First Time Gardener-A Follow Up

DSC_0637You might have noticed that my series on being a first time gardener just trailed off. That is because the garden just trailed off…

As you can see from the photo, all I got was a few tiny squash, 3 mini zucchinis, and a handful of not ready for prime time tomatoes.The squash are sitting near a grapefruit for comparison.

But–I am not easy to discourage. This year I have not finished planting, but already have a DSC_0641row of very healthy string beans, three thriving tomato plants, and a large strawberry patch. I will be adding basil, cucumbers, and chilis. Also several types of squash, and I expect the squash to act like squash this year, so I can scare my neighbors and friends.

We figured out that the soil was not rich enough, and the area was too crowded. Both problems have been fixed. So stay tuned for First Time Gardener–the Sequel!

A First-timer’s Garden—Post 2: Everything Growing but I am Not Done Planting Yet

The First Squash Blossom of Summer

This seems so simple. It makes me wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner. It also makes me worry if I am doing something wrong. Are the plants too close together? Will the tall beans block the sun for the shorter melons and cucumbers?

I thought I got at least one zucchini from the plant sale but both of the squash from there are just marked “summer squash”. Then I tried to get someone else to get me a zucchini when they were at the nursery and they came back with YELLOW zucchini. Of course we planted it, but I still want a GREEN one. We are going to be in trouble this August, I can tell. I have known folks who have grown more than one zucchini. They haunt their friends with giant “gifts”, in the end resorting to dropping them on doorsteps after dark and then running…

We started with three barrels and a box, plus a yard and a half of dirt. We are up to ten barrels and counting, plus about four yards of dirt. And I am not done yet. I still need some kitchen herbs, and maybe some other stuff. Does gardening qualify as a process addiction like gambling or computer solitaire? We shall see.

A First-timer’s Garden—Post 1: Getting the Plants in the Ground

The Frugal Goddess Learns to Dig in the Dirt

Some of my reader’s who have been following the Frugal Goddess for awhile may remember—I am a cook, not a gardener. My mother was a champion gardener. Her gardens were chaotic and messy, but always lush and productive. I was clumsy in my attempts to help, and soon gave up, retreating to the familiar safety of my kitchen. But now, a dozen years later, I realize that if I want that wonderful homegrown flavor at a cost that is bearable, I must learn how to grow it myself.

My garden plot sits on the back field of an acre and a half just northeast of Sebastopol, CA. I have to plant in containers because the gophers rule here. It took awhile to get the barrels and build my one box to start with. Some might say I was already late, but at least now I’m ready.

The containers sat for some time while I figured out what to fill them with. Dirt

A Garden in Containers

some may say, but that is too simple. It has to be good clean earth with the right types of organic matter added in. Like everything else, there are perhaps too many choices. Luckily Sonoma County is still a farming community, and there is a dirt store not far away. It is really a fascinating place, with piles of various types of dirt for different applications, and big trucks with big shovels, piling it in to a line of waiting pickup trucks. I got a yard and a half of the Organic Garden Mix. This was then shoveled into the waiting containers. This is when I discovered what an easy job cooking is, compared to farming. But it felt good to shovel and to dig my hands in the rich dark earth as I planted my babies.

My first grand plan was to grow from seed, but that was way too complicated for a pilgrim like me. Maybe next year. I put in a row of beans, a row of cucumber, several melons, tomatoes, acorn squash, and summer squash, including the ubiquitous zucchini, all from starts. I still have a barrel or two to fill. I will be posting from time to time on the progress from garden to table. For now, let me just say—I haven’t killed anything yet.

Here are some links for further information:

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/03/24/frugal-gardening-seed-saving-saves-money-and-is-good-for-the-planet/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2011/01/13/the-gardener-in-winter/

http://www.thefrugalgoddess.com/2012/03/01/get-more-flavor-for-less-money-grow-these-five-herbs-indoors/

 

Get More Flavor for Less Money—Grow These Five Herbs Indoors

Beautiful Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs add great flavor to home cooking, but buying them at the market is prohibitive. The herbs come in bunches much larger than usually called for, and only stay good for a few days. But if you have a sunny windowsill you can grow your own herbs for the cost of a pack of seeds. Then you can trim just a few leaves off as needed without hurting the plant. This is clearly the frugal solution.

You will need a bag of rich potting soil, a bag of something called perlite which is added to the soil, and some powdered limestone. You will also need some nice small ceramic pots with saucers, and a few seeds for each herb that you are planning to grow. If you know a seed saver you may be able to get them to give you a few, otherwise you may have to buy a whole pack of seeds for each variety.

Take the potting soil and mix it two to one with the perlite. Add a teaspoon of the limestone to each 5 inch pot and mix well. The pots should be filled to one inch below the rim.Then poke a two hole with your fingers and plant one seed in each hole. Water the pot gently and put in the windowsill. Keep just moist and in a few days you should see your little seedlings popping up through the soil. To get started I recommend you grow these five easy to grow herbs: Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Chives, and Mint. They all like full sun, and to be kept moist but not overwatered.

