Last Year we joined a CSA for the first time. We challenged ourselves to eat what we were provided and to never miss a week. We succeeded in that goal. It was quite expensive to shell out the money in one lump sum but over the course of the growing season I think I figured the amount out to around $14 a week. Not bad at all. There were lots of benefits to driving out to the farm each week, especially in the spring time when the boys could pick strawberries and blueberries. Once they were over, the boys were less interested in the farm. We were also happy to be helping pay for job training for individuals with disabilities since the CSA we joined was partially run by Goodwill. All in all we have no regrets. That being said, this year we decided to take the money and start our own garden. I have grown tomatoes and herbs for several years but always in a sort of haphazard way with mixed results. This year we went to work doing some research.The first thing I learned is that it is much less expensive to grow from seed. Since we are blessed with a large sunroom, we set up a growing table. We purchased a greenhouse kit that included a heated mat (since our sunroom is unheated) and little containers and a lid. I let the boys pick out the seed. Nathan wasn't too interested but Nolan loves his tomatoes and went crazy! I think we have around 40-50 tomato plants growing. I didn't limit him because he was so enthusiastic. The boys helped me plant and then thin the seedlings and transplant some of the larger tomato plants. We also have a few cucumbers, hot peppers and sweet red peppers as well as some sunflowers growing. The light above the plants is just a florescent shop light we got at Home Depot for under $20. It isn't the most beautiful set up but it works wonderfully!
The above photos speak for themselves. The plants are beautiful and we enjoy looking at them every day. Nolan says they feel like family to him.
On to the back yard. We don't have a ton of land as you can see from the photo. Our house sits in the middle of our property and the front yard has three large trees and is very shady. The back yard gets lots of sun in most places. We decided to do square foot gardening because it seemed fairly easy and was somewhat contained. We started with one box last year and had a small fall harvest of bok choy, lettuce and broccoli. You may remember our fight with the green caterpillars! Those things love broccoli! Apparently if you plant spring broccoli there isn't as much problem with the bugs but I've seen a lot of those cabbage white butterflies around so we're going to buy our broccoli at market.
Above is the spot that we had to decimate due to the bamboo invasion. We had to eliminate all of the flowers and plants that were in this bed (as well as totally cut back the lilac bush) so that we could dig out all of the bamboo roots. We left it bare last summer to insure the bamboo would not return before planting. Now I'm really glad. Instead of planting flowers we've decided to plant raspberries here. We will also plant some blueberries in another bed. I'd like to have strawberries but they take up so much room that we may do a hanging basket of them for Nathan. The black container you see is for our compost.
At the beginning of March I planted some seeds in our garden. Here you see the first little lettuce peeking out! We also have spinach, carrots, potatoes, garlic,and...
onions! I was talking to my friend Marshall last night about horticulture (what doesn't that man know!) and he assured me that plants thrive in a positive environment. Well, I'm so excited about my little plants and take time every day to swoon over them that I should have a bumper crop!
Finally....I was given an easy and nutritious recipe from my favorite market standholder (I call him the lettuce man but his real name is Earl Groff...best lettuce you'll ever eat. I keep asking if I can come live with them....). He called it Jiffy Soup. He said you just put a little water in a pot with all your cut up vegetables, cook until just tender, put them in a blender and then add spices and you have a quick, easy and nutritious meal. Sounds like a perfect plan for a busy day!
(**Day 4 of the 7 Day Challenge..doing well although Nathan made 3 loaves of the most beautiful whole wheat bread last night. I think it's actually easier to eat none than for me to eat only one slice. Fortunately, we went to market this morning and came home with a bounty that feels like the garden of Eden. I plan to make myself some salads for the fridge again.)