Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sara Jane: Gardening

The best fertilizer is the shadow of the gardener
                                            - Chinese Proverb

Well, Memorial Day finally came and went and I think by now we all know what that means....gardening time!  Here in Oregon, we have been busy getting our beds ready with mulch and tilling.  Yesterday, my hubby came home early from work to help me put my herb/salad garden in. After 2 years of removing thousands of bulbs (I kid you not!), we finally got the ground clear enough to plant MY garden.

Just a few of the lovely bulbs from our yard.
Before we started planting, we looked and looked for inexpensive wine barrels in which we could plant the salad goodies (i.e. snap peas, radishes, beets, leeks, and lemon cucumbers).  We finally found some at our local Bi-Mart.  The best deal we've seen yet on them.  Next, we began getting the soil ready by tilling it. We also added steer manure this year. 

We took some of the herbs from our larger garden and transplanted them to this smaller, side garden.  Below are some pictures of how it looks.  I am hopeful that in a few months, there will be no dirt showing.  We planted lavender, two varieties of mint, lots of cilantro and parsley, a beautiful purple basil, two varieties of sage, celery, marjoram, lots of lettuce and a few other herbs that I can't think of right now.

This picture is before we added the manure.  Now the dirt is a dark brown color...much prettier :)
If you're wondering, the trees are dwarf nectarine and peach.  They were planted last year.

The older kids loved helping dig in the soil.  Bea, on the other hand, just wanted to sit in the plant box and eat chips.  To each his/her own!

 Over the weekend, Abraham began to prepare the larger garden, too.  There, we have five raised boxes, a large compost area, the chickens, and many, many raspberries.  Here he is attempting to pull out all the new raspberry shoots.  The fruit is already heavy on the little stocks.  When the berries are ripe, we will have 3 full months of harvesting bowls and bowls each day.

This photos was from last year.  My oldest's favorite past time is to pick and eat the delicious berries!

Now that I have shown you my little piece of heaven, I thought I would share with you some valuable tips I have been given over the years.

1.  Don't plant what you won't eat.  

I can't stand turnips.  I have tried them several different ways and every time I do, I wish I hadn't tried them again...same with sweet potatoes.  Soooo, we don't plant those.  Easy as that.

I'm not saying you shouldn't try new things but maybe taste them from your local market BEFORE you spend hours and hours caring for them.  One of the greatest things about having our garden is when my kids go and sit next to the kale and snack on it.  I LOVE it.   They look to the garden as their food source.

Our front  yard is lined, on one side, with blueberries and strawberries.  Such a yummy treat in the summer.

2.  Treat for slugs and snails early.

Our first year of gardening at our current home, we had a BEAUTIFUL garden.  We, however, didn't realize that we had an entire city of snails in our backyard.  HUNDREDS!  Very few of our cucumbers and peppers survived that  year.  The next year, I became a bit more wise.  I used Corey's Snail/Slug bate but there are countless other ways you can get rid of them.  There are many organic products that work well and are not harmful to wildlife.  One of the cheapest and easiest methods is to use crushed oyster shell.  Another way....chickens.  My chickens LOVE snails.  They fight over them.  So, my kids will go into the backyard, harvest a bucket full of snails (I know...gross!) and feed them to either my chickens or my parent's chickens.  There you go!

The beautiful garden that the snails enjoyed.

3.  Remember your local food bank and neighbors!

I remember many summer evenings, as a child, when, after dinner, my dad would load up our little wagon and take produce to all of our neighbors.  As I look back, it was a valuable lesson that not only should we not waste food but that we should always serve those around us.  It is easy when you have your own garden to simply throw away excess food.  You didn't pay for it, after all.  However, I think that we should look at gardening as a way of helping others.  I know when we plant our 15 tomato plants that we will not be able to use all of them.  But, I also know that I have LOTS of friends and family who love tomatoes.  We follow the same principle with our excess eggs from our chickens.  

So, maybe if you have a little extra room in your garden, plant a row just to give away.  You may really end up helping someone who needs it!

4.  Make it a family affair.

I have found that our family works really well together when we're outside, especially in the garden.  There is something special about everyone working together to create something.  Our summer meals, where we go pick our dinner from the garden, or made dessert using the berries from around our yard, are my favorite.  Everyone picks their favorite food and life is pleasant and peaceful.

Make a garden for your children in which they can dig and watch their own things grow.  Pick a hardy plant, like pumpkins, or peas and make it THEIRS.  Let them have ownership and take responsibility for it.

 5.  Plant vegetables/fruit that are local to your area.

 Don't waste the time and money planting vegetables that don't grow well in your area.  I found this cool site through Purdue University which tells you what is recommended for your region and what is not.

The Willamette Valley, where I live, is known for its grapes.  So, when we moved into our home, and saw two small grape vines (which the previous owners continually cut back), we knew we wanted to let them go wild.  And wild they are.  I LOVE them. They are directly out my front window and have created the perfect screen.  Now, people passing by can no longer see directly into my house and I have a lovely view looking out.  

Happy gardening!

Sara Jane


  1. Sara... you amaze me! You truly got the family green thumb. I LOVE what you guys have done with your front and backyard. You're inspiring! Love you!

  2. What good tips! I love that the kids can just go out and pick berries or kale! How fun. I remember the wagon and the extra vegetables! I also remember Ruffles the dog thinking that the squash dad was throwing on the grass was for him to play with! Good times!

  3. We love gardening! :) Beautiful and inspiring post.

  4. I blessed Ruffles that day, Lisa. :)

  5. What a beautiful yard and garden. I love having a little something growing in our backyard. So fun for the kids too.