As an early retiree, it is oh so expected that I take on gardening.
So I did.
Can’t break tradition.
2 essential caveats before I start:
#1: I am no professional gardener or anything of the sort. on the contrary, novice, totally.
But- in my humble opinion- not only does that not disqualify me from writing this post on the contrary- this only makes me more aware of what a novice gardener fears.
So get ready- this is the real deal- including the frugal side, naturally, since I am not only an organic produce enthusiast but also care deeply for the value for cost point of view.
Why not start at the beginning?
The beginning: summer 18-things are looking bad, real bad
Harsh summer, very hot, super dry, neighbors building their house and their workers leaving a large construction machine with its engine too close to the shrubs you see in the picture, my drip irrigation system proved to be a total miss- water was leaking and the garden was slowly but surely dehydrating although we turned the water system 3 times a week.
looking bad, I know.
#2: Determination will get you anywhere! end of summer 18-cleaning the territory
As enthusiastic as I was- couldn’t start working seriously with that pair of broken branch cutters.
Since the cutters are made by a reputable company, a new cutter costs around 100$, so I contemplated my options, knowing that there is no way I can do all that work without those cutters.
So I started looking online and found out you can order new parts via mail for a fraction of the cost of a new one- you only need to get your engineering (no) skills together and understand exactly what each part is called and numbered.
Got through that part (wasn’t easy I tell you) and 2 weeks later-
Mind you I only changed the upper left part of the cutters (dark grey) and scrubbed clean everything else.
#3: getting to work:
Step 4: breaking up with the irrigation system- moving to a full proof yellow hose:
The summer of 2018 was a harsh summer, and as you can see above, our garden suffered from the heat tremendously.
Since I constantly check our water bill, I saw a 200$ bill for May-June 2018, and I was puzzled.
Something was wrong for sure.
So I started checking our water system- every inch of it, and the conclusion was that something must be wrong with the drip irrigation- since the garden was evidently dehydrated though we watered it constantly- or so we thought.
We dismantled the irrigation system and bought this (advertised as) full-proof lifetime guarantee hose. and I started watering every day using only the hose.
I can tell you it is June now and our water bill for May 2019 was 20$…
If you care about your garden + water waste+ your water bill:
Either check your water irrigation system constantly to make sure there are no holes and the system is well maintained
If you have the time and energy to invest: use a simple hose and water your garden regularly. but please remember to water in the very early morning hours, otherwise, all your good work and precious water will go to waste, once the sun gets to action.
2 Added bonuses to the second method:
#1: you can check up on your plants, shrubs, trees, and vegetables while you are out there watering-by doing so you get a 100% better chance of detecting disease and other possible problems in your garden.
#2: watering your garden is truly a relaxing job, almost meditative. put on some music and enjoy yourself! If you are brave-hearted or can’t see your neighbors then use the time to squat! Try one of the squat challenges!
As it turns out, checking up on your garden every day is a 101 in gardening, and I have no idea how we managed to keep our garden
(fairly)alive through all those long years I worked.
This is the problem people-
I simply can’t bring myself to recommend the hose system to full-time, out-of-the-house, working people. this is simply too much- between work, cleaning, preparing food, exercising, resting, not to mention if you have young kids- you know what-even grown-up kids.
So maybe use the famous middle way- combine both methods- use and maintain an irrigation system 1-2 times a week, and water by hand the other times?
The main thing is don’t forget to keep a close eye on your garden, it is a living thing, and cannot maintain itself.
speaking of which:
#5: keep working! ( motivating myself -in a harsh tone- I am the boss of me! )
Since my garden was already covered with trees and shrubs- looking for a proper vegetable section wasn’t an easy mission.
The main thing was finding a place that gets enough sunlight- meaning between 6-8 hours of sun each day.
The only place I found was this plot of land, which we covered a long time ago in volcanic tuff- to prevent weeds.
The thing is there was no way to use the soil since it was contaminated with gasoline the previous owners had spilled years ago. somehow the roses we grew there managed, but no way I was going to take a risk with vegetables…
#6: The solution:
What a genius idea.
I am not promoting the genius company that developed this thing- because I have no idea who that is- but still- If you stumble upon troublesome soil like I did- or have only a porch to grow your desired veggies- those planting pots got you covered.
Bear in mind that tomatoes are what is called “heavy feeders” -meaning a single plant of tomatoes needs at least 15-20 liters pot to grow, cucumbers can manage in 10-15 liters and peppers in 7-10 liters.
#7: the soil
I went and bought a designated gardening soil (a lot of it- the planting pots have calculating tables to make life easier for you) and combined it with compost -in a 50:50 ratio.
I ordered good quality seeds -a batch enough for 2 years cost 25$ -all heirloom and derived from organically grown vegetables.
Didn’t buy plants from a nursery since I decided I was going to learn everything concerning growing vegetables- from seeds to plate.
A youtube channel that I found very helpful is “the rusted garden”- by Gary Pilarchik.
Here is a link: the rusted garden
#9: seeds to seedlings…..
Ok listen people- this was not simple for a novice gardener like me.it was definitely hard work.
All I can say is once you go through your first growing season-the second one will probably look like a child’s game for you…
I bought a heating mat, a special light bulb (used a lamp I had on hand)- the light has to be at least 2000-3000 lumens (lumens measure the brightness of the light) and 5000-6500 Kelvin (a type of light- your seedlings need a light that imitates daylight to grow strong).
You need to give your seedlings 16-18 hours of growing light a day- once they germinated. yes- you can shine the light on them at night if you have a spare room where no one is bothered by the light.
Tomatoes and peppers take 8-12 weeks to get to a young plant stage- and during that time you need to water them regularly -to keep them moist but not soggy- and basically monitor them daily.
Then when temperatures get to about 20 degrees Celcius outside- you can consider transplanting them outside to your planting pots.
Be careful if there are cats or other animals walking about in your garden.
They tend to believe you set the planting pots with the gardening soil and compost- as a special toilet designed for them. so they will dig up all the soil and all your hard work will go to waste.
I bought a simple cheap building wire and constructed a wired cage- to deter cats and support my tomatoes- cucumbers when they hopefully fruit.
#10: What about that plate?
So far- we have great cucumbers, a few tomatoes, (I mean really- a few- maybe 3 till now-the rest are still green- waiting impatiently) ) parsley, and coriander.
My personal recommendation-
Start with the easiest – cucumbers and green leaves- parsley and coriander. grow lots of these and enjoy your life. the tomatoes and peppers are hard work!!
Remember the sad picture from the summer of 2018?
This is how the same plot looked like in spring 2019.
Lots of compost, lots of water, lots of maintenance. lots of Love. The Beatles were right of course.
Can’t say it was easy- nor cheap but if you are into fresh healthy organic great-tasting veggies and are not afraid of the hard work- get to it!
Enjoy- the cooliflower.