On Starting a Garden

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Guys, I’m starting a garden this year. I’m pretty excited about it. My husband gives me this face every time I talk about it:

confusedface

He’s a little bit skeptical that I will follow through with my grand plans.

I maintained a pot of herbs last year for the duration of the summer and I loved having fresh basil for caprese salads!

And I got to thinking about what else I could grow and learn how to maintain as well and suddenly I had a list 11 items long that I wanted in a garden.

SAMSUNG CSC

I need to do a bit of research on what will grow well in a raised bed, in this climate, and at what time of year, but that is what Pinterest is for. I’ve already created a gardening board where I’m compiling any helpful info I can find.

So my plan is to try to grow veggies and herbs, and perhaps some strawberries. We have bunnies that hang out by our fence, so I’ll preempt their attacks by adding a little fence around the garden as well. Beyond that our backyard is completely fenced in so I’m not too worried about other stray animals showing up for dinner, but only time will tell.

I know it will be a bit of work, but the boys and I love being outside in the summertime and since this will be outside of our pool fence, though inside of our backyard fence, I imagine I can pull weeds and tend to it when we are out in the backyard. David may even be interested in helping pull up vegetables when they are ready!

In my mind, everything will go swimmingly and I’ll have baskets full of homegrown food, but in reality will be first attempt at it so I’m trying not to go too big.

Perhaps the most daunting part of it is how and when to start the seedlings. I’m sure this is pretty straight forward, but I’ve done so much research on the actual garden box that I’ve neglected planning the actual start of the garden!

Wish me luck! And if you garden, any newbie tips you have are very welcome in the comments!

For someΒ pictures of us enjoying our backyard, check out this post on David’s 2nd birthday!

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Rena says · 02.03.16

I wish you many luck and especially you will like working in the garden much more than I πŸ™‚
xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena
http://www.dressedwithsoul.com

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Breanna says · 02.03.16

Once you get the first fresh foods from your garden you will be inspired to continue your pursuit. Being in North Carolina you have a longer growing season so you could potentially have multiple crops of some of your veggies, Lettuce especially as it likes cooler weather so you will want to start that outside first (most seed packets have good directions as to when to sow indoors v outdoors and when based on your region). Many seed packets will also mention if they are good for container gardening. Burpee is a great source for all things garden.

I would suggest for your cucumbers to get a variety that climbs and put a trellis on one end of your garden so that it will save space as the cucumbers will go vertical instead of taking over your garden when they vine. They also have bush varieties which are more compact.

Cherry tomato plants or other compact but high yielding varieties are good for container as well.

I would just get some large pots for your herbs and leave them potted and you could put them on the porch or wherever is convenient. Herbs do well in pots and they can be more easily controlled that way. Sometimes herbs can takeover your garden space.

I’d be happy to help with any other questions you have! My husband and I live for gardening!!

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Kate says · 02.03.16

This is so helpful, thank you!!

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Kimberley says · 02.03.16

I agree with Breanna- great tips! One thing that I would say is that anytime I grow cucumbers, they don’t stay fresh for long. I don’t know if there is something that I’m not doing, but they tend to “wilt” within just a couple of days- before I can use them.

And herbs in pots are way more convenient. You can keep them close to your kitchen and contain them like Breanna points out. πŸ™‚

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Lindsey says · 02.03.16

Hi! My cucumbers does the same thing too. Makes you wonder what they did to the ones from the grocery stores to last long. :/

I find that if I wrap them with Saran wraps immediately after picking then storing them in the fridge will keep them crispy longer.

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Emily says · 02.19.16

Fresh cucumbers from the garden stay good longer if you leave them out at room temperature. I’ve had them last two weeks this way when I pick them from my garden.

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Hildy says · 02.03.16

Sounds like fun! We did raised beds that my husband made out of scrap wood – they were 2 x 4 feet, I believe, and he elevated them about 2 1/2 feet off the ground which was great because it was easier to maintain and kept a lot of weeds and bugs out. That being said, bugs are a big pain down here in NC and I found some good organic sprays at Home Depot that were kid safe. Peppers, especially jalapeΓ±os, did the best, and so did carrots. If you can find a good farm supply store, check them out and ask lots of questions. There’s one in Carthage NC that’s really good and the people there have their own farms or gardens so they know their stuff and were super helpful. Plan out what you will grow in your beds and try to rotate based on what gets harvested first (like carrots) and then plant late crops that can withstand the heat (like peppers) after. Good luck!

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Andrea says · 02.03.16

The only thing I would say about lettuce is that b/c it grows close to the ground, vs. tomatoes that grow on a vine, they can get moldy if you get a lot of rain. I had that happen one year and never grew lettuce again b/c I was so grossed out.

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Mandy Kelley says · 02.03.16

Definitely place some clean straw around the base of your plants. It will help prevent bottom-rot AND keep the vegetables cleaner when you get a pounding rain. Kids looooove to pull up carrots!?

