Summer Garden Update
When I started sharing about our new DIY raised garden beds this summer on Instagram, I would have never imagined that y’all would be as invested as I was! We started our garden as a way for me to keep myself busy this summer as we went into this season without our little Layne. Quickly it went from a summer project to something much more therapeutic and healing than I could have ever imagined.
The garden has flourished over the past month and a half, and we’ve already gotten more veggies out of it than we know what to do with. But most importantly, we’ve had so much joy come out of tending it. For my first year gardening since I was a little girl in Iowa, I’m quite impressed with myself. Rob jokes and calls me ‘Farmer Cathy’ to all of our friends. Meanwhile, I say it’s all from the love of Jesus – because God knew I needed it this summer.
READ ALSO: DIY Raised Garden Beds
Since I started sharing our garden updates on Instagram stories, I have had so many of you reach out to me to ask me for gardening tips. So I have decided to share some of my beginner gardening tips today on the blog along with some things I wish I would have figured out sooner. To which I want to preface that I am definitely not a gardening guru. The shrugging shoulders emoji is how I actually look – because I am definitely just winging this.
Our Beginner Gardening Tips
Raised Garden Bed Tips
Here are some of my beginner gardening tips as well as from raised garden beds tips. Like I said, I am definitely just winging this, so these tips may not be exactly ground breaking. I just want to share with you what I’ve learned along the way!
1. Water Daily
You should water your raised garden beds every day that it doesn’t rain. This may sound kind of like a no-brainer. However, I have figured out that the raised garden beds dry out super fast. This is especially true in the hot Georgia summer. I water the raised beds a little bit every evening, and I give them a deep watering on evenings where it may have been extra hot that day.
Meanwhile, I think you may be able to get away with not watering every day if your garden is in the ground. I always gauge it by how fast the water absorbs into the soil. If it’s absorbed really fast, I know that it needs more water that day. If it’s slower to absorb, I limit the water given that day so I don’t overwater. (Overwatering is just as bad as not watering enough!)
I tend to water in the evening because that works better for my schedule. Plus, the bees seem to be super active in the mornings. I’ve read that it’s actually better to water in the early morning to avoid the growth of fungus over night, but I don’t think that will be much of a problem here in the hotter weather. Whatever you decide to do, never water mid day. The hot summer sun can burn your plants as it evaporates the water from the leaves.
2. Deadhead and Trim as You Go
One thing my OCD tendency has made me do is to deadhead and trim as I go. But at the same time, I’ve learned that gardening is a lot like our faith. Plant it, nurture it, and watch it grow. Part of nurturing though is cutting back. You trim and deadhead your plants because you don’t want them to waste their energy on veggies and flowers that are dead and not doing to be fruitful for the end purpose. Meanwhile, we nurture our faith by deadheading and trimming back the areas of our life that are ‘dead’ and not fruitful to our purpose in Christ. It’s not only essential to the survival of the plant (us), but it allows us to produce more and better veggies (fruits).
3. Protect Your Plants!
I hate bugs, and I especially hate bugs messing with my plants. I’ve found that peppermint essential oil diluted in a spray bottle with water is a natural and non-chemical way to deal with ants. It doesn’t kill them on contact, but I’ve read that it confuses their senses to where they don’t make it back to their mound (and then die). However, I’ve found that this doesn’t work with other garden insects that can damage your plants.
If you’re not against the use of a little chemicals in your garden, I’ve found that Sevin dust / mix works amazing. It’s advertised to kill 500 different outdoor pests including ants, fleas, ticks, spiders, Japanese beetles, aphids, cabbage worms and outdoor roaches. It’s also advertised to be used in vegetable gardens. I had a huge problem with Japanese beetles destroying my knock-out roses, and after one treatment they have all disappeared!
4. Do Some Upfront Research
I’m definitely a huge planner, and I found that doing some simple upfront research really helped me get started with our first year of gardening.
- Look at your yard throughout the day to see how the sun and shade hit your yard. You want to make sure that you set-up your garden in an area with full sun (6+ hours of direct sunlight per day). I also read that setting up your raised garden beds running North to South helps to make sure that your plants get an even amount of sun on each side as the sun goes from East to West.
- I also learned through some upfront research that apparently veggies can be picky about who their roommates are. You’ll want to research what can and can’t be planted together to make sure your garden flourishes as much as possible. Easy to grow veggies include, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, carrots, and beets. (Based on this year’s experience so far, I have to agree that squash and cucumbers are SO easy!)
- Based on the ‘zone’ that you’re in, you’ll want to research when you should transplant your seedlings outdoors. If you do it too early, a cold snap could ruin your garden.
5. Coffee Grounds!
When I started sharing about our raised garden beds on Instagram, I had a few people message me and tell me to save my coffee grounds for my hydrangeas and knockout roses. Now I don’t feel so guilty about how much coffee I drink since it has a dual purpose. (At least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself!) I’m not sure how often I’m suppose to, but I try to sprinkle my coffee grounds on my hydrangeas and roses about once a week or so.
I also had someone tell me that hydrangeas love pickle juice! I haven’t tried it yet, but I am definitely going to! I’ll have to report back and tell you how it goes.
Hindsight: Raised Garden Bed Mistakes
(What I Wish I Would Have Known)
1. Give Plants Area to ‘Run’
Some plants, like cucumbers and some varieties of squash, need room to ‘run’ as they spread out and grow. I put the lattice up on our raised garden beds to hopefully help with that, but I didn’t really know better in regards to what would actually need it. Hindsight is always 20-20, and I plan to fix the lattice next year to give more room for my cucumbers and squash to run outside of the raised garden beds.
Something like this:
2. Don’t Overcrowd Plants
You want to make sure your plants have the room they need to grow and flourish. When you’re planting your garden, you want to make sure that you plant things far enough a part that your plants are overcrowding one another. I planted one plant per square foot (squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers), and it’s still a little tight. Here is a handy chart that I plan to reference next year from A Burst of Beautiful.
3. Label Everything!
I made the mistake of not labeling everything when I planted it, so I had to wait till the plant produced to remember what variety it was. This was especially true of the squash and tomatoes that we planted. It’s not too big of a deal, but it may help to know (especially if you start from seeds) what is what so you can easily know what does well and what doesn’t in your garden.
Like I said, I’m winging it, y’all. Next year I plan to label everything in true OCD fashion.
4. Herbs and Lavender
When I was doing some research on ways to get pests out of my garden, I found out that adding certain herbs and lavender to your raised garden beds is a great way to naturally get rid of some pests (like mosquitos!) without chemicals. I’ve also read that marigolds, garlic, and petunias are great additions to help keep aphids and Japanese beetles away. It is something that I definitely wish I would have known sooner. I made sure to make a note so I can plan better next year.
Gardening on a Budget
In addition to sharing some beginner gardening tips, I was also asked to share any tips about gardening on a budget. I feel like this year was a little more expensive to get everything set up. However, I also think that it will be much cheaper next year as we just supplement the soil and compost.
One smaller way to save some money is to grow your plants from seeds / seed packets ($0.50 for multiple seeds) rather than buying the individual plants ($3.78 each) from Home Depot. Although it doesn’t seem like a big difference, it can definitely add up if you’re planning on gardening on a larger scale.
As I figure out more ways to garden on a budget, I’ll make sure to report back and let you know!
Well there you have it, friends! I hope that me sharing what I’ve learned so far in the world of gardening this summer will inspire you to give it a try yourself. Not only is it a practical way to cut down your grocery bill by growing your own vegetables, but it’s a therapeutic activity that just might lift your spirit this summer.
Do you have any gardening tips that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!