My obsession (and stress relief and happy place and little project turned big project) this year has been my garden.
For those of you that have followed a long time know that for me, spending time in a garden is kinda my version of being with my grandparents….even though they live ten hours away and have their own amazing garden. It’s my ‘looking at the stars’ ala Lion King style….but with dirt and tomatoes and maybe a little cow manure.
Over the years I have had container gardens and a couple mini beds….but then last year my father in law gave us his raised garden beds and we converted them into a better fit for our yard. It was such a kind gesture that really lit the fire under our bootie for a real legit garden. A garden with benefits….
Yes. I grew all that. I’m a freaking farmer.
Hard to imagine that all that beautiful colorful fresh organic produce came from this….
Miracles do happen.
So last year I confessed that some areas of my house are just started….and then forgotten. That’s what happens when you have too many little mulleted boys in the mix. Seriously Katie…what is up with Max’s hair? My apologies to future Max for the unfortunate hair cut decision.
Last year, the garden was started but lost steam….so this spring, we decided to do it right. Make it something we can be proud of. Make it something Pinterest would be proud of. And that’s saying something.
Jeremy mowed everything out and I tilled up the beds.
I even got about ten little plants to keep me motivated.
TOMATO TIP FROM MY PAPPAP – plant the little guys deep by burying the bottom little branches with leaves in soil…this helps the plant get additional strength!
One of my biggest pet peeves was the bermuda grass we have. It kept on growing under the sides of the beds and into the garden. Anyone with bermuda grass knows that it is great to have in the south – it’s hardy and loves the heat and sun – but it’s basically the worst weed ever if you are trying to get rid of it. After a TON of research, we decided that we could go two routes – the labor intensive route….or the one with pesticides.
In the end, we decided to go the labor intensive route….Jeremy (despite his smile here) was not thrilled.
We had already tilled up the area last year so it wasn’t AS hard….but it was still a beast because the grass had already grown back full force. Jeremy used the Ryobi cultivator for most of it and then we had to hand pull anything near the edges of the beds. I mention this tool because it’s actually what I will be using to turn the beds over next season….for those of you not eager to do that chore by hand.
The boys thought it was awesome because all the grass and roots got thrown into the back of the Ranger. Aka…we created a dirt box for them. #accidentalplaygroundonwheels
Then after everything was tilled and raked and compacted back down, Jeremy did the first layer of heavy duty cardboard.
Apparently bermuda will only die if you remove all the roots, all the pieces and never expose it to sunlight. So that was the goal. Cardboard will allow water to get through in some areas but since this garden is on a hill, I knew that the slope wouldn’t allow for sitting water puddles…also known as mosquito brothels.
Jeremy said that the boxes he got were moving boxes….I don’t know how much they were or how many we used.
Then came the landscape fabric. This next layer was a UV blocking, water penetrable landscape fabric that was also at Home Depot. We have used this before and bermuda grass can grow through it if you ONLY use it. We had our fingers and toes crossed by combining it with the cardboard that it would block all the growth. It was staked down.
This should create the barrier we need for no more bermuda. As long as we stay on top of any little sprouts near the edges of the beds the bermuda grass will stay at bay and we have the perfect blocker for us to do a future garden path. The path we have planned is with stepping stones and gravel around that….but we have to get a fence done first 🙂
Then came the issue of water. On the garden side of the house, we don’t have water. We have a spigot….but it doesn’t turn on….at all. Apparently the shutoff valve has been drywalled over somewhere in the basement and we have to basically tear it all out to find it. Um thanks but no thanks bye.
We called the water company to see if they could run a new line from the street just for the garden….but that was to the tune of $2300. Um thanks but no thanks bye.
So we opted to ask the pros. We called the guys at Legacy Group (they are a landscaping design company that we know does a lot of water features for neighborhoods) and figured they might have a solution. They said that if our irrigation system was working, we could tap into that for a new line. WAHOO! and simultaneously YIKES! Our irrigation system has literally never been used….mostly because we didn’t want to use the water….but also because we knew that it was riddled with breaks. SOooo…..we hired this one out.
While we were on vacation in Jekyll Island, they fixed all the things….the breaks, the new line, a fancy new spigot, and now we have all the water we need for a functional garden. (here is the Legacy Group Facebook page if you need someone to help you in your yard…this isn’t sponsored…we paid them…we are just honestly big fans.)
