Monday, September 14, 2009

Easy Gardening~Start Preparation NOW in Fall

I am not a gardener or farmer. I'm city-folk, but those of you who know the "growing" life, my hat's off to ya! But I readily recognize that good fresh foods are not only cheaper, but healthier for our family. Every home we have lived in, we found some way to break up a piece of soil and plant a few things. Some were more successful plots than others, but we got something from each! This year we have been most blessed, but we are still learning the process of great yield for small space...we don't have a huge yard, and even if we did I wouldn't want to garden that much of it for gardening is work. Work that brings wonderful fruits of satisfaction to see what will grow and how I can best prepare it~so hence not too big a garden spot for me! Our plot may grow larger as the years ensue, but right now I am processing just about as fast as I like...and we are able to have some things tucked back for winter. This is a huge help to my budget and taste buds!! Anyone know how to keep some of these things purely fresh off the vine GOOD all winter? Oh well, I guess it's a problem that even refridgeration didn't solve huh? Here's some ideas on getting a garden in our lives...and it not costing an arm and a leg~begin thinking NOW for really does start in the fall!

1. Pick your spot. Consider the direction of the sun and what you are planning to plant. Research what sun/shade conditions are necessary for optimal growth. Plan the size of your garden on what your goals are: summer ready produce for each week of consumption or processing for preservation for fall and winter? The size will determine along with other factors discussed what your potential yield will become. Think about the goals of your garden and work from there!

2. While perhaps underrated, getting the soil tested can give valuable and totally USEFUL information. Go a head and do it now so you can begin treating the soil before winter...the results will be better come spring. If you have to add lime or mulch (leaves or manure) do it now to give the soil the fall/winter to break down into wonderful planting material. Tiller it up or turn the soil several times during the fall...get out ALL the grass as you work up the soil. Dig deep and clear out any rock or other matter that isn't going to decompose. WORK the dirt...

3. Stake off your garden plot with some sort of barrier to prevent animals from invasion. My hubby used wire and a stake in each of the four corners on four levels to keep out short animals like baby bunnies which are cute but can really destroy a garden, to deer and other wild life...they don't like to feel the wire touch their bodies so they avoid going into the actual garden area. It worked! Now of course if you already have access to fencing use this, but budget wise, even rope will work with wooden stakes. Just be sure it has a good boundary, one you can protect!

4. After you've worked up your garden spot this fall, let it set this winter to let it rest. The process will go on all winter while the chilly winds and cold keep the growing season off for a few months, but your soil will be ready in time...

5. Start your own plants from seeds if possible~and I say possible because I haven't YET been successful at starting tomatoes from their own seeds, and another word of caution too is that hybrids often will not yield like the old timey plants will in so many types of veggies. So you may have to purchase seeds and or plants, but for the budgets sake to save a much as possible and go as low as we seeds from the previous year and prepare for planting...
International Seed Saving Institute:
When to start seeds will depend upon when the time for the plants to go into the ground is for your area. Many seed catalogs as well as the Farmer's Almanac can share this information with you...and they offer it FREE too! But right now, you can begin saving containers for starting seeds: paper cups, plastic cups, bowls, 2 liter drink bottles cut into a small container and even egg cartons. Be sure and save up enough so you can plant in a way that the seedling can prosper. Consider that there must be depth enough for roots to develop so the plant is hardy.

6. Gather your seeds either by purchasing or having saved them. Plant into good soil prepared for seeds starts. We use a good grade of potting soil. It wasn't fancy for us! But there are all types...we just looked at cost again! Place the starts in a good sunny location with frequent watering. We used distilled water and filtered water because we have it, but if you don't I wouldn't go to the expense. AND what I meant by using it was this, that if we had a glass with any left over or even the animal water that was yesterday's water to be changed, we did not throw it by all means if you have bottled water don't waste a drop~plants love it!

7. Take great care to get as healthy a plant as possible before time to transplant them into the soil in the spring. There will need to be thinning and often some pruning to get a plant that will produce at optimal performance. See:

8. In the appointed time frame of your area, reopen your garden soil with tilling or turning under. Work more and more being sure again that all grass is out of the plot. This will be huge when the plants mature and there is less weeding!

9. Plan to tie up tomato plants and others that need support for their producing with what you have: if you have cages, of course use them, but if not, use stakes of wood and strips of rags to tie them up as they grow...prepare for this! It's coming~you can save an old shirt now for it then!

10. When laying out the garden, be sure you plant where the particular plant can do it's best work of growing and giving a harvest. If it's a vine crawling plant like cucumbers or squash, be sure you make allowances for this in the garden area. You can, but it's silly to have growing vines from the garden out in the grass for the mower to get! ;-)) Plan it out~and double plan!!

11. Get those plants into the ground after you are sure no frost is coming. They are tender and not strong as they will become, so be sure NO FROST, but if your area should get a late frost, and this does happen, cover the garden plot with old sheets or thin spreads. This will prevent plant injury or death.

12. Watch, Weed and Water! Keep an eye on the plants for budding and putting on fruit then the time for harvesting! Keep pulling and removing any weeds~they seems to show up when they chose to, and water as the soil indicates. You definitely don't want to over or under water~it effects the harvest!

I found the About Answers site to be a good additional resource on gardening.  In this economy it's such a smart idea to grow as much as possible to reduce food budgeting costs! AND oh it's so very delish!

Extra Reading:
Check out PlantCycle groups on yahoo to swap plants in your area

Tip Hero has loads of info which I haven't even begun to look over for frugal gardening~whoohoo a like-minded thinker!  Look at all those tips on the left side~hey, there's a whole section on home/garden!

Here's to some "dirt under our nails" and some budget boosting groceries! YUM!

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