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Adventures in Gardening: This City Slicker Gets Serious


Adventures in Gardening is going to be a new series I am doing this spring and summer. I’ll let you follow along as I attempt to grow some food for the first time ever.

Having a garden this year is one of my Green and Crunchy Goals. However, I felt almost paralyzed about how to start a garden, what to grow, etc. I have never gardened before. It is an understatement to call me a complete novice. A lot of people I asked kept telling me its really hard to grow a garden here in south Georgia because it gets too hot. That may be the case, but people had to eat before the industrial food system came along, didn’t they? Surely I can grow something here. So I started researching.

The Doubt

Keepin' it real.

I want an organic garden. I don’t want to put crazy chemicals on my food. What goes into the soil and onto the leaves will go into the produce of the garden, which will go into my body and into my kids body.
However, I don’t want to sugar coat this. I’m trying to be realistic about what to expect. I am guessing it is going to be way harder to do this organically than it is to spray for bugs and things.
1. I am scared of bugs. And lizards. And snakes. And caterpillars. And organic gardening encourages a good balance of such things. (Good bugs, at least. Not bad bugs.) I don’t like touching bugs and I don’t like being around them. Lord help me if I see a snake in my garden. You’ll probably be able to hear me scream from wherever you are.
2. There are lots of bugs here.
3. I want to use heirloom seeds and they have not been bred to resist some of this stuff. However, these particulars seeds have a long history, so something must be good about them.

Is a person who is scared of bugs crazy to try to grow a garden without pesticides?

So, one night last week I was experiencing huge doubt. I know its just a garden, but I really want this to work. Can I really do this? Am I wasting our money? Do I even know anything at all about gardening? I came to a conclusion, with my husband’s encouragement. I am going to do this garden how I think it should be done. I am not going to spend a lot of money on it. I am not going to use chemicals. I am going to use about 98% heirloom seeds.
However, this garden is not a gospel issue. I am not sinning if I need to go out and buy some starter tomato plants (that are hybirds, not heirloom (gasp!)) if I can’t get my seeds to grow properly. It is not the end of the world if I have to use some chemicals on my garden. I am going to try not to, but I’m not willing to let my whole investment go to waste when a little bit of pesticide could save it all. (Although, I will try every natural method first and I’ll tell you if I end up using crazy chemicals.) This whole thing is going to be a learning experience, and that is okay. I don’t have to do everything perfectly. Sometimes I need to remind myself of this and not make mountains out of mole hills. :)

After I got over my doubts, I started laying the ground work for my garden over the past few days. Here’s what I’ve done.

The Ground Work for The Garden

1.  Get some trusted advisors. My grandpa has been gardening his whole life here, as did his dad, and his dad’s dad. That’s a lot of knowledge I can tap into there. My pastor has also gardened for nearly a decade here and gave me some good advice about what to grow. I called our local extension office and they gave me some helpful advice and sent me some literature about gardening specific to this area. I also have a couple friends from college, Laura and Becky, who have done organic gardening before. I think I’m covered from all angles here when I need advice.
2.  Decide if you are going to get seeds and germinate them yourself or buy plants that have already been started. Since I am using heirloom plants and I don’t have much money to put into this, I decided to buy seeds and start them myself. I bought all of my seeds through Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I also went back and forth on this decision–which seed company is best to buy from? I finally settled on Baker because this is a family run business and they seem super passionate about it. They are also in their mid-twenties, which is just impressive. I’d rather put my dollars in a family run company than a huge corporation. (For example, Seeds of Change is part of Burpee.)
3.  Decide what you are going to grow. What kinds of things do you want to eat this summer? Laura gave me some good advice when I posed my gardening question on the KCK Facebook page. She said,  “I don’t like growing things that are a lot of work or take up a lot of space but only produce a little harvest. For instance, I’d much rather just go buy a bag of prepeeled baby carrots than plant all of those individual seeds that only produce one carrot each, and then you have to peel every single carrot. It’s not worth it to me. But if I can plant one tomato seed and get bucket after bucket full of tomatoes from one plant, that’s totally worth it!”  Good advice. So, here’s what I am attempting to grow this summer.

  • Green beans — Blue Lake Bush and Kentucky Wonder Pole
  • Melons — Sweet Passion and Georgia Rattlesnake watermelon
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Bell Peppers — Jupiter and California Wonder Pepper, and Quadrato D’Asti Rosso
  • Tomatoes — Brandywine, Riesentraube, and Homestead
  • Zucchni Squash–yellow — Crookneck Early Golden Summer, Green — Zucchni Black Beauty,
  • Other squash — Waltham Butternut,  Candy Roaster North Georgia, and Jack Be Little Pumpkins
  • Lots of herbs — dill, cilantro, rosemary, mint, basil (a couple different kinds), oregano, bee balm, borage, chives, garlic, feverfew, and tansy (if I can find some)  I chose borage and tansy because they are supposed to be naturally good at repelling some of the bag bugs. Borage is evidently also very good for the soil. Bee balm attracts bees, which I want my garden so there is lots of fertilization going on!
  • Flowers — lavendar and marigolds. Both are supposed to be another way to control bugs naturally. I also just like them both.

