Planning a Kitchen Garden

tomatoFor the first time in my adult life, I have adequate space for a real kitchen garden. We’ve got two boxed gardens in the back yard, a big batch of winterized compost, and big plans.

What’s a “kitchen garden”? A kitchen garden merely refers to a garden that consists almost exclusively of plants intended to be eaten. Although one might put a few decorative plants around the edges of such a garden, the vast majority of the garden is intended for food.

What to plant? As spring is just about to dawn, we’re already thinking about what sorts of plants will go into our garden. For a kitchen garden, the best method is to examine the food that you want to eat as a result of the garden.

For us, we want to be able to make several things. First and foremost, we want lots of tomato-based things, as we intend to do some canning. We want tomato juice, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and salsa, all canned fresh. Thus, we’re going to need quite a few tomato plants. We’ll also plant a few pepper plants and a nice balance of herbs, particularly Italian ones.

We also want to be able to make fresh salads in late summer, straight from the garden. This means some amount of lettuce, if nothing else, and probably some carrots as well.

In a nutshell, don’t just plant whatever you think should be in a garden – instead, let the food you want to eat lead you towards your planting choices.

How much to plant? Using this basic framework, we then make a rough sketch of what we’ll plant in our two boxed gardens. Tomatoes, herbs, lettuce, a few pepper plants, and carrots all need to have room, and perhaps a few other things we like in any leftover space, like eggplant or okra.

This requires some research, so I start looking into how these vegetables are planted. Carrots can largely be planted in a row, as can some types of lettuce, but peppers and tomatoes are often standalone plants that need some free space around them. We also need to look at when we can plant them to avoid weather damage – here in Iowa, planting too early runs the risk of your plants being killed off by overnight frost.

We then look at which items are the most important – and for us this year, that’s tomatoes. That’s the item that should be overplanted, especially if you have use for as much of it as you can grow. We’re actually filling one of our boxes 75% with tomato plants, planting 12 plants by our diagram.

The rest of the space is filled by the remaining items in order of importance. The remainder of the tomato box has pepper plants, while we’re planting a fair number of herbs plus lettuce and carrots in the other box.

How does this save money? A healthy, well-cared-for main crop tomato plant, like a Burpee’s Big Girl, can easily produce 100 pounds of tomatoes by itself, something that would cost you at least a dollar a pound at the grocery store. I’m giving a low estimate here, as I remember my father’s garden having only a few plants and also having a daily harvest of tomatoes so heavy you could barely carry them for month after month.

Even better, you can easily use organic methods at home – we’re using compost for fertilizer, for example. Organic tomatoes tend to go for something close to $2 a pound, meaning one tomato plant can produce $200 worth of food. If we grow 12 plants, that’s $2,400 worth of tomatoes and, yes, more than half a ton of tomatoes over the whole growing season.

This doesn’t include the other vegetables, nor does it include the social benefits of being able to share or trade with your neighbors or friends.

Obviously, there is some cost (basic equipment, straw, tomato cages, etc.), but the cost of a bit of straw and the investment in a few tomato cages that can be used for years and years is pretty low. Even in a startup year, where you might buy a small tiller and a few garden implements, you can still come out money ahead on a small kitchen garden.

The real investment, though, is time. It takes regular time to keep the garden weeded and keep an eye out for pests. There’s also some research time required, and if you’re storing some of the output, that takes time (and space… and a bit of equipment) as well.

A kitchen garden is a cost-saving activity that can really be enjoyed as a hobby. I recommend starting very simple, even as simple as a single tomato plant, and then building up from there. Gardening is a hobby that isn’t enjoyed by everyone, but if you get into it, gardening can save you a ton of money over the long haul.

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  1. Sharon says:

    Hi there,

    Have you looked into Square Foot Gardening? I’ve heard only good things about it!

    http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

    Sharon

  2. Saving Freak says:

    If you like vegetables then a kitchen garden, or any garden for that matter, is a great idea to save money. My wife and I have grown some of our own spices in the past. Rosemary makes a great scent and is easy to use in many recipes. We haven’t had a chance to restart this tradition in our new home but this will be one of my projects for this spring.

  3. guinness416 says:

    One thing I never see in these posts, but I’d love it if anyone commenting could provide advice on, is how to outsmart raccoons/squirrels in your garden. Every year we make a huge effort, only to have them eat or simply rugby-tackle across the lawn almost anything that isn’t chillies and coriander (I guess they don’t like spices). These are smart, city critters that given a week of thinking have gotten around pretty much everything we’ve tried.