So for the plants, we actually spent about $30. I could have spent about the same on seeds because all of our tomatoes and peppers are different types….but I opted for the easy route. I scored almost all of them at a local place called the Growers Outlet.
The plants we got were easy to grow and I knew would be okay even if I forgot to water them.
I tried to be strategic as possible….opting only for things I knew how to grow from experience. I didn’t want to accidentally weed out a plant that was supposed to be growing! That is totally something I would do too.
So in this bed we have basil, one rosemary plant, a couple jalapeño plants, and that tiny little two leaf baby in the middle right of the bed is a pepper plant that my kids tried to kill. They had ripped all the leaves off it and it just was a little stick with two little roots.
The tomatoes were assorted varieties and they grew really quick! Both of these beds were filled with tomatoes.
One of the things I learned was that tomatillos and cherry tomatoes will get HUGE and try to hog all the space. Plan accordingly.
This other bed had my other varieties of tomatoes – my favorites were Celebrity, Beefsteaks, and Rutgers.
This bed was all peppers – I have no idea what types (they all looked like green or red peppers in different sizes).
When we first planted everything, the boys were really into helping. Now….not so much.
The most exciting part of the season was when we first started seeing little guys grow!
Every sunday on Instagram stories I have been giving you guys updates on the garden. It’s basically the most exciting thing ever.
We were chugging along and then the unthinkable happened….we had a kid induced break (we think) with our new spigot and it busted (PVC – 0, Bower boys – 1)….which meant that the water would not turn off and was just running water into the ground. I discovered it one night when the water was flooding out all over our garden and we had to call Legacy Group back out to fix it. That’s probably the reason we love them…because they came out the next day and re-dug everything and got us back to fully functional. May this be a lesson to you…children are the worst 🙂
Long story short, we are glad we hadn’t finished the garden paths and we are back to fully functional.
Now for a spring produce recap – our best producer was hands down the basil. It was crazy and I literally couldn’t harvest it fast enough.
I made tons of pesto and pesto/olive oil cubes. My best tip is to substitute walnuts for pine nuts to save!
I would use the basil for cooking but I also used it in the house….like in small spaces like the bathroom….it smells so good!
And I would save jars and give it away to neighbors too. They could have it in their own kitchens for cooking!
The most exciting harvest personally was the first tomato of the season. My Pappap has the best stories about his first tomatoes….how he would trade them for services or other people’s garden firsts.
Here are my firsts of 2017…..I’m a proud tomato mama!
Every few days I got more and more. Basically I am the only one in my family that eats tomatoes….but I’m getting heartburn super easy this pregnancy so we gave away majority of the produce….which is just as exciting as eating it yourself.
And yes, that is a fly in the next photo. Darn things are invading Georgia like a plague.
The boys didn’t want to help me weed the beds or water the garden….but they had no problem helping me pick the veggies! We need a big basket for next season! And they also love posing with them….
My toothless little tomato boy. He actually has been plucking the tomatoes off the plant and eating them. I think we might be able to convert him to a tomato lover 🙂
Speaking of nexts….you may notice the new posts! We are doing a fence next and it’s very exciting! We have a ton of rabbits and deer and this area is like a Golden Corral salad bar to them….so stay tuned for that post.
And for anyone wondering – I will be doing a later post about this space with the fall veggies and what we plan to plant! Thank you to everyone who sent me the suggestions! I went through every single message and have my list! I can’t wait because this will be my very first winter/fall veggie garden!
I’m so impressed you did this while pregnant and with 4 little ones! I am pregnant and have 3 little ones and I just keep telling myself that I’ll get to trying to keep plants alive once I don’t have to work so hard on keeping the kids alive haha! And what a great haul! I’m jealous 😉 One tip for the tomatoes – you can just throw them in the freezer in a bag and use them during the winter in soups and sauces etc. Of course you can can them too…but that’s a lot more work! But I’m sure your neighbours love all the produce they’re getting from you :):)
Kala Morry says
Awesome job. You are lucky to have a long growing season. Up here in Connecticut I feel like I’ll be lucky to get one harvest. I also got started a little late and then ran into some issues including aphids (almost killed my watermelons), squash borers (destroyed my pumpkin plant) and a groundhog who decided to strip all the leaves off my cucumber, pole beans and half my pumpkin. He also completely ate my honeydew. So everything was a little stunted while it recovered. We put up a fence the night that happened and my husband saw him come back the next day push on the fence a bit then leave. So far I’ve picked one cucumber and two tomatoes. My tomatoes are all still green but I decided to bring those two inside and put them in newspaper to see if I can force them to turn red. This was a our first year doing a garden and I definitely have learned a lot.
