One of the major benefits to owning a home is the ability to have an in-ground garden. After living in apartments for the past 10 years, and growing a small assortment of vegetables in containers on various patios, decks and windowsills, one of the first things Veronica and I did when we moved into our new home was to build a garden box.
Sure, it was February, but we wanted a garden space, dangit. My brother – Mick, who owns his own general contractor business: OTN Construction LLC – was in town building us a nice cedar fence, so we bought three 8-foot long pieces of cedar from Mill Outlet in Tacoma and had him build us a garden box as well. We then went to McClain’s Soil Supply and bought a yard of 50/50 garden mix ($37.24 after tax) to fill the garden box – as well as build some raised beds in corners of the yard.
We had already spent our winter reading Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon, a Christmas present from my parents, to help prepare us for our gardening adventure. After years of dreaming, it was finally a reality – and let me tell you, that is terrifying. It’s one thing to dream of having a garden, it is another to actually figure out how to plant stuff in it, what to plant, when to plant and whether your chosen spot will get enough sun.
Ultimately, we started cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes and pumpkins inside, and planted snap peas, carrots and a variety of herbs outside. Our successful forays into gardening in the past have all come in desert environments, where all you have to do is add water and things will grow. That is not as easy in Western Washington, where we don’t get much sun. Thanks to a mild winter, though, we planted our seeds in late February and things took off quickly.
The plants started indoors caught on very quickly, and when they reached two inches in height we transplanted them – and quickly learned cucumbers don’t do well being transplanted. They all quickly died, as did half the zucchinis and a few of the pumpkins. The tomatoes are doing OK in their containers, but growth is slow.
I did plant a bunch of cucumbers directly into the ground after the failed transplanting, and today noticed a few shoots starting to appear, so hopefully they catch on.
The peas are doing great – they are nearly three inches tall and after a few failed attempts at building a homemade trellis, I bought a bamboo structure at GardenSphere in the Proctor District (a fantastic local garden store with seeds, plants, trees and everything else you could need), attached a few stakes to hold into place and now just wait for the peas to start climbing.
The next project is to spread mulch down to help the box retain moisture and keep the soil plenty warm. We probably also need to put some chicken wire or something around the edges to keep out our friendly rabbit who we’ve seen in the backyard, the neighborhood squirrels – and our nearly 2-year-old daughter who thinks digging and damaging plants is a spectator sport.
While I know that we won’t get enough food to really make a difference with our grocery budget, it is still fulfilling to plant something with your hands, care for it and have it pay off later in the summer with food on your table.
Next year we plan on building two or three more garden boxes and trying to grow enough that it will help us cut down on our grocery budget, but we wanted to be smart and start small this year.
– Craig Craker