Adventures in Gardening – Part I

WARNING: This post contains a LOT of (really cool) photos showing the progress of our garden and examples of other gardens too!! ;-) Lots of pics means less words though! Enjoy!

About 7 years ago I watched the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car. I distinctly remember being incredibly anxious afterwards and had visions of planting a victory garden in my large Arizona backyard – I had the space, so why not?! The documentary’s message shook me for days and I just couldn’t get past the feeling of being completely dependent on the current food industry for all of my nutrition. I asked myself over and over again, “What WOULD happen if that industry crumbled?”

I eventually talked to a baby boom generation co-worker who talked me down and assured me there was really nothing to worry about. He explained that the industries who control the oil will ride out the oil thing for AS LONG AS its profitable. He then added THEY are the ones who will be profiting when electric cars DO become the norm. But I’m getting somewhat off point here – the point is that I finally planted my garden! It may be 7 years later, but I’ve done it and it wasn’t purely from fear of a global shutdown due to the sudden drying up of oil wells! Sure, that planted the seed — pardon the pun — but it wasn’t until everyone I knew seemed to have a garden that I finally got off my butt! (Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but really… look at this slideshow!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, after thinking, “Boy… we really need to start a garden…” I went to my Holistic Nutrition class that night and guess what we talked about? Local gardens, local seeds, buying local and organic and how much Monsanto sucks. It was like a blinking neon sign saying, “YES! Do it! What are you waiting for?!”

In true Zucchini Runner fashion, I threw any other tasks I had out the window for that weekend and said to Mr. Zucchini Runner, “We are planting a garden this weekend. Let’s call Adam and Melissa and see if they can help.” (Psssst… their garden is EXACTLY what we’ve always wanted!!)

BOOM. Take action. Have awesome friends. Get. It. Done.

After an evening at their house, picking their brains and taking notes we were feeling pretty good about our weekend ahead. Adam also agreed to help with the physical labor, offered up the use of his truck and most importantly almost his entire Saturday! Like I said, awesome friends. Can’t wait to return the favor some day! And by the way, look at THEIR garden from last season! How could we NOT be inspired?!?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 1

First stop? Home Depot for the cinder blocks, we were REALLY maxing out the trucks!

IMG_0282

We already had a plan drawn up, so putting the bricks in place was pretty easy, besides the heavy lifting of course.

IMG_0269

Our nice open patio – like a blank canvas!

IMG_0283

Taking a breather…

IMG_0284

Waiting for the inspector to approve us for the dirt!

IMG_0286

The guys took both trucks to get us 3 tons of an organic garden soil mixture, which was 33% manure, 33% sand and 33% mulch. Kinda crazy. I wonder what the last 1% is…

IMG_0308

Then we… errrr… they… had to transport the dirt from the trucks to the garden.

IMG_0300

Here’s Adam! Thanks again for alllll your help!

IMG_0289

He brought a little helper with him too!

IMG_0288

She was really good at inspecting, just like Rocco…

IMG_0291

It all happened so fast!

IMG_0297

Adam’s little helper and I worked so hard on the garden, we needed to rest and relax after it was all done! ;-) But really, she was so much fun to hang out with for the day! We had a great time – too bad Melissa had to work!

IMG_0301

All done for the night!

IMG_0305

Day 2

The very next day Mr. Zucchini Runner and I were at Home Depot again, buying a few more things for the garden – one of them being a compost bin!

IMG_0318

We also bought a gutter (yes, you read that correctly – AZ homes don’t come with gutters, because it RARELY rains!) But we didn’t want the runoff from the roof to damage the plants below, because when it DOES rain, it’s usually in the summer during monsoon season and it rolls off the roof in sheets! Not to mention, Adam reminded us the rain water will contain chemicals from the roof materials… not exactly good for our organic garden!

While I assembled the compost bin, Mr. Zucchini Runner finished up the drip line. This made it REAL! We have water in the garden!! Yay!!

IMG_0319 2

Rocco played his part too… at looking super cool.

IMG_0321

All done! Yes, that was the sunset that night. It was incredible. I even took two pics and photoshopped them together so you guys could all see what I saw that night. Compost bin done. Drip line in. Another productive day!

IMG_0324_modified

Day 3

Mr. Zucchini Runner added the sprinkler heads on his lunch break!

IMG_0341 2

Day 4

I ordered seeds online the weekend the garden was built… and I maaaaaay have gone a little overboard… maybe? I wanted to stock up!! I was SO happy when this arrived in the mail.

IMG_0393

Day 5

Two weeks after the garden was built, it was planting time in AZ! The first half of March is one of our planting seasons – we have two here – and they are very short seasons! This was another reason it was PERFECT timing for me to drop everything and make this happen!

We drove all over town and finally found the perfect nursery! We needed to ensure our soil had all the right components and that included some sort of organic fertilizer that would provide the soil with enough nitrates.

IMG_0506

So we bought a soil testing kit, some organic fertilizer and some potting soil for the wheatgrass and micro greens I wanted to plant. We also bought a little gardening guide that was specific to AZ and the March planting season. Gardening in Arizona is unlike the rest of the US and all that you have learned previously, needs to go out the window!