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Amber says · 02.03.16

Good luck with the bunnies. It has been an uphill battle for me. My kids get so excited to see the stuff growing on the vines and LOVE to help pull them off. It is definitely a fun project even if you don’t get baskets of veggies.

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Cynthia says · 02.03.16

That’s awesome. I’ve always wanted to start a backyard garden, but I’ve been pregnant or caring for a newborn every year since my desire came to me. Then I stopped thinking about it for a couple of years and now that I’ve witnessed a friend of mine, who is a plant killer, successful churn out delicious tomatoes, I got the bug again.

But now we’re moving. Ack!

Good luck, there’s nothing quite like the delicious flavour of homegrown tomatoes and strawberries. My mouth salivates just thinking about it.

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Anne MacPherson says · 02.03.16

I find this is a pretty good guide for planting. May be some help! Love your blog btw!

https://www.veseys.com/ca/en/learn/guide

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Kate says · 02.03.16

awesome thank you!

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Anne MacPherson says · 02.04.16

My family has always had a huge garden my entire life. And now that I am married and living away from home, I miss having quick access to fresh veggies when ever I want. I do keep a couple of box gardens with lettuce, red peppers, tones of basil, rosemary, etc. in the summer.

I am lucky here in Nova Scotia that the Farmers Market scene has kinda taken off and there is a push for people to buy more local fresh produce! It’s actually an amazing sight to be seen. And EVERTHING is so FRESH and delicious!

This book here was kind of the Bible of Gardening around my parents place lol. And I often call my Dad for him to look things up for me. If you like a grab and go book, I would suggest this. I do agree with one of the previous posters, that finding a local nursery and buying your starter plants for the first year or so is easier. Getting the starting of seeds part down may take some time.

http://www.amazon.ca/Readers-Digest-Illustrated-Guide-Gardening/dp/0895778297

And, last but not least! The Farmers Almanac gardening calendar. It’s a guide to help you with starting seeds. It is based off the moon phases. May be something else to look into. I’ve used it the last two years after a friend told me about it. And I do think that it made a difference. Anyways I attached a quick clip. Good luck with the garden! Can’t wait to see how you do! Cheers!

http://www.almanac.com/video/gardening-moon

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Alison says · 02.03.16

I’m in the same boat. Hoping to start a garden soon. Have you heard of the urban cultivator? That’s my ultimate dream when I get a bigger kitchen!

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Stefanie says · 02.03.16

Good luck! I think it sounds wonderful for the kids. I’ve tried several times over the years but so far only the aloe has survived, ha!

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Crystal says · 02.03.16

We’re planning to do the same thing this year. And by w, I mean my husband, because my thumb isn’t the greenest.

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Liz | Ellie And Addie says · 02.03.16

Research square foot gardens, it’s the best and easiest for raised beds. We’ve expanded from 1 to 3 beds we loved it so much! I think this will be our fourth year of doing them. And I recommend peas, you can plant them early and they are fun to pick! Radishes and tomatoes are my person favorites to eat!

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gturn62 says · 02.03.16

Organic gardening is not easy, but is rewarding when you can eat what you’ve painstakingly grown. We’ve had a raised bed at our community garden for 3 years and have learned so much about organic gardening. I highly recommend getting yourself a big bag of DE (diatomaceous earth) and some Neem oil to use as organic pesticides. They’re safe for your kids to be around. Squash bugs are a major problem in the South, so since it’s your first time gardening, I’d avoid planting anything that attracts them. If you want some beautiful lettuce, try Simpson (black seed) lettuce. One tiny plot of it yields LOTS of beautiful lettuce, and when you pick the leaves, more grows back. We had lettuce all summer from a 1 ft. square patch of it. P.S. You should try what is called “square foot” gardening. It keeps your garden neat and organized with the proper amount of space allocated for each plant. And, it makes your garden look really cute! Good luck!

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Sara w says · 02.03.16

I have loved having a garden and I’m not a gardener at all πŸ˜‰ we built the Pioneer Woman raised beds, they were simple and are still going strong 5 years later. We finally put in a drip system (it’s above 100 for most of August) and that has been a game changer I wish I’d done it sooner. My advice for your first is just to buy plants to plant. It’s much simpler but still work. You could start some from seed and buy others as plants, but you want to start seeds almost now. Have fun with it!

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lilly says · 02.03.16

that will so so much fun for the boys! growing up in a very hot climate, my mom grew all kinds of vegetables. one suggestion will be designing an automatic sprinkler system, that way it will water even when you go on vacation and still have herbs and tomatoes when you return πŸ™‚ and for the bunnies and deer that visit my hood, my neighbor fenced around and top with chicken wire. basil, tomatoes and leafy greens are my favorite! good luck!

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Becky says · 02.03.16

Hi, Kate! Buy “open variety” seeds. When you harvest your veggies, open variety seeds can be removed from the veggies, dried on a paper towel, stored, and planted next year. This way, you don’t have to buy seeds next year and you know exactly what variety of food you’re planting. I’d look for organic or non-GMO seeds, too. https://www.jungseed.com/ ——> great place to buy seeds. They have so many things to choose from, your imagination will run wild! Happy gardening!!!!

