New to Organic Gardening? Helpful Resources

You’ll be hearing a lot about my square foot garden as warm weather gets nearer. Last year was our first run with it and we had so much fun, we’re expanding this year. While things weren’t entirely perfect, I learned a lot, and am eager to begin again. Several people have asked me how to get started. I’m certainly not an expert, but I’d love to share with you some of the resources and organic gardening information that has been helpful to me.

โ—Š All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. I started with this book and it was of great help; I can’t recommend it enough. Mel’s website, Square Foot Gardening contains a lot of information as well.

โ—Š Just recently, I found the website My Square Foot Garden. Emily does an amazing job of walking her readers through step by step tutorials. She even sends out a weekly newsletter based on your climate zone that tells you what tasks to do that week.

If you need more help, she’s just published two new ebooks, Gardening for Beginners and Planting by Color that look really useful. Emily has a great video on her site detailing exactly how the ebooks can help you.

โ—Š One Green Generation. There’s a wealth of green goodness over there, but especially helpful for beginning gardeners are the extensive resources available in the Organic Gardening 101 series.

Free from

โ—Š Little House in the Suburbs has put together a wonderful free spring planner that you can print and fold into a little booklet. It’s really terrific. And did I mention that it’s FREE?! They also have a new book out that’s looks terrific, Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living.

Good luck as you create your own organic garden. Please let me know if you have any questions about getting started. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do my best to get it for you.

Garden Beginnings

Sprouts! We have sprouts!

I can hardly wait to get gardening. We’ve been busy clearing out the square foot garden beds and filling them up with more Mel’s Mix. My seed order arrived and a few tomato plants have already sprouted. They’re set up under the grow light for now while we wait for the peppers to sprout and get the carrot and radish seeds in the ground with the onions. We even have a lone little asparagus peaking up from the soil.

I don’t know why I get so excited about gardening. Maybe it’s because the results of the effort we put in are so tangible (and delicious).

I’ve learned a lot over the last few years about the kinds of things I want to expose my children to, and about all the things I want to protect them from. Having our own organic garden just a few steps from our back door is one significant way for me to put both of those things into practice. It’s a way for me to teach them the wonder of nature (really, food from seeds!) and the taste of home-grown vegetables. We can talk about food from our yard being much better for the environment than food shipped half-way around the world. We can delight in the pesticides we are not consuming and the large, abusive seed monopolies we are not supporting when we use organic, heirloom seeds.

My garden can represent environmental, chemical and political causes.

It can also represent the one cause that means the most to me: my children, and their health, and their joy in playing in the dirt, and giggling when they see worms, and tucking seeds into the soil with their tiny, careful fingers.

Our garden is time spent together.

How does your garden grow?

Garden Planning

I’ve been spending a lot of time going through my seed catalog and marking possibilities for this year’s garden. Pretty soon, I’m going to need to go ahead and place my order. I can hardly wait to get started. We had so much fun with our first year of square foot gardening last summer, that not only are we going to garden again, we’re expanding. We’ve already marked off what I’m calling the “garden annex.”

But first, the seeds. I buy nearly all of my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I like to buy local whenever I can and although they ship seeds nationwide, their company is located about an hour and half from where I live. They also have a no-GMO policy and carry many heirloom varieties. I love the history that goes with these seeds. My grandmother, who is 87 at this writing, remembers a cornfield bean her family grew when she was growing up in the “hills” of Eastern Kentucky. Southern Exposure has a variety of cornfield bean this year that dates back to pre-Columbian times; they believe this particular bean was “one of the oldest beans cultivated by the Iroquois.” I can’t wait to grow some to see if they are what my grandmother remembers.

We were pleased with what we grew last year, but want to add to it. This year, we’re planning to switch from bush beans to pole beans. We’ll grow the cornfield beans, but also a row or two of Kentucky Wonders. We’re also going to add corn, watermelon, zucchini, and pumpkins to the mix.

The annex. We’ve decided to keep the three boxes in the square foot garden area. There we’ll grow our tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, herbs, carrots and radishes. We’re going to plant the corn, beans, squash & zucchini, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkins directly in the ground in the annex. As soon as the ground dries out a bit, I’ll get some pictures of this area and post them on the site.

Our helpers in early summer 2009

As I’ve grown increasingly concerned about the pesticides on our food, and the cost of organic produce, and the emissions involved in shipping vegetables all over the country, our own garden has seemed like a better and better idea. It’s also a lot of fun. Last year, it was a great learning experience for our two young helpers and I think it will be again. They’ve already been naming all of the things they want to grow.

I’d love to know if any of you have plans for a garden this year. If so, what will you plant?

Square Foot Garden: Year 1

It’s been a good year with our first garden. I thought I’d show you the various stages once again.

Winter & building the boxes.

winter-gardenSpring & getting the fence up. There are SO MANY deer.


First plants coming up.



Squash plant.


Bush beans and herbs.


Tomatoes are getting tall.

organic produce garden

Even taller — holy tomatoes, Batman!

tomatoes sft

After getting the fence up, the final project for the garden area this year was adding some crushed stone over weed-fabric. Hopefully, it will continue to keep the weeds down. The tomatoes are winding down and the beans and squash are long finished.

We learned a lot this year and there are some things I’ll do differently. I’m also eager to try some new varieties of plants. We’re even talking about expanding the garden area and creating a plot on the other side of the detached garage. We’re thinking about trying our luck with corn and maybe some pumpkins over there.

Overall, this was a great experience and one we’re eager to continue. Look for updates on our continuing gardening adventures.

How did your garden grow this year?

A Few Updates: The Garden, Our Trip & Things to Come

The Garden

The garden is coming along. We returned from Kentucky to find that things had really grown in the short time we were gone. The squash plant was a good bit larger, and we had beans ready to pick. Here are a few pictures that I took yesterday.

The squash plant:


A few little squash starting to grow:

little squash

Beans and herbs and a cucumber plant:


First flower on one of the tomato plants:

tomato flower

I remain pleased with the way things are going in the garden. It continues to be a lot of fun. I’d love to see pictures of your gardens if you have them. Feel free to leave a link to any garden posts on your own blog in the comments.

Our Trip

Our trip to Kentucky went well, in spite of a 10 hour car ride with two 3 year olds. ๐Ÿ™‚ The girls handled it much better than I expected. They went fishing for the first time and had a blast. They also fed carrots to their aunt’s horses got to pet the baby quail she has on her farm.

coal We drove through West Virginia on the way there and were bombarded with billboards promoting “Clean Coal.” Most of the billboards were in an area where the interstate runs a long a river next to miles of coal yards. Looking at the mounds of coal, the plants with enormous smoke stacks blowing out large billowing streams of the stuff, and the filthy trucks driving all around the area, the “Clean Coal” billboards were nothing short of a paradox.

Now that we’re back home, I plan to post more regularly and I have some guest posts for other blogs in the works. I’ll be reviewing some great books I’ve just finished and there will be more updates on our garden, along with green summer fun ideas.

Thank you for reading.