I'm a novice gardener, not really qualified to write a post on "how to garden." So my garden posts are more of an account on what I'm learning, with some tips that hopefully will be helpful to you. Here's what I've got so far:
Tip 1: How to Save $ on Garden Soil
We bought about 10 bags of dirt. At appx $7 a bag, that'll add up quickly! My friend suggested asking Home Depot or wherever you happen to be shopping, if there's any bags with holes that they'd be willing to sell at a discounted price. (now don't go poking holes on purpose!) We were in luck- there were 5 bags with holes, that they sold to us for $3. (Thank you Margo for the great tip, I should be having you write this post)!
Tip 2: Raised Bed
We're trying out the Square Foot Garden method, only we combined three 4x4 beds into one long rectangle. As much as I'd love to write about all the things I've learned, for a few bucks you can purchase the book and read all about it (go here). So far we really like the philosophy behind square foot gardening. We chose this method (as opposed to digging into the ground), mostly because the soil where we live isn't very good. Initially, I was concerned that 6 inches wouldn't be deep enough for the roots to grow, but this book put my fears at ease, at least for now. We'll see how it goes!
Tip 3: Miracle Grow
One thing we changed was instead of making the mix suggested in the book, we just bought the Miracle Grow Garden Soil. It seemed a lot easier than purchasing all the "ingredients" for the soil the author suggested. So far so good...
Tip 4: Starting seeds
I really had NO idea what I was doing. I just bought a $6 dollar seed starter kit from Wal-Mart, poked seeds into the little piles of dirt, and watched the magic happen. It was like a mini green house sitting on my kitchen counter for a few weeks. I had seedlings 5 inches tall once I was ready to take them outside to plant them! The reason for starting your seeds indoors, is so they can get a little headstart. They will start to bear fruit earlier in the season with a 2 week start, giving you more time to pick, harvest, and enjoy.
I think you start your seeds in just about any kind of container. These are my little lettuce sprouts. So cute!
Tip 5: End of Season Sales
Last fall, I visited a local nursery to see what was on clearance. They had a whole flat of herbs that they gave to me free; they were happy for them to have a home. I planted them, knowing they would die over the winter. But this spring, to my surprise, look what I have! Since herbs are so expensive at the store, I'm extremely excited to have my own! (tarragon, cilantro, sage, chives, parsley, margoram, spearmint, and basil).
Tip 6: Hit up your neighbors!
We have neighbors who have an entire box full of strawberries. They gladly dug up two of their plants to share with us. They said by next spring, the shoots from the plants will have spread to give us a whole box of strawberries too. They won't bear fruit until next year-- you're supposed to pull off the budding strawberries the first year you plant them. Next year they'll be super productive (I hope).
Tip 7: Involve your kids! (if you have them)
To involve our kids, we planted lillies, marigolds, and peonies next to their playhouse for them to take care of. They love watering, digging, planting, you name it! Teach them about growing things- how does it work, why do we do it, putting your love into something and watching it grow, the miracles of nature. Sometimes its more work to have them "help," but I just can't pass up a good teaching opportunity like gardening.
Unfortunately, our kids aren't good vegetable-eaters. I'm really hoping they will be encouraged to try some veggies come harvest time, especially since they helped to care for them!
Beans- started from seed
Spinach- started from seed
Tomato- bought as a plant
Wish me luck, and please note that I am a beginner, and really have no idea what I'm doing here. :)