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Nicole says · 02.03.16

We have so many rabbits that visit our backyard. I’ve found that planting mint and/or basil in a pot and placing it right by the garden will help to deter them. I would not advise to grow mint in the actual garden though because it will take over the entire thing. And hello- fresh mint for mojitos? haha!

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Kara says · 02.03.16

You will absolutely LOVE it. If I could only plant one thing it would be tomatoes. You will never look at a tomato from the store the same again…EVER. Like someone else said, plant cucumbers on some kind of trellis or have a bed for them on their own or they will take over all the other plants. Don’t let them get too dry. I live in PA and if it is a dry season my cucumbers get terribly bitter. For the tomatoes, to avoid bottom rot, last summer I kept all my egg shells a couple weeks before I knew we were going to plant tomatoes. When we planted the tomatoes, I crushed up the shells and put a small handful right below the plant and that was the first time I didn’t have a problem with the bottoms rotting and they were some of the biggest plants I have ever had. They actually got taller than me. Have fun!

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KC says · 02.03.16

If you plan on starting from seed, START SOON! For your first year getting plants from a local nursery is a great place to start, and they will give you lots of tips on what you can plant in your climate.

Also this has work for us with deer and rabbits, human hair. Save the hair from your trimmings and lay it out in your garden. The scent keeps critters at bay.

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Kate says · 02.03.16

great to know!

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Giselle D says · 02.07.16

I actually just attended a planting from seed class. (what can I say – I am cool like that). To know when to start your seeds, you need to know the average last and first frost date. Then you can stick that into this site, and it will tell you when to plant your seeds: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/e-pdgseedstart.aspx

It’s actually early to start planting in Vermont (ie a colder climate). If you want, I can send you the packet I received in the class (I promise, no spam).

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Giselle D says · 02.07.16

I went ahead and sent it via email to you : )

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Kat says · 02.03.16

Agreed, sprinkling hair clippings around the garden works like a charm! Those bunnies love to nibble particularly at the sprouting beans and this keeps them away.

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Angela says · 02.03.16

Good luck! I started gardening several years ago with a few tomato plants and look at it as an experiment every year. I also have raised beds and have bought soil to put in the beds. It works great.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE having my own lettuce. It is a cooler weather plant, and probably won’t taste good in the heat of the summer. You might plant the lettuce soon, I’m not sure. In Ohio, I plant it mid-March. You can also plant it in the fall. I order Rocky Top Lettuce Mix from rareseeds.com. Look at their site and request a free catalog. Holy smokes. I want to plant it all.

Here is another site that really helped me: http://www.farmgirlfare.com/ look at the posts for In My Kitchen Garden. She is located somewhere in southern Missouri, so I think your growing seasons will be similar. I also have the book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. The guy is from Vermont, so quite a bit cooler conditions, but still has some really excellent information.

I’ve never planted green onions, but I think those are a cooler weather spring plant. I’ve tried planting cilantro, and it bolts (it gets weird and no good for eating in my opinion) after the soil temperature hits 70 degrees. It gets too hot by May in Ohio for it, so….

Love tomatoes and cucumbers! Cucumbers like to climb something. I’ve also had great luck with peppers.

Have fun! And you will get dirty.

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Heather says · 02.03.16

I see cucumbers on your list. They are super easy to grow but have a tendancy to take over. We’ve had good luck planting them near the fence of our garden so they can grow up the side instead of all over the other plants

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Missy Robinson says · 02.03.16

Gardening with my children has been a complete joy – they all began as soon as they could toddle. I’m mostly into flowers, but we do a few herbs and strawberries (they come back each year, too). Every year, each child has to chose one thing to be “theirs” for the year. They plant, water, prune, weed and get to harvest!

It’s so wonderful – many enjoy many happy hours in the garden together!

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Bri says · 02.03.16

Good luck! You should also check out the info from your local extension office: https://horticulture.ces.ncsu.edu/; Pinterest is awesome for ideas but some of the things you see might be from other climates/growing zones! Extension should have great resources for a first-time gardener, tailored to your area. πŸ™‚

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Erin @ thh says · 02.03.16

Best of luck! We don’t have a space here for a garden, but hopefully next year we will! *fingers crossed* So I have zero advice, but I’m going to be combing over these comments for tips and following along with your journey to see what I can learn. πŸ™‚

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Jenny says · 02.03.16

Read the book ‘All New Square Foot Gardening’. I started our first garden last summer in a raised bed (single row) and plan to go the square foot method this year. In a raised bed we hardly had to pull any weeds at all. A very low maintenance garden, which is just what you need with small kids! Happy gardening!

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Dana says · 02.03.16

Only do carrots and lettuce from seed. Everything else will be a lot easier if you pick up seedlings at a local greenhouse. Fund one that specializes in veggies and they’ll already have varieties that grow well in your area. They’ll probably also have great advice for how and when to plant them in your micro climate too.

