garden took a few hours to a full day every weekend, plus at least one mid-week session to pull down invasive bind-weed.

This was an average daily haul starting in July.

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The corn lasted 2-3 weeks, I got around 60 ears (40 plants with some producing 2 ears). Around 75% were well formed, the rest were franken-corn, and got boiled and frozen. This is just due to them not getting fully fertilized.

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The tomatoes and cucumbers lasted until late August, when our house-sitter forgot to water the garden for the 2 weeks we were out of town for the wedding. Whoops. Some of the tomatoes survived, but the cucumbers were fully killed.

Here are some final pictures:

 

Lessons learned for next year:

  1. Cucumbers take over the whole garden, so next year I may plant less. I ran out of ways to eat 4 cucumbers a day, and this is coming from someone who loves tomato-cucumber salad.
  2. Tomatoes need deeper soil. Mine did well, but not awesome. The 2 I planted in deeper soil produced buckets of tomatoes. Same holds true for carrots.
  3. I don’t need 6 hot pepper plants. 4 would be sufficient for my needs.
  4. Weed often. When I’d miss a week the bind weed and bermuda grass became almost uncontrollable.
  5. Corn fields are awesome!

Step 4: Designing the Garden

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I have dirt, mulch, and a hole in the ground surrounded by a green fence. So now I need to design the garden!

My original intent was to do a 10×8 corn section, and five 1 ft horizontal rows of various vegetables in my garden. So to start, I used 70 feet of black landscape edging to line my hole. I just set it into the hole, and staked it so it stayed put.  The dirt I later used to fill in the garden holds the edging in place. Then I began marking off the areas I wanted to plant veggies in, using black garden edging.  I bought plenty of extra stakes for this process, and I had a good mallet for getting the stakes in.

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When I actually began laying everything out I realized I needed my paths to be closer to 18 inches wide (vs the 12 I originally allowed for) so that I had adequate room to maneuver between rows. When I did this, I realized that horizontal rows didn’t fit right. So I switched it over to an 8×8 section of corn, and 5 vertical rows that vary between 8.5 and 10 feet long, depending on the location. I also added spots for the 2 additional tomatoes Emily gave me. I did not install the rows very straight, even though I did my best with the tape measure, but they’re functional.

Rows in the image are significantly straighter than those in real life
Rows in the image are significantly straighter than they appear in real life.

Now that the edging is set, the dirt got released! I emptied the 26-27 bags of topsoil in the walkways. Then I emptied the first 6 bags of garden soil into the planting sections.  This led to about 2 inches of dirt everywhere. At this stage, I went and got about 8 wheelbarrow fulls of mulch from my driveway. Mulch is great because weeds have a difficult time growing through it. I emptied the mulch on the walkways, which raised them up another 2-3 inches. I pulled the edging up a few inches, and filled the planting sections with the remaining garden soil. In the end, there is about 4-5 inches of soil/mulch everywhere.

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Emptying dirt…

Within 36 hours,my garden went from “unsightly hole in the lawn” to “GARDEN!”.

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