  4. reulte says:

    You might also look into companion plants which help deter some pests such as marigold to deter nematodes, nastursum(sp) for aphid (I think) and sunflowers for various others. Not to mention that nastursums and sunflowers are edible in their own right. Others include catnip, bee balm, basil . . . again, herbs in their own right.

  5. J.D. says:

    Guinness, we have problems with raccoons, too. Our cats keep the squirrels at bay, but the coons are merciless. In just five minutes they can destroy a garden. They generally go after our corn and grapes. We don’t know of a good solution other than “be lucky enough to see them rampaging so that you can race outside in your underwear to scare them off”. Racing outside in your underwear is a good way to scare off most critters…

  6. Ditto on the critter problems. Rabbits are the biggest problem here.

    That’s actually the best thing about tomato plants as far as I’m concerned – it’s the one plant the critters don’t bother. I used to live in an area where the deer ate EVERYTHING I planted – except the tomato plants :)

    Now I just need a way to grow cucumbers without them being destroyed by the rabbits.

  7. Emily says:

    I have loved gardening for a long time too. There is just nothing like picking some warm cherry tomatoes and washing, cutting, and putting them on your salad! It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. It also feels good not to have to pay for those fresh, organic cherry tomatoes. I love to share them with neighbors too.

  8. guinness416 says:

    Thanks JD … I think racing outside in my underwear would reduce the neighbours to abject terror, but I’m not sure about the raccoons!

  9. flightgirl78 says:

    Okra.

    Okara is good for the ego, especially when all sorts of terrible rot, fungus, bugs, and other tropical (Houston) diseases afflict your tomato plants, despite your best efforts (birds too, grr!). Okra will make you feel like the ultimate professional gardener. And two plants will produce to feed the world, I am convinced. Plus, if you have even one tomato survive (not plant, but tomato), then you can make okra and tomatoes!

  10. dina says:

    my grandfather had a large garden and he literally built a box of chicken wire he put on the plants at sundown every night to keep the pests out. It was large and he kept it in his garage – it also helped prolong the vegetables in the fall because he would cover it in some kind of cloth that helped keep the plants warm at night.

  11. Love to Garden says:

    I purchase my plants as soon as they hit the shelves, knowing here in IL the weather is unpredictable I repot them into larger pots and keep them out of the weather, in my old house that would be an enclosed porch where they could still get sunlight but not be broken by the wind or die off due to frost. My tomato and pepper plants would have a great head start and instead of being spindly plants they would be as big around as my finger and at least 3 times the height, I also used this time to pluck off the suckers, keeping only the largest branches and not the little ones that grow just above them. Then I harden them off by putting them outside during the day and bringing them in every night for a few nights to get the accumulated to the outdoors. I would be producing long before the neighbors and way into fall. New house doesn’t have an enclosed porch so I am looking into some sort of frame with 3 mill plastic placed right next to the garage, a green house is out of our budget. I missed a great opportunity a few years ago during “junk day” when everyone puts stuff out on the curb for the city to pick up, someone was taking down a green house after a hail storm broke most of the windows, after I thought about it I could have replaced them with Plexiglas over time, but by then someone else must have had the same idea because when I came back around it was gone. I think gardening is as close to God as someone can get, to put your hands in the warm earth and take care of the plants is rewarding and relaxing. By the way the old house had hot water heat and I could put flats on bricks on the radiators and seeds would germinate in record time.

  12. Deborah says:

    I can’t wait to get started planting my garden. Being in Alabama, I can grow tomatoes for about 9 months out of the year – especially if they’re in pots. Last year, I had fresh tomatoes in my salad for Thanksgiving!
    Trent, I hope you’re new cooking blog will include some step-by-step canning recipes! I found a pressure cooker over the winter, and I can’t wait to use it this year. I haven’t canned since I was a little girl, but I remember the taste of my grandmother’s green beans.

  13. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Here’s my secret for keeping critters out of the garden: stinky sweat socks. Seriously. Toss your gym socks into the garden and let them be for a few days, then rotate them with “fresh” sweat socks.

  14. Jon says:

    If you’re growing a kitchen garden just to save money, it’s not a guaranteed solution. I’ve grown gardens for years, and too much depends on circumstances beyond our control. If you’re growing your vegetables because there’s nothing like fresh home grown tomatos, beans, squash…then you’re on the right track.
    re: raccoons – I have a friend who’s had raccoon troubles with his fishpond, and the only solution that worked was a motion-activated water gun.