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Leticia justus says · 02.05.16

Yes.i agree with dana!!!

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Leah says · 02.03.16

I live in Goldsboro and started my first garden last year. I was going through a faze where I wanted to eat sweet peppers with every meal, so I decided to grow my own. I was so surprised with how well they did. I have a 3 year old daughter who loved to help water and pick whatever we grew. This year I’m going to expand it and grow a wider variety of vegetables, fruit, and herbs. I had a Burpee catalog sent to me and they have a big selection of seeds. If fresh produce is a huge staple in your house you should check out Lee’s Produce Subscription box. They’re located in Johnston County I believe, but I know they deliver to Raleigh. We customized our own boxes weekly last summer and I believe it was only about 20-25 dollars for a box full with free delivery! Good luck!!!

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Megan says · 02.03.16

Yay for gardening! May I suggest building a wicking bed for your garden? They require a bit more work to build but are WELL worth the effort. What’s a wicking bed, you ask? It’s a raised garden bed that has a reservoir underneath it. Wicking beds cut down on water usage and loss due to evaporation AND you will find little, if any, weeds growing in your garden! When I built my first wicking bed in Texas I only had to water my garden once a week. And I only had to weed after we had a heavy rainfall. For information on what one of these beds look like and how to construct it I’d recommend checking out http://foodisfreeproject.org/resources/ Happy gardening!

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Michelle says · 02.03.16

That’s the face my husband made when I told him I was starting a garden too! We live in Charlotte and my kids and I built a 4′ by 4′ raised bed garden and grew a ton of produce just in that small area. We grew nearly 2000 cherry tomatoes alone! The kids loved the project and helped take care of it, I’m going to build another one this spring. “Square Foot Gardening” (book from our local library) along with Pinterest was hugely helpful as I didn’t know the first thing about growing anything. Good luck!

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Heidi C says · 02.03.16

Oh how awesome! It will be a ton of fun. Every year, I learn something new in my garden. How to protect from rabbits was the first lesson. πŸ™‚ I always start with enthusiasm, but it wanes a bit as temps soar and I want to spend less time outside, but it is a ton of fun! Your boys will love it!

Haven’t been able to get seed starting down pat, so don’t worry if it doesn’t work out. You can buy started plants at your local nursery!

Have fun!!!

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ADL says · 02.03.16

I would suggest buying the starter plants from your local home gardening store rather than planting from seeds. Good luck!

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Kristin S says · 02.03.16

Kate, do you follow Lesley Zellers at RecipeforCrazy? She’s pretty great for lots of reasons but her garden last year was amazing. They started this week for the summer. She posts great tips along the way and her Instagram feed is inspirational. They have learned a lot over the years and are happy to share. She’s super down to earth, too. Like you. πŸ™‚

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Kristin S says · 02.03.16

And know you can’t shoot critters in city limits. Just forewarning for mid-summer when you want to shoot some squirrels and rabbits (yes, they are cute but they do damage) to Fuquay.
(I sound incredibly country but those squirrels brought out rage in me like I had never known!)

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Katie says · 02.03.16

I’ve had luck with green onions and romaine lettuce. Brought from the store. Trim the bottom “root” off and stick in a glass of water and wait for roots to emerge and some little extra green to sprout from the top, then we planted them and has lettuce and green onions keep giving. Love it.

πŸ™‚

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Jessica says · 02.03.16

Cherry or grape tomatoes and sugar snap peas are easy for little hands to pick and eat! My 2yo also loved pulling and eat carrots and radishes right out of the garden.

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Elisha B says · 02.03.16

Exciting! We have a pretty big raised bed, and we love it! I have 4 little ones who LOVE to help weed/pick veggies. Some years we get lots of produce, other years, not so much. But that’s part of it! It has been a great lesson for the kiddos. And you can’t beat picking your own fresh produce! If you are just starting out, one thing you could do is start some of the seeds directly in the ground (The back of a seed packet will tell you when to do so), and buy some of the things already started (buy plants). That way, not all of your ‘eggs are in one basket’. Meaning, if it’s a wet year and your seeds don’t come up, you’ve still got plants that are not as sensitive as a seed. Lettuce and carrots are great to sow directly in the garden as seeds. Green onions are purchased in bulb form. And the rest of your list could be purchased as plants. Lowe’s or a local garden center would have all of the things mentioned above. Good luck!

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Anna says · 02.03.16

We highly reccommend Square Foot Gardening: http://www.amazon.com/Square-Foot-Gardening-Second-Revolutionary/dp/1591865484/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454521799&sr=8-1&keywords=square+foot+gardening. It is an excellent guide for first time raised bed gardeners! We used this as novices and had a wonderful yield our very first year, we were thrilled to say the least :). Happy Gardening!

By the way growing in a raised bed with your own soil mix is the easiest, weed free way to grow!

