I got my garden in & it is growing well. I had a strange start to my garden this year. Winter seemed to drag on forever. I started seeds inside in late March. Starting seeds is always so excited. I love seeing them sprout and it gives me something to please my green thumb while the weather is still a little too cold outside. I moved my seedlings outside to my garden in April and then most got zapped by a late frost. I had saved about half of most of my seeds so I started over. I planted what was left directly into my garden boxes (direct sow). My lettuce was still good and I had covered my strawberries so my garden wasn’t completely bare but it was still a bummer to start over. Gardening is like that sometimes – weather is the unpredictable variable in the “experiment” of gardening. Even with the factors you can’t control, a vegetable garden is still simple to start. If you have not started a garden yet, it is not too late and I have a couple easy garden ideas for you!
If you feel like you know nothing about where to start, just know I was there once too! My dad would plant some pots with tomatoes and peppers when I was growing up but I don’t come from a family that had a big garden. My nanny kept a large garden but besides helping her snap beans, I didn’t pay much attention to it. After we got married, I got into our flower beds, a love I got from my dad for sure. After a few years of mastering flower beds, I started our first vegetable garden because it seemed like the next step. My garden tends to get bigger every year as I try new fruits and veggies. Sometimes I try things that go well and sometimes my new plants just go down as a learning experience.
A quick “garden” search on the internet will show you gardens in pots, raised beds and even large tilled garden plots. We have a fenced in area filled with an assortment of raised beds.
Raised beds can give you the space to do more than a few pots on the deck without all the tilling work of a garden plot. Once you fill your boxes with good soil you will occasionally need to replenish your boxes with additional soil, supplement with compost, etc. but you don’t have the soil run off like you do with a garden plot. I don’t even till my boxes. Tilling can actually break up healthy micro-bacteria in your garden dirt that are beneficial to your plants and tilling is hard work! I break up my dirt a little with a shovel, I mix in compost when needed (we make our own but you can buy it), I water the plants well and most of all, I spend time in my garden because you get out of your garden what you put in it. Time in the garden just feels good! Start small or start big BUT most of all just start it. Growing your own food gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment, the produce taste great (I ate AMAZING strawberries out of mine today!) and there have been lots of studies suggesting that people who work in the dirt with their hands are happier than people who don’t 🙂
Whether you are still thinking about starting a garden, just starting it now OR already have yours in, I have two fun garden ideas for you! First of all, I want to share with you about how I have more tomatoes than we need every year BUT I haven’t planted tomato plants in FOUR YEAR! It’s true! Four years ago my daughter’s school sold flowers and vegetable plants for a fundraiser. We needed plants for our garden, the school was going to make some money – everybody won. I ordered tomato plants and a few other things. When I planted the tomatoes I noticed that they were an heirloom variety. At the time I did not think much about it. I planted the tomatoes, had a great crop, had several that fell off and rotted and I never thought about it again.
The following year when it was time to plant my garden I noticed that I had tons of tomato plants in my garden boxes and it has happened every year since. HOW COOL!!!??? Here is the scoop on the situation. Fruits & veggies naturally produce seeds that grow more of the same plant. People used to save the seeds from their crops to plant the following year. Seed saving really isn’t that difficult; I have done it a couple of times BUT unfortunately it doesn’t always work due to changes in the way current produce is grown.
Back when the industrial revolution took off, mass food production picked up and the seed industry changed drastically. In order to maximize the consistency of produce grown, commercial growers started to grow just a few varieties of each crop. The varieties selected were ones that could withstand drought, wind, cross-country shipping etc. If a crop didn’t have a variety that could withstand all the needed conditions, well… then one could be created. Hybrid plants are plants that have been created when breeders intentionally cross-pollinate plants in order to produce an offspring that has the best traits of the two parent plants. You can take a tomato plant that produces well even in a drought and cross-pollinate it with a plant that produces tomatoes that do well sitting in a truck for days and then you have the perfect commercially grown tomato for the industries needs. Sounds awesome, and in some ways it is. The science behind hybrid plants is why our grocery stores are able to stay stocked and why people in our country have plenty of food available without everyone growing a personal garden. I am not knocking it one bit but creating hybrid plants prevents people from seed saving. Gardeners who use hybrid seeds must purchase new seeds every year (the seed company keeps you as a customer) because the seeds from hybrid plants are most often sterile, do not produce plants true to the parent plants and IF the seeds are able to produce a plant, they will most often result in a weak, unhealthy plant.
So take the information and decide what’s right for you. I am not growing produce for more than my own family’s needs, I am not shipping any of my produce and I certainly LOVE the idea of buying seeds ONCE and having them for life! Not only can heirloom plants/seeds save you a little money but they can save you a little work too. I can pick a few of my heirloom tomatoes and save the seeds from them (think about how many seeds are in a tomato!?) or I can let nature do the work for me. NOW I’m saving time, effort & money. A few tomatoes spilt, fall off the vine etc., they naturally dry out, the seeds go into your soil and they germinate in the spring and sprout ALL ON THEIR OWN AT THE RIGHT TIME!! Mind blown! If you do not manually save some seeds, you do risk your seeds not coming back for a number of reasons. I do not spray any pesticides in my garden, I do not till any of my beds and I have TONS of tomato plants year after year! If you are interested in seed saving there is TONS of information & how-to directions linked here.
Below you can see a picture I took of one of my raised beds that has new tomato plants coming up mixed in with weeds that I need to pull 🙂 I zoomed in on a cluster of about 8 new tomato plants coming up all on their own. I will select the plants I want to keep, move them to their desire location and pull the weeds left.
Tip for growing volunteer tomato plants (plants that come up on their own) – I can detect a baby tomato plant fairly easy by its leaves shortly after it pops up. If you are ever unsure if your plant is a weed or a possible tomato plant, give the leaves a little rub and then smell your hand. Tomato plants have a distinct smell that’s much stronger than most weeds. Once you do this a couple of times, you will easily be able to detect a tomato plant by smell.
I’m excited about everything in my garden but I’m really excited about growing my own shower luffas! I grew them last year and they did so well that they practically took over my garden – seriously the vines were everywhere. Natural shower luffas (or loofahs), just like the ones you see for sale at spas, come from a gourd and you can grow them. I harvested about 30 luffa gourds last year, although I really butchered the drying of the luffas. I have studied up on the processes and I’m giving it a second shot! My luffa seedings have just started popping up! I have place large climbing cages around my seedings. They are large vines that need some climbing space. If you decide to grow some provide them with a cage, trellis, fence etc. to climb.
Grab your luffa seeds and lets grow some together! We can all help each other master the harvesting processes. A link to buying seeds is here. You can find others available online also. I chose to link Burpee’s seeds because I have used their reliable company before (I am in no way sponsored by or affiliated with Burpee).
And now… I HAVE A GIVEAWAY!!!
Hope you are feeling a tiny bit inspired to start a garden, try some new things in your garden or just get outside and grow something! Share this post on your Facebook page, follow Three Oaks Farm by subscribing via email so you never miss a post, follow Three Oaks Farm @ThreeOaksFarmBlog on Instagram, AND like the Three Oaks Farm Facebook Page so you can be entered into a giveaway! If you name is drawn and you are local, I have 10 heirloom tomato plants for you so you can have tomatoes forever!! If you are not local and your name is chosen, I have Orn Luffa Gourd Seeds to send your way – you will need to supply me with your address once notified. Complete all 4 steps NOW or by Tuesday, May 22nd for your chance to win!