14 June 2009

Dirt Cheap: Our Gardening Adventure ... Part 1

Memorial day weekend in Michigan means the threat of frost is gone (well, we hope ... ), and the time has come for ... gardening! I loooooove this time of year, and those cute little plants in the ground. I do generally forget how much work putting those adorable sprouts in the ground can be, but my calves and hamstrings do a fabulous job reminding me every week after Memorial day. Last year, we planted in a circle. Yea, really, what in the world were we thinking?! We had this vision for cute concentric circles, but the plants had other plans and did everything they could to turn the whole thing into a jungle. This year, we're back to a rectangle (and while we're at it ... why not expand a little ... teehee).

This is a shot of Be and my brother Abby putting up the perimeter stakes after the rototilling was finished. Great tip: Don't buy a rototiller, but instead find someone you know or who lives near by from whom you can borrow one for a few hours. Be's dad came down to do ours, and bingo bango we don't have to shovel by hand or lay out $600 for a rototiller. Share things! Buying new is both expensive and not always the best use of resources.

Now, since we have 2 large dogs who really like to be in the backyard, and whose footprints although adorable are not my favorite thing when they're trampling down baby tomatoes, we needed to figure out a fencing solution. Last year, we used a little metal wire fence. It was cute for a minute, but at only a foot and a few inches high, it was also entirely too easy for the dogs to simply step over. With a mind for just making do, we really did evaluate the option of using the metal fence again (of course, we saved it ...), but it honestly didn't survive being taken down last fall all that well. There are broken pieces all over (hooray for tetanus!?), not to mention the part where it's quite happy being bent in the shape of a circle.

Hmmm. What to do, what to do?

I begrudgingly agreed to browse the local Menard's in search of a fencing solution. They did have approximately knee high fencing on sale, but even the 36inch sections were upwards of $4 each. With 80 feet of garden perimeter to cover, the $100+ price tag was a little out of reach for us.

"So, what if we use this snow fence?"

Yes, indeed, snow fence. In the winter here, locals put up plastic fencing along the beaches to keep the sand and snow from getting out of control together. What's better? Menard's had 50 feet of glorious green (rather than the standard blaze orange) snow fence for $20. Instead of buying 2 rolls to cover the 80 feet, we simply cut one of them in half with the hacksaw, doubling the amount of coverage and making the fence just the right height.

See?! Fabulous green snow fence!

The even cooler part, the perimeter poles that we are using this year are holdovers from last year when we used them to tie up tomato plants in vain attempts to remedy the jungle phenomenon that the circle garden created. The poles are generally used for running electrical fence, and we picked them up for $1 at the local Tractor Supply. Oh, it gets better! My love of this semi-recycled cobbled together snow fence does not end. Not only are the poles serving a borrowed role, they have these amazing little clips on them that serendipitously fit the fence height perfectly. We had a roll of plastic coated twist tie which we had planned to use to secure the fence, but lo and behold, totally unnecessary. Each section just slipped into the little clip and on we went to the next. I am fascinated with the way it all worked out.

Ooooooo, pretty snow fence!
And, the adorable Be, from an angle he will likely not appreciate me snapping a picture of.

Then of course, it was time to go plant shopping. There are more frugal ways to start gardens. You can buy seeds and start them indoors. You can even save the seeds from the produce you eat, dry them, and start those in cute little pots with hopes that they'll come up. I've done a fair share of seed starting in the past, and it never goes well. In the places where our house is full of sun, there's no awesome place for rows and rows of seed pots. In the places where there is space, there are no windows. Or, as we discovered last year, in the mud room where we created a space, and the windows abound, it is simply far too cold for seed starting. Ugh. This year, we purchased plants as we hadn't come up with a sweet seed starting solution in time to meet the garden timeline. Next year, I aspire to do better. Until then ... cute little plants in cute little pots.

This isn't even all of them. 36 tomato plants?! Am I crazy?

What follows the purchase of a million little green darlings for the garden? Ah yes, planting them. I always (and I do mean always) forget about this part. I have some bizarre mental block that always seems to make believe that once we get them home, they'll just plant themselves ... or maybe little elves will show up and do it for me in the night. Alas, no, gardening is work. A labor of love, sure, but my glutes doth protest regardless.

The adorable Be using the garden hoe to make rows. He dug the trenches, then mom and I filled them with compost (Oh, how I loooooove compost!), set the plants in, and covered each root base individually.
(Please note, Be really did start shaving his head bald ... he's crazy, I think.

We ended up with 2 rows of tomatoes, plus 3 in pots and 2 planted experimentally (which I will tell you all about once I get pictures of them), 3 rows of peppers, 1 row each of green beans and peas, and 2 rows of root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, and radishes), plus an onion patch. There are also brussel sprouts, chinese cabbage, kale, strawberries, cucumbers, and blueberries which I haven't gotten pictures of yet. In addition to the regular garden, we have an herb garden up against the back of the house. This year's selection: rosemary, lavender, marjoram, oregano, horehound, sage, parsley, peppermint, thyme, and basil.

Oooooooh, pretty herb garden.

There it is, the beginning of our gardening adventure. I plan to update as the season progresses with new pictures and produce totals. Are you gardening this year? Tell me about it in the comments!




  1. wow
    nice garden!!! I made some big tranformations in my backyard too. I love the feeling of getting something accomplished! And being outside, and getting dirty and seeing flowers blooming and stems coming out. Oh I love my garden!!

  2. Thanks! There are even more pictures coming later this week. I looooove gardens!