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Erin @ The Impatient Gardener says · 02.03.16

Good for you! You’ll love it and so will your kids. A few notes:
β€’ Do not build the box out of pressure-treated lumber (chemicals that you do not want near your food). Untreated pine boards will last several years (I’m on year seven or so with no problems), or upgrade to cedar.
β€’ Invest in the soil. Get a good mix of sifted garden soil and compost. Don’t try to fill a big raised bed from bags. Contact a local nursery and have them deliver a nice mix (or pick it up yourself if you can figure out a way to transport it). Compost is key. Call around until you find it and then consider making your own for the future.
β€’ Don’t try to plant too much. That raised bed might look big, but it will fill up quickly. Don’t try to squish things together; you’ll be disappointed in the yields. Seed packets will tell you how close to plant things and you can push that a little bit if you have good soil. You may want to also continue doing a few pots here and there and group herbs or something in there.
β€’ If you’re starting seeds indoors, invest in a grow light. It makes all the difference. Don’t feel like you need to start everything from seed. It’s probably cheaper to just pick up two tomato plants than to buy two kinds of seed. Remember that some plants don’t like to be transplanted so you’re often better off just starting them directly in the ground.
β€’ Thin ruthlessly. It’s hard to sacrifice your own little seedlings, but you have to just gut it out and get rid of most of them. Keep the strongest looking seedlings that are spaced properly and pitch the rest. This is especially important with root vegetables.
β€’ Try different things. I can’t tell you how many veggies I now eat that I had never touched before. When you grow it yourself it always tastes better, so try at least one thing that you’ll not sure that you’ll like.
β€’ Have fun! Don’t let it turn into a chore. It’s supposed to be fun!

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Kara says · 02.03.16

Good luck! Growing up on farmland in Indiana, we could pretty much throw seed down and it would grow and thrive. Our family always had a huge 1/2 acre garden. So when we bought our house in Cincinnati, I immediately wanted a garden. Um…talk about eye-opening. Just getting a flat spot was hard enough, then we found out that the soil is mostly rock and clay, so we had to buy good soil. After all our hard work, we couldn’t wait to see all our produce…and the deer ate it all! All I had left at the end of the season were decorative pumpkins. Good luck to you!!

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Deana says · 02.03.16

We just moved to western NC and we had lots of success with green beans, tomatoes, and lettuce this summer. We started with only 3 things until we got the hang of it. Some lettuce varieties allow you to pluck the outer leaves and new leaves grow back, as opposed to uprooting the whole plant. We didn’t buy lettuce from June-September! Green beans are really easy and so fun for kids. Bush green beans don’t need a trellis to climb. Again, the more you pick, the more the plants produce. My little girl loved going out to our garden every morning with a basket. *Research natural insect repellents to stave off the critters before they become a problem. We had lots of little worms and a few grasshoppers this summer. Luckily, the wasps that camped out among our lettuce (super puzzling at first) were there to help us out. We dusted food grade diatomaceous earth, a nontoxic option, on the plants to keep the bugs off. We can’t wait to try growing some root veggies this summer. HAVE FUN!

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Michelle says · 02.03.16

Growing your own wholesome food is always a win-win in my book. Below is another option of growing your own garden that you may want to consider. A tip that I can offer is to use vinegar water on your plants to keep the pest away. I am not a fan of those worms that like to eat the tomatoes. πŸ™‚

http://michelle-lambert.towergarden.com/

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Alyssa says · 02.03.16

My advice is to definitely start small. The thing that got so overwhelming for us in the past is all of the wedding and tending to the plants that needs to be done. When we moved into our house, there was already a garden space in place and we thought we had to fill it all! This year we’re doing just some small potted herbs and tomatoes because it just became too much for us to manage. But I really think just starting small and knowing what you can handle is a great way to test to see if it makes sense for you!

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Robin says · 02.03.16

My husband built raised beds for me a few years ago. I love them. I have my husband put mulch on them after I plant to keep the soil from drying put too fast. My advise would be that only one of each vegetable may be sufficient. I planted 3 basil plants the first year and oh my! I was overloaded. My peppers did very well. And as far as cucumbers, one plant gives us more than we can handle. I use a trellis for my cucumbers. Works great! Otherwise they travel all over the place. I also plant one large tomato (beefsteak) and one small (grape tomatoes). We also tried strawberries but they didn’t do very well. But then again, it is a different climate up here on Long Island. Best of luck! I can’t wait to see how you do!!

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Laura says · 02.03.16

I love the idea of having a garden, but my husband gently reminds me every year that I hate bugs and bugs love to live in and around gardens. Maybe some day I’ll get over it! haha

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Pip says · 02.03.16

Give thought to putting lettuce in hanging planters/pots. We hung ours, filled with mixed lettuce types, by the kitchen door. It made it easy to move to a shadier spot when the weather got warmer, kept the gross bugs out from it, easy to grab a few leaves each night for supper, and we didn’t have to battle the bunnies and the deer.

