This post is written by my husband, Nick.
Shortly after being married my wife came to be with two propositions which I wasn’t so thrilled about. The first was to join the church choir; the second was to plant a garden. I thought surely there must be better things I could do with my time since at the time I was working and attending school full time. As it turns out we did both, and still do to this day.
While growing up, we had a garden that my sister and I were required to maintain. That garden never really produced much as you can imagine. But thanks to my wife I have discovered the love of gardening. When she made her first proposal though, I wasn’t so sure. I came up with all the excuses in the book like, “I don’t have a green thumb” and “I just don’t have the time”. None of which proved to be true. But had she allowed me to get away with those excuses, there is so much I would be missing out on today.
So let’s address all those excuses starting with what I thought was my best argument, no time.
Excuse #1: I Don’t Have The Time:
The secret to having a garden and also maintaining your life is simple. Plant your garden to match to the time you have to maintain it. Too many times people plant more garden than they have time and energy to maintain, and what happens? By July, what started out as our victory garden is now just a dried up mess in the corner of the yard.
If you are new to gardening, start out small. An 8’x4’ (322 ft.) garden will take about 1 to 2 hours a week. That’s it. During the heat of the summer your garden will need to be watered every day. Setting up an automatic sprinkling system will save you even more time. Almost everyone has a few minutes every day and 1 to 2 hours a week. And you would be amazed how much you can grow in 322 ft.
Excuse #2: I Have Poor Soil:
I hear this a lot and it could be true. Many people see clay, or sand, or compact soil as bad and not conducive for a garden. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bad soil does exist and when I hear this excuse I always give two answers.
First, bad soil can be fixed. The process of fixing bad soil is called amending. Good soil consists of a few things: dirt, nutrients, and organic material. Most soils can be amended quickly with a tiller, organic material, and an all purpose fertilizer. I recommend hand tilling your garden space with a good gardening fork or spade shovel. Rototilling machines are fast but they leave soil below the tines more compacted than before. This is call tiller pan.
Simply spread 3 inches of organic materials and sprinkle all purpose fertilizer on top of the garden section and turn it into the soil until it is equally distributed in the soil. Till into the soil at least 8 to 12 inches. Also, never do this when your soil is still wet from winter and spring snow. Take a hand full of soil in your hand and squeeze it. When you let it go it should break apart. If it makes a mud ball it is too wet, do not work the soil.
Second, you can build your garden up. Raised garden beds in my opinion are best for backyard garden spaces. Raised beds are easier to access, simple weed control, avoids soil compaction, increases the depth of healthy soil and lastly, you can fill it with high quality, amended top soil. You can build a raised bed a number of ways such as wood, rocks, landscaping bricks, or simply mounding your soil. I prefer 2”x12” wood planks screwed together to make an 8’x4’ grow box because it is inexpensive, quick, and makes your garden space look sharp.
Excuse #3: I Don’t Have Space:
If you have room to plant one plant you have room for a garden. What do I mean by this? Many times I find that people with this excuse have yards with grass and flowers. Grass can be dug up for a small garden space and vegetables can be inter-planted in flower beds. You also can plant vegetables and herbs in pots which can be set on the sides of driveways and sidewalks. Also, if you have a fence many garden plants can be trellised on the fence and grown vertically. Virtually any spot can be transformed into a vegetable garden.
But you say, “I live in a condo or apartment on the north side of the complex in the middle of the city. I literally don’t have space.” This is a tough one but not impossible. Many condo and apartment complexes have open space with grass and flower beds. With a few other tenants, approach the front office management with an idea to convert a section of the open space into a community garden. You could also do the same with your church, employer, or local park.
If that isn’t an option there are thousands of established community gardens. Most have a nominal rental fee but have gardening plots established with raised beds ready to plant. Community gardens are also great for first time gardeners as they are usually run by experienced gardeners who can help you with questions and problems. Make friends with your neighbor gardeners to maintain your garden when you are out of town. You can find a local community garden at http://www.communitygarden.org/.
Excuse #4: Isn’t Gardening Expensive:
I hope by now you realized that gardening doesn’t have to be expensive. It is true, the most expensive part of gardening is getting started. Developing the garden spot and purchasing the tools can be pricy. But you should think of planting a garden as an investment. You will gain much more than you will ever spend on your garden. There’s a reason gardening is one of America’s most popular hobbies.
A small 8’x4’ garden can cost as little as the time you put into it and the vegetables you plant. Grow beds can be built from wood, rocks, and other things you may already have lying around the yard, or that a neighbor might want to get rid of. Many people have extra soil they are looking to give away and organic amendments can be yard waste such as grass clippings, leaves and sawdust.
If you decided to purchase products from your local garden center an 8’x4’x12” grow bed will cost under $200 for everything. Tools will cost under $50. Utilize birthdays and Christmas to ask for garden supplies and tools. Spread the cost out over time rather than in a onetime purchase.
For every garden excuse there is a garden answer. In that first year of our marriage, after all my excuses we ended up planting a very large garden. Being able to work with my wife on that project and now with my children not only provides us with a bounteous harvest of nutritious, fresh, and organic vegetables, but also brings us closer together as a family. And who doesn’t want all that?
Here are a few pictures I took of my garden this summer.
Here are a few pictures I took of my garden this summer.