IMG_0510

We needed to add the fertilizer that night and work it into the soil. I got a nice blister on my thumb using the Garden Tiller to break up the soil… but I’ll spare you that pic. ;-)

IMG_0704

Each step was getting us so close to planting the seeds and getting life into the garden! It was so exciting.

IMG_0705

Day 6

The next day (March 9th) we felt like scientists testing the soil, it was kinda fun! We were very low on nitrogen, but the pH was perfect and so was the potash and phosphorus. So, we just went for it and hoped for the best at this point!

IMG_0566

The most difficult part of the planning for this, was knowing which seeds/plants were best suited for this time of year, what to put next to each other and what not to and how far apart to space them! In the end, after consulting with Melissa via text and reading books, seed packages and the garden guide I bought… I decided to plant more than I thought could fit to account for loss. Birds, bugs, etc.

IMG_0569

We mapped out the specific locations and beds for each plant. The smaller bed has, sage, thyme, dill, parsley, danver carrots, little finger carrots, roma tomato and purple cherokee heirloom tomato. (The tomatoes from seed are a little risky right now, but I went for it!) Do you see the little tomato plant in the upper right corner?

IMG_0574

Here’s a closer look… this little guy was saved from under the tortoise burrow way back in the corner of our yard. We feed them organic tomatoes and apparently, they pooped out the seeds and it sprouted!! There was no room for it to grow upward, so I pulled it out and stuck it in the garden, before we even tested the soil or anything! I’ve been nursing it back to life slowly. :)

IMG_0515

This is how it looks today! Coming along :) Anyway… back to seed planting day…

IMG_0816

At this point, we were starting to feel like real life gardeners. This garden is for all the big boys… ZUCCHINI (of course), yellow straightneck squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, watermelon, hubbard squash and cucumber.

IMG_0575

We planted our seeds and labeled them all so we knew what we planted!

IMG_0578

I had a little fun with the watermelon stick. ;-)

IMG_0579

March 17th

We went out of town the following weekend and came back on March 17th, to a whole slew of little sprouts!! We were elated! The wheatgrass and micro greens (on the right) were already slightly starting to sprout before we left, but had exploded by the time we were home! IMG_0742

March 20th

Our Danver Carrots are starting to show!!

IMG_0809

Hubbard Squash has two sprouts in one mound!

IMG_0811

Roma tomatoes started showing up yesterday!

IMG_0808

And so did the dill!

IMG_0807

This experience has been beyond exciting and rewarding already, I can only imagine how things will progress! Although I hope I don’t have any more birds plucking seeds from my garden!!! Today I went out at breakfast and the cucumbers were finally starting to sprout, by the afternoon some birds had come and eaten them – they were GONE! Along with the other hubbard squash mound! GRRRRRR Since I had SO many other sprouts (multiple per mound) I very carefully transplanted one of the spaghetti squash to the cucumber mound.

IMG_0805

And relabeled it…

IMG_0815

I’ve put this post together, and will continue to track the progress, in case you have been on the fence about planting a garden yourself. As you can see, there are many ways to do it from the very elaborate to a simple garden box. Pick a garden that works for YOU! I hope you have enjoyed the progress so far. More to come in a month or so!

Also, a special thanks to all our friends and family for supplying us with their garden photos! Happy planting everyone :)

Do you have a garden? Have you always wanted to start one but didn’t know where to start? Share your stories, tips and struggles below! We can all learn from each other. :D

*********************************************************************************************

Updates: Rather than write up a new post for all my updates, I’ve decided to just add photos to this existing post! Who doesn’t love before and afters?! :)

April 10th, 2014 :: Originally posted to Instagram
“I was going to do another blog post about my garden progress, but I just don’t have the time to type up a full post! So I decided to share some of the highlights here. Upper left is our dill exploding! Upper right is the tomato plant I transplanted from the turtle burrow; it’s doing great! Bottom left is a spaghetti squash blossom about to start. We have 4 others producing early stage blossoms as well.  Bottom right are the tops of our Danver carrots. I’ve also recently added basil, rosemary and mesclun greens from seed too, which are all sprouting. I really enjoy starting my morning’s by tending to the garden and ensuring everything is watered, free of pests and growing.”

IMG_1554
12 hours later we added some lady bugs to eat the aphids we saw in the garden! We released about 300, by the morning there were 12… I guess there weren’t that many aphids! :)

IMG_1569
4 days later, this guy was the laaaaast remaining lady bug!