  15. Allison says:

    I’m so excited for gardening season! Husband and I just started catnip, jalapeno peppers, and chives all in these little things called jiffy pots. They are basically compressed dehydraded moss wrapped in a thin layer of mesh fabric. All you do is add some water, watch them puff up into little starter sized pots of “dirt”, and then plant some seeds! We’ve got those seeds going under a heat lamp inside right now, and then when it warms up a bit more, we’ll transplant them into the outside garden. Best part about the jiffy pots is that they are completely biodegradable, and the plant roots will grouw right through the mesh, so when it’s time to transplant, I’ll just drop the whole thing into the ground, no need to disturb the roots!

  16. I always thought I couldn’t have a garden being in an apartment, but I do have some outdoor space. This has given me a lot of direction. And I like the first poster’s suggestion of square foot gardening. I’d heard of this but never really explored it. Thanks!

  17. Sara says:

    I have outdoor plants (not food plants) and have had critter problems. I make a mixture of cayenne pepper and water and spray the plants with them once a week so if any critter tries to nom it, they will get a spicy surprise! I imagine you can just wash the cayenne pepper off your tomatoes when you are ready to eat them.

    Although, I do have a peach tree and no amount of dissuasion will keep the bugs away before the peaches ripen. The birds are easy to keep away by comparision.

  18. Mo-Town says:

    In my experience, the best way to keep racoons, rabbits, deer, etc. away from your plants is to let your dog sleep outside.

  19. valletta says:

    We’re moving in two weeks to the wine country (long time dream!) and we will have a large garden and all the compost we can handle from the farm animals…
    I have done square foot gardening in the past and highly recommend it. Mel Bartholomew has revised the Square Foot Gardening book and I think it’s great, lots of new pictures, tips. etc.

    I think it’s just as important that a garden look beatiful especially for a kitchen garden. We saw some incredibly beautiful ones in France and Italy. Check out http://www.copia.org in Napa for some gorgeous raised beds made from stone. They are my dream beds!

    This year we have a 20′ by 50′ fenced in garden with water drip already there so I am incredibly excited. I’ve already over ordered on seeds :) I’m going to be sticking with heirloom varieties, especially heavy on tomatoes and peppers. I think I’m going to start a garden blog once we move. I’ll post it here when I get some photos…

    Here’s a great frugal seed starting tip using toilet paper tubes!:
    http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/can-you-dig-it/recycled-seed-starter-pots.php

  20. guinness416 says:

    Trent, I’m sorry for thoroughly hijacking your thread. Being a woman, my gym socks naturally smell of lavender and puppies and joy, but we will try the husband’s socks as well as the cayenne and more sturdy night-time cages. Thanks y’all.

  21. Sheila says:

    To outwit the bunnies on cucumbers, we train our cucumber vines to grow up a section of wire fence in the garden. You may lose a few low-growing cucumbers to rabbits, but the upper ones are all yours.

  22. J.D. says:

    I’d like to live in a place with bunny problems. I love bunnies.

  23. Jean says:

    And all the fun things to try — here’s a great one. Wall o waters — it insulates your baby plants…. http://gardenharvestsupply.com/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=15&idproduct=15

    But you can do it with 2 liter soda bottles, too… just cluster them around the plant and fill with water.

  24. Sara R says:

    If you want to avoid the cost of nursery seedlings, check out information about winter sowing, a cheap, easy and reliable method of growing plants from seed by using recycled containers to make mini-greenhouses.

  25. Frugal Dad says:

    Great idea! I recently planted a square foot garden in our backyard and wrote about the process on my site. It was easier than I anticipated, now we’ll see if it yields any edible results.

  26. wendyr says:

    I second that WinterSowing recommendation! Go to http://www.wintersown.org for more information. It is all about growing plants from seed inexpensively and outside, using recycled containers. You can even send away for a free six-pack of seeds, check the website for details. See the link further down for free tomato seeds.

  27. K.J. says:

    The hot pepper spray totally works! Buy some hot peppers (ask your greengrocer for hot ones) and include the seeds (the coating around them is usually quite hot) when you make your “pepper tea.”

  28. Jessica says:

    For an humorous look at what tending a garden can involve in time, cost, and effort I highly recommend reading “The $64 Tomato”. Tending a garden can be equally rewarding and challenging-because nature doesn’t always cooperate the way you want it to.