Yay!! I love this post. I live in Israel and have also been slowly figuring out how to garden… I think our summers are even hotter and drier than yours, so winter is our best growing season. I LOVE all the lettuces and greens I grow then, and snow peas are also awesome. (Maybe you can grow something climbing on that fence?). For some reason I have never been able to get the hang of tomatoes (I’ve tried the past two summers… maybe I’ve planted them too late and not watered them enough?) but this summer we got a TON of cucumbers, awesome kuri pumpkins, and some pretty decent melons. Looks like your garden this year was incredible!!
Have you ever thought about adding some fruit trees? I’m not sure what grows well in your area, but fruit trees are very popular here. Right now we’re drowing in mangoes, and we’re also getting a ton of grapes and passionfruit. We get great citrus fruits in the winter too. I haven’t been brave enough to harvest our prickly pear cactus fruit!
We do have fruit trees! Beyond the garden, that first little tree is an apple tree, then two blueberry bushes and then a peach tree! I totally forgot to mention them!
xo – kb
Katie, Jeremy and boys…congrats on such an impressively fruitful garden! Those tomatoes look yummy! Cherry tomatoes eaten right off the vine, when still warm from the sun are amazing! FYI (in case you didn’t know), if you pinch off the flowers that appear on your basil plants, they will get fuller and produce longer…happy pesto making!
Congrats on your garden bounty! Makes me want a tomato sandwich…. yum.
One tip for your glorious basil – try to regularly pinch off the tops of the growth to keep it from flowering, which can make it bitter. It will also encourage the plant to become broader and more stable!
Wow! You’re doing great. I’m like the boys. I get all enthusiastic and plant, water and weed… for a few weeks then I lose momentum. The weeds have taken over. One recommendation: get a gentle rain nozzle for your hose something like this: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Melnor-Gentle-Rain-Shower-Head-Watering-Wand-329-251/202051575?MERCH=REC-_-SearchPLPHorizontal1_rr-_-NA-_-202051575-_-N. It is so good. Good luck.
Your garden is wonderful! I wish I had the space for such a large garden. One tip for your basil: I noticed in the photo that they are flowering, if you want to keep basil growing, pick off the flowers that are jutting out of the top.
Carole B. says
What bounty! I have the same # of plants in a northern climate and don’t get nearly as much produce. PLEASE give us a teaser post about how you dug the fence posts. We are putting one in very soon & need any tips you have for digging all of those holes:)
Fellow Gardener says
I’m not sure about Bermuda Grass, but for general weed control around my plants I use the big burlap coffee bean sacks. They let the water through and naturally decompose during the winter. My local coffee roaster gives them to me for free!
This was the first year for our garden too- I’m so impressed by your haul!
My favorite tip for easy water access is a rain barrel (we’re in ATL too and have been getting so much rain- it’s awesome to have free water to use in the garden!). The City of Atlanta did a $40 class on building a barrel that included the cost of all supplies, so it’s such a nice way to harvest all this rainfall for our yard!
This is my first year having a garden and I have loved following your garden posts. I planted corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkins, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, peppers, carrots, cilantro, blueberries, and strawberries. OMG, I cannot give enough tomatoes away! We’ve already made salsa several times and tomato sauce for spaghetti). I am just starting to get my melons and I am in heaven!
Man there is so much to know and learn about gardening! I guess with basil that you aren’t supposed to let it flower because it makes it taste bitter. Same with lettuce. I try to go out daily and pluck the top part off before it flowers but I’m so bad about trimming it back. 😛
Yes, I did that weekly but it still grew so stinking fast! I couldn’t keep up!
xo – kb
xo – kb
Yeah…I wish we could have one of those but all our downspouts have underground drains…so we decided to not go that route.
xo – kb
I trim weekly and you are so right…it’s hard to keep up with! I get so frustrated because it isn’t something I can keep up with….but hopefully soon, these boys will help!
xo – knb
Yes, I trim weekly (It’s all I can keep up with physically) but hopefully next year I can do more of the trimming!
xo – kb
I just put it on my CHRISTMAS LIST!!! 🙂
xo – kb