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Suzy says · 02.03.16

If you collect your grass clippings when mowing, spread that around your veggies to keep weeds at bay. I stole that tip from my neighbor several years ago. Also, planting marigolds around the perimeter of your garden can help keep rabbits away. I guess they taste bad to the rabbits. It has helped in my garden but every once in a while one of the critters gets through. The marigolds look pretty, anyway.

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Erin @ The Impatient Gardener says · 02.03.16

Great idea, but only use the grass clippings if you don’t treat your lawn with any chemicals or pesticides.

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Kate S. says · 02.03.16

Start small! Plant a little less than you think you want/need. It is VERY easy to get ‘garden burnout’ when you go to big, too fast. (Ask me how I know!)

But I wish you all the luck. I will look forward to hearing more about it.

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Maura says · 02.03.16

Yeah!!! you will have so much fun. I did my first garden last year and loved it. I did research and followed the square foot gardening book/method, which helped take a lot of the guess work out. My boys were 18 months and 5 and absolutely loved “helping me” with the planting, weeding and “harvesting.” I am looking forward to spring to get going again. I would echo someone above to just by starters. They weren’t that expensive and the process to start them on my own seemed space consuming and a little overwhelming.

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Vanessa says · 02.03.16

I didn’t read every comment, so forgive me if this is a repeat – rabbits probably aren’t your biggest threat to strawberries. Our biggest problem has been birds. They can easily spot them, and after 2 years we had yet to eat a single strawberry. :/

Good luck with your plans. We have found lettuce and peppers to be the easiest. They do well even when we forget about them completely over a long weekend.

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Stephanie Harrold says · 02.03.16

Love the veggies from my raised bed garden!
But— bunnies and deer are a challenge. If you have several beds, you will need to put up deer fencing, bird netting on top if you plant strawberries, and definitely dig down and put small gauge chicken wire to keep the burrowing bunnies out! I used self watering boxes for my vine tomatoes- they are the best! I put my cucumbers’ in a separate box with a trellis. I love my lettuces- we also have planted red and yellow raspberries (hence the bird netting).
I am a city slicker planting in Nantucket and have learned by process of elimination(literally).
Have fun!

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Nichole says · 02.03.16

I plant a garden every year and it is remarkably easy, however there is always at least one plant that refuses to take off. So don’t be disappointed if you find that result. Be careful how much cucumber you plant. Planted four last year for a family of three and I was giving them away by the bucket loads. Some were longer than my forearm! I love the square foot gardening method, but with that method you have to make sure to amend your soil in order to get good results. I recommend composted cow manure and compost tea (Bu’s Brew makes a good one). Tomatoes love it.

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Michelle says · 02.03.16

Pick up the book “square foot garden”. You can look up any item and see how many seedlings to plant withIn a square foot (plus other info on each plant). It has been a huge help for my family to plan our garden the last two seasons. We’ve had great success rate h year thanks to this book! Good luck!

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steffanie says · 02.03.16

You’ll do fine! Once you’ve got the setup you want and the seeds in the ground, the day-to-day work isn’t bad. I would definitely recommend talking to gardeners IN YOUR AREA about exactly when to plant though and what grows best in your soil. No book or pinterest article will be as accurate as someone who has been gardening for years near where you live. I used a book the first year I gardened and had all my plants in the ground in early May, per the books suggestion. Well, just as everything had sprouted a couple weeks later, a frost came and killed it all! Of course THEN I spoke with gardeners in my area who were like, “Oh, yeah. Out here we never put in the ground until June 1!” Ooops. My bad! Bunch of time and money down the drain. :-/ Another thing I would suggest is starting your seedlings inside the house in egg crates or old milk cartons or something. That will help them sprout quicker and as soon as the weather is ready outside you can transfer them and you’ll have a two week head-start on the harvest.

Finally, strawberries… They spread like crazy! Either give them their own dedicated garden box, or plant them in a flower bed somewhere in your yard that is big enough for them to go crazy (you can have other plants in the bed, but they are best under roses or other plants that grow UP not out). It will take a couple years for the plants to mature and spread, and then you will get a great harvest of strawberries daily! When my kids were smaller and we had strawberries, they would run outside every morning as soon as they got up to see if any strawberries were ready to pick and then pick them all and eat them right there. One of my favorite memories!!

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Sarah says · 02.03.16

Hi Kate, veggie gardening is one of my favorite hobbies! I definitely agree with previous commenters stop by your local garden center and talk to an employee about what you are hoping to grow. Avoid the big box stores the quality is better at the smaller places and it is my favorite way to buy local!

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Sarah says · 02.03.16

Wonderful! We have several raised beds and are so happy with them. I am someone who had absolutely no experience gardening but really (really) wanted the fresh food, and I have been shocked at how successful the beds have been! Lots of wonderful tips and comments here, so I will just focus on a couple of points, based on my experience as not-a-natural gardener: (1) I cannot recommend doing plants enough, rather than seeds only β€” maybe do some seedlings for the fun, but starting your first year with seeds only has the strong potential for garden heartbreak; doing plants also makes it easy to know when to put what in the ground β€” visit the nursery, talk with folks there, and see what they have!; (2) get great soil, including great top mix β€” so many people skip this step, but getting the best soil you can find/afford makes it SO MUCH EASIER to be successful; and (3) leave a good amount of space between the plants (a nursery can advise well here) β€” they start so small, and it is easy to bunch them together, but those large lush plants need space to thrive! (Oh, and final thought? Perhaps consider saving strawberries for a future year; there are different tricks to fruit bushes!)