4. Decide where to put your garden. I decided to plant mine at my mother in law’s house. She has lots of land, a ready (and free) water source, all of the garden tools (rake, hoe, etc.) and can watch my kids for me while I garden. (Although I am going to try to involve them as much as I can.)

5. Get your ground ready. I mowed the area I am going to till up for the garden. I also decided to start composting, but I’ll go over all in another post. This week, the ground is going to get tilled up, I am going to muck out the stalls in the barn and put the horse poop in the garden as natural fertilizer. I’m also going to try to get my compost bin started. Don’t worry, there will be pictures of all of it. :) I know you’ve always wanted to see me scooping horse poop.

Here I am mowing and raking.

Raking up the grass to put into the compost bin

I learned how to use this mower this weekend. It was fun!

I mowed way more than I needed to because it was fun.

Now I just need to wait until my seeds arrive in the mail. Then I’ll go over some things I’ve learned in my research about how to start seeds frugally.

  1. 02/21/2011 3:31 pm


    I just found your blog by searching wordpress for “garden” & I loved it! Sounds like you’re undertaking a big project this summer. I too have a backyard garden & actually just planted my first little indoor seeds (I’m in Michigan).. I can’t wait to start posting my garden progress & look forward to seeing how yours goes. Best wishes! :)


    • Kate permalink*
      02/21/2011 11:00 pm

      Hi Suzanne! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. 02/21/2011 4:25 pm

    That picture of you mowing Kate had me in stitches. Oh my gosh. That is a HILARIOUS pic. Glad you’re enjoying yourself! ;-)

    • 02/21/2011 8:48 pm

      I agree. Kate never fails to crack me up even many miles away. Oh how I miss you dear Kate! I’m so glad you are blogging so regularly again – wait. Scratch that. I’m not sure ever blogged too regularly before. You are certainly on an impressive streak!

      • Kate permalink*
        02/21/2011 11:00 pm

        RO–I thought of you specifically when I put this photo up, but I am glad I could make both of my favorite Rachels laugh. :)

    • 02/22/2011 8:25 am

      I also agree with the Rachels…hilarious!!!! LLOL, Kate.

      On a serious note, thanks for the honesty and the really great conclusion- it’s easy to feel that our convictions are gospel-based…way to put that out there. I appreciate it.

      BTW, Luke ate carrots and snow peas last night, and fish and red bell pepper today. I am feeling waaaay super-mom-ish right now.

  3. Becky B permalink
    02/21/2011 5:45 pm

    Kate, I ADORE the picture of you mowing – you are so great Kate, I love you chica!

    Bugs like the sweetness of melons – just sayin’

    The addition of fresh manure will burn your seeds & seedlings with it’s high nitrogen content if it hasn’t been aged/composted. If it is fresh = zap! Also horse manure carries a higher number of seeds with it from their feed (says my extension agent), these are killed when composted. If it’s been composted, then that’s perfect, but if fresh, a warning…. This site says you can compost your own in 6-10 weeks to prep it for garden: or (If there is better info out there, I’m sure you will find it.)

    I’m really excited that you are doing this garden! It’s like you Laura and I are working on our projects in the same neighborhood. “Hi neighbor!” ;) Thank you technology for helping me pretend that these girls live next door. Your blog is so fun to read, thanks for sharing Kate!

    <3 Becky B.

    • Kate permalink*
      02/21/2011 11:04 pm

      Becky, So, the manure isn’t super fresh. (I know you want to know about my horse poop.) Its been there for a few months. So, I’m guessing its already broken down some. However, I am making a barrel composter thing, so I could just put it in there to break down along with everything else. Some of the websites I read said the compost should be ready within a few weeks. I guess since its a small amount and gets turned frequently, it breaks down quicker. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for the advice, Organic Gardening Guru Friend. :)

  4. Laura permalink
    02/22/2011 6:45 am

    I’m jealous of your horse poop! Haha, bet you never thought way back in college that I would someday say that to you! You can probably tell whether it is ready to go on the garden by doing the sniff test. If it smells pleasant and earthy, like soil, it is done composting. If it smells like stinky poop, it needs to compost longer.

    • Kate permalink*
      02/22/2011 1:23 pm

      Laura, I’m not sure how you know this poop information, but I’ll trust you on it. :) And not, I have never ever thought that anyone would be jealous of my access to horse poop, but surprisingly, you are not the first person who has been jealous this year. :)

  5. Lindsay permalink
    02/22/2011 9:53 am

    I will admit I didn’t read the blog, but the first picture of you mowing made me laugh till I cried. Dad would be so proud!! :)

    • Kate permalink*
      02/22/2011 1:21 pm

      Lindsay, I actually took a much closer look at that picture last night (after I had already posted it for all of the world to see) and laughed for quite a while last night. Dad would be proud, although I’ll be the first to admit that I was not mowing in a perfectly straight line. I’ll let him ride the mower when he comes down next month. :)

  6. 02/22/2011 2:54 pm

    Ok, that photo of your mowing is just hilarious! It gave me a good laugh! Thanks!


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