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The first summer we were in living in our current home Jared made some raised garden beds. We didn’t have grass or a fence but we had a garden! #priorities
In our previous homes gardening had been very unsuccessful. A lot of that has to do with my own brown thumb (or wait, maybe that’s just called neglect) and part of it was definitely because we had really bad soil. We figured the garden would stand a better chance if we built raised beds and filled them with good dirt.
Year one . . .
This is now our fourth summer with the raised beds and I can tell you they have made a huge difference! (Because I still struggle with neglect when it comes to the garden.) We mostly subscribe to the idea of square foot gardening, though this year we stuck to it a little less as we just tried to use up some old seeds we had.
If I am being completely honest (and you know I am), Jared does a lot of the gardening. He usually plants some of the seeds indoors with the kids in March, mainly peppers and tomatoes. This year he planted the entire garden and has done at least half of the weeding. For the most part he puts the garden in and I deal with it when it comes out.
Because we live in the Canadian prairies the produce in our garden cannot be as diverse as I wish it could be (I’ve been drooling over this backyard garden/forest for years and years), but we’ve figured out what works for our climate and gardening abilities and have a few things that grow really well for us.
Next year I want to try more deck/container gardening. I believe a smaller living space is in our near-ish future and I want to see what we can all make work. I also want to try some indoor winter gardening, is this even a possibility (other than herbs)? I have no idea but I want to give it a try.
Okay, on to the garden! We have a potato patch, which we pretty much never weed, and then nine raised garden beds.
Strawberries have always been my favorite fruit so of course we’ve attempted to grow those. I’m always surprised at how well they produce but then every winter we’ve had major troubles with a lot of plants dying off. We always get runners from my mother-in-law and her strawberries are fine. I’m wondering if this is a raised bed issue? We’ve tried covering them with a variety of things over the years so there is a barrier between the plants and the snow but we still lose more than 50% of our plants each winter. I should do some research and see if there is anything we can do to avoid this again this winter.
I never thought I would say this but tomatoes are my favorite part of the garden. I don’t even like tomatoes. BUT I have found an amazing spicy pasta sauce recipe (well, found one and then adapted it) and now I can’t eat store bought pasta sauce. Due to hail demolishing most of our tomatoes last summer it’s been a long time since I’ve had the pasta sauce and my mouth is almost watering just thinking about it. If you guys want me to share the recipe I definitely can! (After I make it again and remember exactly what my ratios all are, I should definitely write it down.)
I know people have told me before to make homemade salsa but honestly, I like store bought salsa and I would rather save all my tomatoes for pasta sauce. The last thing I want is to only eat homemade salsa, I’ll have to start a tomato farm to support my habit!
We always plant peppers and they never do very well. We actually have a ton on our two plants this year but I think we planted six or so plants and most of them died. Also, we never had success with carrots – except this year. Jared was going through and trying to use up a bunch of carrot seeds, so we now have two and a half beds of carrots . . . good thing they are delicious fresh and cooked!
We also planted some beets this year – at Raeca’s request. Her friend makes a beet cake she really likes and she wanted to make it. But we ended up attempting to make beet chips instead. They were disgusting. Moving on.
So, my theory is, if you want to feel good about your gardening skills plant these two things: zucchini and rhubarb. They are the easiest to grow, produce a ton and just generally make me feel amazing when it comes to my gardening abilities. But what do you make with them you ask? Well, I use both in a fruit crisp I make, zucchini I also add to my pasta sauce and a gluten-free ministrone-esq soup and then with the rhubarb I also make a homemade syrup for our own twist on Italian soda.
We generally also plant a few peas because Jared likes them fresh. And this year our raspberries have actually turned into a bush! Unfortunately I found out too late that they were producing such small fruit because they needed more water. Next year I’ll try to be more on top of that.
I think that is our little backyard garden in a nutshell! We’ve tried other things before without very much success. Corn doesn’t seem to grow, either it’s us or it’s the raised beds. We’ve done watermelon and pumpkin before but they take up a lot of room without much return and since we have such a small space it doesn’t seem worth it. I wish we could try to grow more exotic stuff here but we have such a short growing season it doesn’t work.
Oh, I almost forgot! We have two twig-like dwarf apple trees in our front yard that produce a handful of small apples each year, I usually end up chopping them up into the aforementioned fruit crisp.
If you have any questions about our little garden or want me to share any of the recipes I mentioned just let me know in the comments below! And if you have any tips on deck/container/winter indoor gardening I’d love to hear those!