Once you tell folks in your area that you are doing a food garden, so many people will have fun things to share, and people who live in your zone (just guessing you are maybe a 7a or b?) are the best resources for advice!

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Evelina says · 02.03.16

I totally want to do a garden too! Can you keep us posted on things you learn as you go along? Maybe I will join you!! And I have bunnies in my garden too so I am always looking for ways to keep them from eating anything off limits.

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Colleen says · 02.03.16

Gardening so great for kids! When I plan my garden, I use the chart that is listed below. Some plants do not do well next to each other, like tomatoes and potatoes. The chart helps me quickly look up which plants will do better (or worse) next to others.

http://www.farmtopreschool.org/pdf/2.3_CompanionPlanting_Chart.pdf

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Theresa L. says · 02.03.16

Soil testing is key. Go to a garden center and ask them what you need to know about the so for getting it right the first time right. If you already have soil in a raised bed get the soil testing kit at the garden center. If you don’t do this the whole thing could be a bust. You have acidic soil and you won’t grow a thing.

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Emily says · 02.03.16

Call your local Extension Office! I work at one in Georgia and we have people come in all the time wanting gardening information! Also they can give you research based information. Be careful with Pinterest and blogs, some of that information isn’t true. Here is the link to North Carolina State Cooperative Extension https://www.ces.ncsu.edu.

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Julie says · 02.03.16

My husband built raised beds for me last year. We planted tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. I suggest a trellis for the cucumbers and pick them before the get too big. I also read the marigold flowers help keep bugs away from tomatoes. I tried it and worked. I thinks the best thing we installed was a drip hose (not a soaker hose) throughout the bed. I would turn it on and leave it on for a slow soak.

Gardening is relaxing and seeing all the items grow is so rewarding.

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Kym says · 02.03.16

Berries take a year or two to get established, you may want to put them in their own bed. :). Have fun! Gardening is wonderful!

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Nicole says · 02.03.16

I recommend calling your local extension service office and seeking their advice on what is best suited to grow in your area. The extension service in our state is a service of one of our public universities that is an “ag” school.

We’ve never done raised beds but use giant (like 30 gallon) tubs and grow container style. We are in the Deep South and have good luck with many varieties of tomatoes, squash, peppers, and herbs. Watermelon and berries are more difficult.

Our go-to potting mix is a casual blend of good quality potting soil, peat moss, Black Kow brand manure, and Black Hen brand manure.

Have fun! Your boys will love helping and watching the progress of the plants.

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Karin says · 02.03.16

You should get a tower garden!!! I have one in my classroom for my students to grow fresh food inside our classroom. It is so easy, clean , and lots of fun! My mom has 3! I’d love to share the fun!

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Carla L. says · 02.04.16

Kate – you may want to look also at Square Foot Gardening, U-Shaped gardens (which is a raised need system that you don’t have to bend over for and had a gate you can close – a potentially good point as the boys get more mobile), or straw bale gardens.

I did a straw bale garden one year and loved it. You decide how large you want it to be (I did 9 bales in a U shape). You water and fertilize for a few days (so they can go through their heating process). Then you just make a little hole in the straw and pop in your plant straight out of the little pot it came in. You add cages,poles etc for support just like you normally would. You can also plant flowers or herbs on the sides to make it pretty. My zuchini plants got so big you couldn’t see the bale anymore!

I liked that I could drape a soaker house on it and run it to a timer to take care of the watering. Also, when the season was over the bales can be used one more year (of still in good shape) or tossed. This let’s you decide whether to continue the next year in the same spot or not and at the same size/shape or not. Low commitment is good for your first try πŸ™‚ All you have to deal with is replanting grass where the bales were. I know several others who tried it also and really liked it too.

Good luck with whatever you choose!

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Meg says · 02.04.16

Very cool! Can’t wait to hear about your progress. Last year I planted a “cut flower” garden from seed. All of my seeds had sprouted and I was counting down the days until I had gorgeous flowers to cut and arrange… Until… The lawn guy got overly ambitious and decided to be helpful and “weed” my flower bed. πŸ™
-Meg
http://www.smalltownsisters.blogspot.com

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Holly says · 02.04.16

Dying at the “pic” of your husband’s reaction, haha!

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Laurie P says · 02.04.16

Check with your state extension service. You’re in North Carolina, right?
https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/lawn-and-garden-publications/
They should have a bevy of information specific to your area and if you don’t find what you’re looking for online, visit your local extension office. There should be an agent that can help you.

