How to Start Your First Veggie Garden

Before you start a veggie garden, I’d like to impart thoughts about my first season with a large, legitimate plot. September is drawing to a close and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or rather, I can see that soon I’ll be working hard to prep my garden for next year! dsc05800

First of all, you need to get your ducks in a row!

  1. Unless you have done tons of research and are prepared way ahead of time (good for you), find a friend who is caring enough to give you great advice. I did that and Julie helped me lay a super solid foundation of knowledge on which to build my garden.
  2. Do not get overwhelmed! Take it one day at a time. If you run out of time to build another box, let it go. You can add on next year!
  3. Be prepared to start you garden inside in FEBRUARY! That’s right, during winter. It seems so crazy, right? But that is when you have to clear a large space and start seeds growing, especially cold weather veggies like cabbage and broccoli.
  4. Learn relaxation techniques to pull you through all those dreaded late frosts. You may have planted potatoes, beets, turnips, and a few greens and they have already emerged!

    Spring Harvest
  5. Around May 1, email or call all of your friends and tell them you love them, but will not see or talk to them, go to any functions, or respond to emails until November as you will be neck deep in dirt, weeds, and vegetables.image image
  6. If you are crazy enough to commit to the project, you will spend your ENTIRE summer gathering vegetables, washing vegetables, eating vegetables, canning vegetables, and yes, even DREAMING about vegetables. In July, I had nightmares almost every night about squash bugs. They are hellish creatures that are nearly impossible to kill and they systematically take over your squash rows.image
  7. Read a lot about squash bugs. Be prepared to have a few “decoy” plants.  You can always let them cover that plant and then pour on gasoline and burn them all to hell while you start new plants in a different location. I am plotting to start squash rows in around 5 different locations on our property next year.

    A few plants survived and continue to produce.
    A few plants survived and continue to produce.
  8. Read thy tomato books. Tomatoes are going to get their very own blog post. What is that? Anyone can grow tomatoes? Mohahahahaha, mooohahahahahaha…. Sorry. I am laughing maniacally right now. Ha. Oh my.image image
  9. Learn to can. Find a friend who cans. Invest in a Food Saver and an extra freezer!!! Because when those green beans and okra come in, just be ready.image image
  10. Water. It’s important. Years back, I would not have had what it takes to garden like this. When mid-July rolled around I decided it was too hot to go outside. Or I’d forget to water and everything in the yard I’d worked hard on in the lovely cool weeks of May would shrivel up and turn brown by August.
  11. Get a nice big hat, a few long-sleeved shirts, and a stack of sweat rags. Many days, even if I managed to get out there at 6am, sweat was rolling down into my eyes in no time. Yes darling, it’s all a part of gardening. Sweat, dirt, blood, tears, and constantly dirty nails.

    My son and I look like ripe tomatoes when we get hot outside.

With the end of my garden season right around the corner, I feel proud. I did it!!! I can do the dance of JOY! WOO HOOOOOOOOOO!  My goal was to save money on groceries and stock our pantry and freezer with food to enjoy for months.

I clocked countless hours in my kitchen. I spend most of my time there anyway what with feeding a family of 6. Add to that blanching, freezing, canning, mixing, chopping….. Really, you have no idea. Also, it was hot. I need an outdoor kitchen.image

Two times I literally thought I would crawl out of my skin if I had to spend another minute over the stove. Then I’d go out to the garden, have a great time picking more tomatoes and more okra and remind myself that doing all this hard work now means less work over winter. I will actually be able to pay more attention to my children!

That is, until February.image

Homestead Adventures

The fact that I am a forgetful person makes homesteading all the more interesting, or entertaining, or stressful. It depends on how you look at it. With my hard-working husband’s work schedule, I’m often on my own to run the show here. The show being 4 kids, meals, snacks, house work, laundry, home school, 2 cats, 2 fish, 11 chickens, and a rather large veggie garden.

Yesterday I felt on top of things. Following 15 minutes of running around the house looking for swim suits, a swim diaper, lathering on sunscreen, filling up a water jug, pulling out a kiddie pool, and turning on the hose, I was finally able to get some serious gardening done.

The final act of yesterday’s gardening was turning on the soaker hose for my hay bale tomato row. Despite lots of rain, the hay bales seemed a bit dry. They needed a couple of hours of watering.


Once everyone was inside and the bountiful harvest stored, I relaxed.

At 9:45pm, with my two-year old fast asleep on my lap I suddenly remembered the chickens! It was dark out and the chickens were not locked up! This is incredibly dangerous for our chickens as we have coyotes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, and more roaming the land at night.

I laid the baby on the sofa, rushed to the door, slid on my husband’s clunky rubber shoes, and ran like the wind to the first chicken house. They were safe. Door latched, I ran to the chicken fortress where I froze solid, heart racing.

It was so dark, yet there it was, the unmistakable white stripe of a skunk trying to find its way through the gate of the chicken fortress. Unsure what to do, I began to pray out loud that it would not spray! Should I go get a gun? No, then it for sure would spray me and the chickens and we’d simply reek for days! Plus, it was late and I was too tired to take a tomato bath.

I also did not know where to quickly find a flashlight as my kids use them and NEVER put them away.

My only option was to stand back, clap my hands, holler, growl and jump up and down. Finally, the skunk leisurely walked about 20 paces away. Seizing the moment, I karate kicked the gate open andentered the run, straight into a jumbo cobweb. No time to panic! I listened for the sound of happy chickens, shut the door, moved the block in front of it, shut the gate behind me, and ran back to the house.

Once inside, with baby girl still crying, I tore off my clothing in an arachnophobic fit, searched for spiders, and ruffled my hair over and over. This made baby girl stop crying and look at me with a smile. Off to bed she went while I got cleaned up and took many a deep breath. Ah, the life of a ‘Greenie’ as they call us beginner homesteaders. Never a dull moment.

It’s fair to say that I need to start setting a timer for the chickens.

Also, I remembered to turn off the soaker hose today after church.