Kitchen Garden: Growing Food and a Sense of Accomplishment

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Would you believe me if I told you that one of the simplest, yet greatest accomplishments in life is being able to feed yourself? Well, it is. Like, really, really satisfying. They don't call it "enjoying the fruits of your labor" for nothing! And the most beautiful thing about it is anyone, even kids, can do it. You don’t have to have a fancy degree, expensive farm equipment, a large income, or even a big piece of property – you just need to start with a plant, some dirt, sunshine, water - and you’re well on your way to growing your own food.

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After a couple of months of letting our starter plants stretch out on our porch, we finally planted them (plus a few new ones that called our name at the hardware store) over the Memorial Day weekend. But before we actually put our plants in some soil, we brainstormed how we wanted to build our beds, and hopefully without spending tons of money. We already had two oversized galvanized tubs leftover from brooding our baby chicks earlier this year, so we decided to try incorporating them into our garden design. While it was a good start, it just wasn't enough room for the ever growing plant collection we had seemed to acquire over the last couple of months.

So, in addition to our tubs, we decided to create a straw bale + soil raised bed garden to help supplement our kitchen and the summertime meals it’ll be helping to make. We also decided to try our hand at raising watermelons and cantaloupe in smaller round tubs this summer, so fingers crossed and prayers said that we’re blessed with an abundance of them!

ETA: Since taking our photos, we've read that we may need to adjust the pots upward, instead of on their side, to accommodate the long tap roots. It's not a huge deal to fix (even though it messes with the overall look and design of the garden), so we'll be keeping a close eye out for that, and change if need be.

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Since a lot of our DIY building projects are think-as-you-go, and not really done by-the-book; I don't have an official How-To instructional to share this go around. But, for those who may be interested in using or building on our idea, here are the basic principles of what we did:

  1. We took six square hay bales, and lined two groups of three end-to-end; creating a “T” shape.

  2. Then we outlined the hay bales with four 10’ sheets of corrugated tin; securing them up with wooden ground stakes.

  3. The three open ends were measured, and each piece cut out of an 8' sheet of tin with tin snips. Those pieces were screwed into the wooden stake supports closest to the end.

  4. Before filling with soil, we released the hay bale strands, and allowed them to fill out the bottom completely; filling any large gaps with hay.

  5. Lastly, we filled each 10' section with six bags of organic raised bed soil plus one bag of cow manure/compost for a total of 14 bags in all. It gave us the perfect depth of soil for the planting, and harvesting should be a breeze come later on.

All of our tubs, both small and large, were also planted using the same hay + soil method.

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Soon, we realized our chickens were now taking an interest in the plants that they had been ignoring on our front porch for months, so we had to chicken-proof our garden from the tiny raptors. We used metal t-posts for support, trellis netting for our running vines that will eventually invade the border, and leftover plastic netting to serve as an outer poultry force field. Brandon also came up with a nifty little gate for easy access, and a convenient double-sided water hose holder to help keep any would be accidents from happening. While our garden may not be featured on the front cover of Better Homes and Gardens, it perfectly fits our needs, and we're incredibly grateful for the harvest to come.

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If you'd like to try your hand at exercising a little food freedom, but still aren't quite sure what to grow, then just ask yourself what kinds of things do you enjoy eating. What fruits and veggies are you usually picking up at the grocery store most of the time? Do you like that occasional BLT sandwich? Then, get a tomato plant that yields med-large fruit, and put that baby in some soil. Have you jumped on the low-carb bandwagon, and eat lots of zucchini noodles? Well, one or two plants at most should do you, because they're usually mass producers, and you could easily find yourself swimming in them. But, then that could just mean zucchini tots and other yummy zuke recipes! Oh, and how about herbs like thyme, rosemary, chives, dill, oregano, basil, etc.? Then, my friend, there's nothing better than freshly cut herbs to season food with. Whatever you like to eat, just plant it, and watch your food grow.

Remember, no garden has to look a certain way, and designing your layout is part of the fun. There are so many different ways of growing your own food, and there are no set rules about what you have to grow, where and how you have to grow it, or how much you need to grow. Do what works best for you, and focus on growing what you know you’ll eat. It’s really easy to get in over your head at first by trying to grow all the things, so remember, less really is more.

We'd love to hear what you're growing this year! Leave us a comment below, or follow us over to our Facebook page, and post a snapshot of YOUR snazzy garden in this post's comment thread.

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