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susan says · 02.04.16

Good for you!
Plant lots of BASIL so you can make PESTO

http://a-woman-of-a-certain-age.com/2016/01/you-can-make-it-yourself-pesto/

Then your husband will be smiling at you!

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Carly O'Connor says · 02.04.16

My husband maintains our garden with everything you mentioned (and more!) on your list. We live in Knoxville, tn so a very similar climate to yours and everything with the exception of peppers do really well. The peppers did okay but not great. Our nephew who was 2 at the time LOVED picking the strawberries and cherry tomatoes so you should definitely do some of those for David. You should try Siberian Kale. We tried spinach but it didn’t do very well but the kale oh my word! It’s amazing and it’s more spinachy tasting than kale -in a good way! I don’t tend to love the taste of kale.. i’ll eat it but it’s a little too strong for me but this stuff is very mild and grows exceptionally well! We put it in smoothies & salads. I can’t wait to see my almost one year old in the garden this year with my husband πŸ™‚

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Jessica says · 02.04.16

I started a garden last year and loved it! Some things did better than others but overall I had a good crop – it was so nice to walk outside when I needed something and just pull it. I grew tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and jalapeΓ±os that did AMAZING! My broccoli got decimated by squash beetles and my green beans never took off but overall it’s such a great experience.

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Andrea says · 02.04.16

You definitely should purchase The Gardeners Bible..it covers everything from crop pairings, common tips & tricks, etc. It is worth ear marking!!
http://www.amazon.com/The-Vegetable-Gardeners-Bible-Edition/dp/160342475X

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Jill White says · 02.04.16

Lots of great advice written already! I would defiantly consider:
Square foot gardening
Using straw around the base to keep weeds at bay (ain’t nobody got time to weed!)
Check into “double digging” your plot. It will help your plants grow strong root systems
Rare seeds.com
Get GOOD ORGANIC DIRT
Buy tomato plants to plant your first go around
Buy cucumbers at the farmer’s market, aka not worth it to grow
Hope you loved it’s! It’s a hobby that my whole family does together!

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Megan says · 02.05.16

Good luck!! I live in Illinois, used to work as activities at the retirement community I work at, and gardened there. I love it! Too many wild animals where I live to do big garden though.. I loved growing watermelon and cantaloupes, super easy. Tomatoes are fun too. I’ve never done seedlings, I always just buy the small plants from home depot, so I cheat..

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Sarah says · 02.07.16

Oh man, I am excited for you to start a garden because I love mine and am always looking for more inspiration on that front. I live in Michigan, so our growing season is definitely shorter than yours. I have had this planter box for the last two summers — http://www.gardeners.com/buy/planter-boxes-cedar-raised-garden/8587631.html#start=1 — It looks like a beast, but the height makes the planting/weeding/etc so much easier. Best of all, it keeps the bunnies at bay (though squirrels and chipmunks can totally scamper up the side still…) I’ve had some great results and the planter itself is holding up great. I also grow tomatoes and a couple other things in large pots.

To second some other comments: I also suggest getting a climbing variety of cucumber and using a trellis. Don’t overcrowd the space, it should look ridiculously bare when you first plant. Carrots and snap peas are some of my most favorite things to grow. I haven’t gotten too far into starting from seeds yet. This is a great planning site — http://www.zukeeni.com/

For me, caring for my garden and watching everything grow is well over half the fun! I don’t get amazingly plentiful harvests, but everything is delicious and I have a great time in the process.

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Cynthia Mueller says · 02.08.16

Love the notepad! Would be a great gift for my friends that love cats as much as I do πŸ™‚ Would you please share where it’s from?

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Trish says · 02.10.16

I love this post! Brought back so many happy memories gardening with my Grandma and Dad. I grew up helping every year with the vegetable garden.

We tried new veggies every year but our regulars were always tomatoes, green onions, green and yellow string beans, snap peas,lettuce, rhubarb, and carrots. We occasionally did potatoes, squash, and green peppers. We also had herbs going but potted them or planted them separately so they wouldn’t take over lol.

It’s a lot of work but the rewards are worth it! And I’m sure your little guys will love to help pick the fresh veggies and maybe even help pull weeds and water the garden as they get older haha ?

Best of luck!!

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Stephanie Stakenas says · 02.15.16

Having my own garden has been a life long dream of mine too! I am nervous as well about the seedlings – I seem to do better with pre established plants. I love landscaping but with busy busy lives its hard to keep up on the weeding! Plus my hubby says no to making a spot in our yard. I am going to start a tower garden this year! I can keep it on my deck and grow fruits and veggies all year long with the grow lights. So being in Michigan this will be so awesome for me and my daughter to do together and to have our own pesticide free produce!

I wish you luck on your endeavor and can’t wait to see your posts about it! We will be doing seedlings too so can’t wait to see how yours turn out!

I have been following your blog since 09 or 2010 – I just love reading it!

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Emily says · 02.19.16

Check out the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. It’s an amazing book and the results of the garden are great. Low on weeds high on yields. I followed his methods step by step and we have a successful garden every year. Good luck!

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