Try growing these five and see how much money you save and how good they make your food taste. Then perhaps you will branch out and create a whole indoor garden.

Bring Frugal Beauty into Your Home with a Cutting Garden

 

Beauty

Being frugal does not mean giving up beauty or a gracious life. It simply means finding better ways to fulfill these needs. One of the things that creates a lovely atmosphere at home is the presence of beautiful flowers. But the flowers that are available in stores and at your local florist are very expensive. Not only in cost to you but also to the environment through factory farming and 8000 mile supply lines. Luckily there is a simple solution. A cutting garden can be as simple as a few flowering bushes. Even if all you have is a little side yard or patio you can have flowers.

The first step is to visit your local library and do some research on the flowers that grow well in your locale. While doing so you can also get an idea about what you like. Decide whether you are more concerned with visual appearance or fragrance. I like both myself.

Once you have a bit of a plan it’s off to your local plant nursery to chat up the owner and get your supplies. The people that work in nurseries can be a fount of wisdom for new gardeners. I would suggest buying starts instead of seeds if you are just starting out. They are much easier to handle, and you can collect your first bouquet sooner.

If you absolutely can’t grow anything, try foraging. Go walking in an area where there are wildflowers and remember to bring clippers. Just not your neighbor’s yard, please, unless you have permission. Maybe you can barter with a friend with a green thumb.

The selection may be a little sparse if you live in an area of heavy winters. Then you might expand your definition to include holly berries and pussy willow, or other less glamorous shrubbery. This is the time to get creative.

Once you have the flowers, all you need is a nice vase to place them in. If you don’t have a “real” vase, try a mason jar. Put the flowers in the water, and then play with them a bit. Pull some up a bit. Change the position of others. Flower arranging is a fine old art. You can learn much from books, articles, and the internet.

Finally, remember to keep your flowers fresh. Change the water, and throw them out and replace them when they start looking shabby. The reason you brought them in to your home was for the incomparable charm and feeling of prosperity that they bring. If they are half dead it is time for a fresh bunch.

Here are some links:

http://www.gardeners.com/Cutting-Garden/5011,default,pg.html Some ideas for what flowers to grow

http://www.perfectentertaining.com/article1100.html Flower arrangement tips

Frugal Gardening—Seed Saving Saves Money and is Good for the Planet

Seeds from this Year's Harvest

Now that spring is officially here it is time to really get moving on those gardening projects. As every frugalista knows, gardening combined with cooking at home is the most frugal, healthiest and most fun way to deal with the problem of feeding ourselves and our families. So, how do you do it? Unfortunately, as a culture we have lost many of the basic living skills that our ancestors took for granted. This is a huge loss, but there is a great movement to regain that lost knowledge.

The basic method of growing plant starts from a package of seeds is to put them in small biodegradable pots indoors on a sunny table. The little plants are very delicate at first and need to be protected from too much wind or sun. They generally need to be kept wet. But, if you are buying packets, there are directions. Just follow them carefully. If this is the first time you’ve tried this that may be the way to go. But—if you want to support the seed saving movement you need to find a seed bank unless you have friends that are seed savers already. A seed bank is a repository of seeds that other gardeners have contributed. You can make a withdraawel and plant the seeds that you receive.

There are is a large seed bank in the mid-west, and many regions now have small local banks. To find a local organization, try doing an online search for seed bank followed by the name of your region. Most seed saving groups have regular meetings and very helpful members.

When you graduate to actually saving seed it gets trickier. The best thing is to contact your local seed bank and get advice from them. If you have received seed from a seed-bank, it is also good to offer some seed back. The seed saving movement is a great example of the gif economy at work. It is very interactive—with the natural elements, with the plants and the soil, and with the people in the seed saving community.

If you want to give it a try, check out these links:

http://www.seedsavers.org/ go here first

http://www.seedsave.org/

http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/10380/seed-banks-and-seed-lending-libraries

 

The Gardener in Winter

Not as Barren as it Looks

This is the first time The Frugal Goddess has discussed gardening. It may seem odd to bring it up in the dead of winter, at least in the northern hemisphere. But, as any good gardener knows, there is much activity beneath the barren surface. Now is the time to plan, and having planned, to prepare. Are there fences or gopher control systems that need repairing? Soil that needs attention? Is the potting shed in good order? And, most importantly, have the seed catalogs come in?

Sitting by a fire on a cold winter evening with a nice cup of tea (or glass of Zinfandel) and a pile of seed catalogs is a great pleasure. That is one of the wonders of gardening. Each year we can invent ourselves anew. But let us not stop with catalogs. In many places there are seed banks that rely on community participation. In this tough economy we rely more upon our neighbors, and seed sharing is a terrific way to be neighborly. But it goes even deeper than that. By sharing seeds you are part of a long lineage of people who have carefully preserved the food-wealth of our species. This is perhaps the greatest wealth we have. So, as you plan this year’s garden, take a minute and imagine all the tillers of soil that have gone before you down the long years of our history. And may your garden grow in great abundance.

 

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