Summer Gardening for Everyone!

by Ivory Soap

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The following is a guest post from this week’s giveaway vendor, Homesteader’s Supply!

The folks at Homesteader’s Supply often work with people struggling to be more self sufficient yet constrained by job, location, physical ability and so much more. One way that many can begin this quest in self sufficiency is simply by growing some of their food for the dinner table. Whether you live in a condominium in the city or have acreage in the country, there is something very rewarding about growing your own summer vegetables. The bounty of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and so much more is achievable despite any space restrictions that you may face.

Patio gardening is best for those with restricted growing areas. A few simple two to three gallon pots with a growing medium geared for vegetables (Miracle Grow has a nice garden soil designed just for this type of growing) will be perfect to get you started.  Many plants desire mostly sun to partly sunny areas, so the patio or deck is often a perfect location for garden plants. Lettuce and other herbs can be grown in smaller containers right in your kitchen window sill or a garden window next to your breakfast nook.  Not only do you have a patio and window sills filled with beautiful plants, they are all edible!

An option for those with very small back yards is to either create an in ground garden by turning the dirt and adding compost to enrich the soil. Many till up an entire square and while every method is right for the grower, meaning there is no wrong way to grow vegetables, I typically till rows and leave a hard pack path for walking between rows. It keeps my boots much less muddy and if grass is grown on the paths, you can make the wide enough to mow with a push mower. The path is not only pretty to look at between all of the rows of vegetables, but keeps your working area mud free.  And remember, if you use a planting rotation timetable, like a week between plantings of the same seeds…you won’t end up with all the broccoli or lettuce ready at the same time.

Another option is what we tried last year, actually growing the plants in straw bales! This method is great for those with back problems as it requires very little bending and almost no weeding! The trick with straw bale gardening is to get the bales composting on the inside prior to planting. This is accomplished by adding sodium nitrate or ammonium nitrate to each bale daily for ten days and soaking the bales thoroughly each day after sprinkling the fertilizer on the tops of the bales.  For those interested in this medium, it is one cup of the fertilizer sprinkled on each bale for day one and then a quarter of cup each day for nine days. Soak the bales thoroughly after each treatment. This process begins the cooking process inside the bales and once finished it creates a growing medium for the plants within the bale, so no soil is needed!  I grew in bales last year and had a very nice harvest. Typically, a grower can get two years out of each bale of straw.

Now, what kinds of seeds are best? We, here at Homesteader’s Supply, like to grow heirloom and organic crops, and surprise… they are available on our site. We’ve planted almost every variety of the seeds we carry and are very happy with the quality and harvest!  Much of what’s at the grocery store is genetically modified and has been sprayed with pesticides, which can possible lead to allergies and illnesses. The desire to grow your own food is often to get away from this type of industrialized food. An added benefit of heirloom and organic is that if you choose, you can save the seeds to use next year once properly dried!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dani August 30, 2011 at 2:00 am

Really love the straw bale beds – and to be able to use them for 2 years before having to replace, is even better.

Thank you for sharing 🙂

Sondra August 30, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Absolutely love the tip about using hay bales! If I can find some square bales I will have to talk the hubby into trying this next year…great idea!

Pauline Larson August 31, 2011 at 11:43 am

Which way is UP on the straw bale? The pokey end grain or the smoother side? And do you need to add more fertilizer sometime during the growing season? How do you handle tomatoe cages? Just drape them down? I have mostly really clay soil. I was going to have my sons build raised beds for next summer so I could raise vegetables at home, giving the family enough to can This sounds like a lot less work than building and filling raised beds. Maybe there is a pamplet available?

Jerri from Homesteades Supply August 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Pauline…. great question! here is excerpt from our newest article on the how-to’s of doing this….”You can either lay them down on the side (strings on the top and bottom) or strings on the sides with the cut straw facing top and bottom. If strings are on the sides, like in the photos, they tend to be a bit wobbly so secure them to each other or stake them into the ground with rebar.” You can use Miracle Grow, or Composting teas which are nutrient rich, or find some organic fertilizer alternative. I’ll be back to let you know when the article will be ready….

Carol Durusau September 2, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Is this where you comment to enter the giveaway? I’ll do it again on Thursday. I want a canner.

joss February 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Can anyone recommend some lead-free gardening gear? I just noticed this label on the package for my Mint Craft spray nozzle today when I was in the hardware store: “This product contains chemicals including lead known to cause birth defect and other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.”
Since I “handle” this often as do my kids who love watering the garden and because we, you know, use this stupid thing to water our food, I’m getting rid of this thing and replacing it as soon as I can find a good alternative.

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