Garden Grids: Planning

May 6, 2017

Last year I had the boys plan their gardens on paper first. I made a table on a Word document – 4 x 4 – with a total of 16 squares to fill.

Like last year, the boys looked at a Square Foot Gardening website, complete with pictures of lots of vegetables they can grow, from tomatoes and green beans, to herbs and more unique veggies. The pictures show us how many of each plant can grow in each square foot, and the planning helps me, so I know how many plants and seeds to purchase. This is important as my head tends to spin when I get to a greenhouse or the plant section of a store.

This year, Jude planned first, and true to his personality, his garden grid is full of pictures. He selected lots of cucumbers (8 plants originally, but we backed off to 4! He loved these last year.), tomatoes, chives, beans, corn, carrots, mint, potatoes, squash, and the unique bok choi. He even drew his airplane planter, which he wants to grow flowers in. Jude also added a picture of what looks like a smiley farmer; I think it’s a self-portrait. 🙂

Rex planned next, and he knew exactly what he wanted: peppermint (His favorite.), cucumbers, peas, tomatoes, basil, onions, carrots, chives (Another favorite.), cilantro, chili peppers, and garlic (if we can find any). He was very decisive; I think he’s been thinking about his garden for awhile.

And, this year, Morris filled out his own garden grid. He drew pictures of each plant, and I added the words. Lots of green beans (two rows, he wanted!), squash, hot peppers, chives, yellow peppers, carrots, and maybe a radish. Watching him draw his garden plants was a sweet moment…

Garden Renovations

This year, we decided to do a little garden remodeling.

A New Home

First of all, we decided to move our planters to a different location. Last year they were located behind the garage, next to our very active trampoline. The space felt a little cramped, and the gardens did not get as much sunlight as they should. So, early in May, Tyler (Daddy) took out the shovel, loosened the planters from the ground, and we moved them to the east side of the garage where there’s plenty of sunlight and room. The planters were joined together to make a sort of C-formation, with my long garden in the middle and the boys’/Ty’s planters around the edges. It feels nice and open and the planters are easily accessible for little arms to reach in and weed or harvest.

IMG_1890

Bring in the Dirt!

The second change was the dirt. Ty’s cousin, Farmer Zach, is an agronomist, a Farmer in Lake Mills, Iowa, and an all-around Ace in everything farming. In the very early spring, he took a look at our garden dirt and told us to start over, that the Ph was poor.

So, we took his advice and had three yards (?) of garden soil brought in (a compost/dirt combination) from Altoona Mulch…all of which I shoveled into our planters in an afternoon. That was three hours of shoveling! It was supposed to rain in the early evening and I could not let that Super-Soil go to waste.

In the meantime, the boys visited me and wanted to help. Morris shoveled dirt into the wheelbarrow and raked out the clumps in the planters. Morris loves tools and he loves to help.

Then Jude appeared, curious about what I was up to. He worked with me for about forty-five minutes, raking and spreading the soil. He always feels good about chipping in. Rex, however, steered clear of any labor; I saw him poke his head outside to see what we were doing, and then he disappeared quickly and never re-emerged. He knew I’d put him to work, too. 🙂

IMG_1901

And then the planters were done! Full of new, healthy soil and ready for planting.

My Growing Boys 2017 “It Starts With a Seed”

It’s Spring, and we’re back! It felt like a looong winter; even though there was not a lot of snow, there were a lot of gray days. Now there is sunshine and rain and green! Boys can play outside in their boots and search for worms as the world buds and blooms around them.

Each of my boys is a year older, of course. Rex is 10, Jude is 8, and Morris is 5. Each of my boys has grown at least an inch taller (an exact measurement will come soon), and at least a shoe size bigger. Morris’s feet grew two sizes larger since the fall!

As the weather is turning, the boys bring up their gardens in passing. They know it is almost time to plant. Rex and Jude have chives that sprouted from last year’s planting, and after playing outside, I notice they have onion breath. Rex has been looking for his beloved mint to come back; last week I saw some green sprouts shooting up. And, each boy has mentioned a plant he wants to grow in his garden; they expect me to start a list.

We’re starting our growing season by planting a few seeds I’ve collected in little starter pellets. These peat pellets start as hard discs. When you water them, they grow to seven times their size, and they create a cozy little bed for baby plants. Originally, I wanted to grow all of our garden this way. Isn’t that a romantic notion, to grow all of the vegetables from seeds. I’m cautious though. I tried this a few years ago and some of my plants – especially the tomato plants – were not as hardy as the ones I purchased from a greenhouse.

So, this year we’re trying a few, and we’ll see how they do. Last fall, I cleaned and dried some of the seeds from our Halloween pumpkins. These are hardy plants! One fall we chucked our pumpkins over the back of the deck and a volunteer vine grew and grew, and grew pumpkins for us in the fall for Halloween. I also cleaned and dried the seeds of an acorn squash before eating it for supper one night. Rex mentioned that he wanted to grow them in his garden, so why not try.

And, we’re trying something totally new this year. Grandma Jacobson to me, Great-Grandma Jacobson to my boys, gave us hollyhock seeds from her farm in Ottosen, Iowa. My grandma has a beautiful, plentiful garden! She starts the season with strawberries, then fills her garden with vegetables – potatoes, onions, tomatoes, corn, and so on. She also has a large crop of decorative gourds, miniature pumpkins, and squash she grows on a different location on the farm. And lots of flowers, of course! I’m excited to see whether these flourish. I love the idea of having some of her heirloom hollyhocks at our home.

So, here we go! Hopefully 2017 is as abundant and adventurous as 2016!