IMG_1693

April 17th, 2014 :: Original post on Instagram

“My little pink lady, organic apple seed is now a little apple sprout! It took about 9 days to sprout in a little glass of water (far left) then about 4-5 days to show a green sprout (center) and 4 more days to be the sprout pictured on the right. In 5 years, I might have more apples. ☺️ #takestime #love #plantpower #veggiefuel”

IMG_1842

April 19th, 2014 :: Originally posted to Instagram

“WOO HOO! We have zucchini in the garden! #happygardener”

IMG_1903

April 22nd, 2014 :: Original post on Instagram

“Happy Earth Day! I woke up and looked out the window today to see two baby butternut squash sprouts peaking through the dirt! I just planted them on a whim about 10 days ago, when I opened a butternut squash to cook it and found that some of the seeds were sprouting! (It had been on the counter a while…) So this is my social THANK YOU to my garden and Mother Nature for being beyond amazing! #love #earthday #everydayisearthday” (the zucchini didn’t actually make it, it must not have been fertilized!)
IMG_2005

April 24th, 2014 :: Original post on Instagram
“QUESTION: Woke up to see squash blossoms in the garden today!! I’m totally new to growing squash… does anyone have advice on helping them pollinate the females? I did see ONE honey bee yesterday so they might be getting pollinated naturally, I just don’t want to miss my window of opportunity while it’s open! :-)”

IMG_2021

April 25th, 2014 :: Overall view of garden
(From background to foreground) Zucchini, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, hubbard squash (bottom right), watermelon (hanging in there… bottom left).

IMG_2122

Close up

IMG_2121

May 5th :: We have a healthy zucchini!! Yay!!

IMG_2593

Here’s the little spaghetti squash transplant from above (original post). It’s hanging in there, trying to flower and produce some squash, but I’m not sure it’s going to make it. I’m very happy it did this well! It could also be the lack of direct sunlight this particular spot gets. Next season I think I will plant tomatoes in both beds and keep them in the spots close to the house.

IMG_2595

Speaking of tomatoes… here is the plant I found growing in the turtle burrow. It’s doing really well! (May 5th)IMG_2598

Carrots are looking good as well! Both the Danver and Little Fingers. :)

IMG_2601

May 7th :: The bees have found the garden :)
Every morning when I head out to the garden around 9 a.m., I hear all the bees buzzing around and see them jumping from flower to flower! Things are really starting to take off for the squash! Now, if we can just get the males and females to be on the same page, and open at the same time… ;-)

IMG_2660

The spaghetti squash has EXPLODED! (May 7th) I had to wrap it around itself because it was starting to reach over and wrap it’s little vines around the zucchini!

IMG_2664

May 10th :: Just 5 days later, the zucchini looks AMAZING!!
This is an heirloom variety called Black Beauty, once I saw this, I knew why! Gorgeous.

IMG_2765

Spaghetti squash :)

IMG_2766

Another heirloom variety, Early Prolific Straightneck summer squash :)

IMG_2767

May 11th :: Garden Overview (next 3 photos)
Watermelon is really trying to hang in there, I haven’t given up on it yet! :) The random butternut squash seeds I planted seem to be doing decently well…

IMG_2814

Tomato plant from turtle burrow. I should start calling this Piggy’s plant. :) haha It is also surrounded by 3 other tomato plants – 1 purple heirloom and the others are roma.

IMG_2815

The other side of the same garden bed: Top row Danver Carrots, next row are the Little Finger Carrots, 3rd row (foreground) left to right; sage, dill, and parsley. The thyme didn’t make it…

IMG_2816

May 13th :: Our first harvest
Should I be shocked and delighted that it was a zucchini? YES!! :)
IMG_2921

This is Dan’s hand below, so think man’s hands… not my hands to get a good idea of the size of our spaghetti squash! :)

IMG_2922

The only imperfections of our very first all organic, completely pesticide free zucchini. I’m in love.

IMG_2916

 

Social tagging: > > > > > >

7 Responses to Adventures in Gardening – Part I

  1. I’m so happy for you guys!!! What an awesome accomplishment!!! Thanks for showing me in person – I was honored to check it out!! I’m sure your garden will inspire others to plant one and that a bunch of new healthy, organic recipes will be sprouting too!!! :)

  2. The Silent Assassin says:

    So, no apprehensions about putting it on the cement slab? I know its semi porous…And you’re giving up a lot of “party space”… =). lol. Right now my garden has some lettuce, kale, spinach…only leafy vegetables right now. I love the feeling of going back there and watching it grow…and then eating it! nomnomnom. I live in PV, and our community doesn’t allow chickens. Back home we had a lot of laying hens (back in Hawaii). Can’t beat fresh eggs!

    • We did actually have some back and forth about putting it straight on the cement without any plastic. But in the end we decided it was an experiment and we would live and learn! Haha We also didn’t cement the bricks, so it’s not permanent. We can always rearrange if necessary. Thanks for asking! Oh, and we still have plenty of party space!! ;-) When did you plant the spinach and kale? I had seeds for those, but after all my reading I decided March wasn’t the best time; but I want to know what everyone else does! Checking on the garden is so relaxing; and grounding I love it too. We love the fresh eggs as well and feel super fortunate to have met Adam and Melissa. Such an awesome family! I love Hawaii :-)

  3. Wonderful stuff, Thanks a lot!

  4. Jerry says:

    I love how you documented the process. The cinder block approach is very low cost, and allows you complete control of the soil type! Will definitely follow your blog and hope you don’t mind if we feature some of your post on our Facebook page. We like to share great stories with our followers.

Leave a Reply