  29. Rob Madrid says:

    The biggest treat we had we went home last year was my Mother in Laws fresh cherry tomatoes, unbelievably sweet. I had her mail us two packs of tomato seeds, going to give growing balcony tomatoes a try. Spanish tomatoes are crap, the only decent ones are from Holland. don’t know why. bit of luck and it won’t matter this year.

  30. Lori E. says:

    @J.D. I love bunnies too! One year when I was growing up my dad and I grew some veggies just for the local rabbits. We’d get up early in the morning and watch them play and eat in our yard.

    I can see how that would be annoying if you were growing stuff for yourself, though.

  31. yvie says:

    The canning you’re planning: tomato juice, regular sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, salsa…I’m getting exhausted just reading your to do list. There is a reason people buy their stuff already canned….Canning takes forever! I remember the hours my mother spent putting into canning. No thanks. But if it’s your thing, all the more power to you!

  32. Mo-Town says:

    I can second yvie’s comments, Trent. My mother does a lot of canning, and it’s not easy to do without special equipment (i.e. special racks and a huge pot).

    Also, if you’re planning on making a lot of sauces, you may want to plant Roma tomatoes. Roma tomatoes have a lot less water content, and as a result, they tend to make much better sauces.

    Finally, as a long-time gardener, I would definitely recommend the Jiffy seed starting systems. I love my 72 plant Jiffy seed starter greenhouse, and if you buy the peat pellets in bulk, they work out to something like 7 cents each (which is cheaper than using vermiculite and potting soil).

    Good luck with the garden. :-)

  33. Joyce Jarrard says:

    No one has mentioned cantaloupe. It has been a while since we had a garden, but the “out of this world” cantaloupe is what I remember. I love cantaloupe from a store, but, vine ripened cantaloupe from our own garden was 10 times better!

    We have lived in NC for nearly 30 years, but we grew up in the Midwest. We had our first raised bed garden back in around 1981, when we had babies. I think we bought the original “Square Foot Gardening” book. Our North Carolina neighbors all came to stare at us weird Yankees with our tomatoes and cucumbers in cages.

    We did make some expensive mistakes, too.

  34. Melissa says:

    My fiance and I want to try to plant some veggies this spring in pots on our deck (it’s the only space we have) and this was a really helpful post in terms of giving me some things to think about. I’m also worried about squirrels but hopefully our cats will keep them at bay…

  35. chanio says:

    Great idea!

    What I notice missing is any mention of the environmental precautions that city garden owners should have when eating such homegrown plants.

    Smog becomes acid when it rains. So, you should not use rain as a direct water source for your plants. If you cover all your plants with a large plastic clear canvas you might also achieve a tropical climate for a better growing. I have seen more than 100 meters of plastic canvases at the Spanish caper fields. The get bigger crops.

    Please, get informed about other precautions that should today be considered when doing these natural habbits.

    Good luck!

  36. redteam says:

    If you want to keep critters away, build yourself a raised bed garden (really easy – instructions all over the place online) and put those carpet tacks along the edges. You know, they’re thin strips of wood with a whole bunch of nails in them (super cheap at the hardware store) – make sure the sharp parts point upwards. Critters will quickly learn to leave your garden alone.

    I had a problem with cats wanting to poop in my nice soil. I stuck a bunch of plastic forks with the tines facing upwards inbetween my plants and in any empty parts.

    With the forks and the spike strips – nothing larger than an inchworm has bothered my precious plants.

    Good luck!

  37. Flint says:

    reulte already mentioned companion plants, but I would like to reiterate on the Basil specifically. We have (cherry) tomatoes and we find the plants benefit greatly from having a mixture of green and red basil plants nearby.

  38. JungleGirl says:

    I definitely agree with the fact that planting a couple of things in your garden, in some pots or whereever really does save you money…I planted some salad leaves last year and it was so easy to cut some off whenever we wanted to make salad…beats paying for some horrible plastic packaged up leaves from the supermarket.

    Check out this girl’s indoor garden (http://www.myfolia.com/gardens/150) – she is growing carrots, strawberries and garlic all from inside her living room! It’s a great example that shows it doesn’t matter what sort of place or how much room you have, you can grow something! BTW I’ve just started using that site (MyFolia.com) for tracking my seedlings this year – its great to have some support and info when starting out on your veggie adventure.

  39. Louise says:

    I’ve been growing my own fruit and vege for years. Even if you have virtually no garden, grow some herbs – fresh herbs can be fairly pricy to buy, and more often than not, you end up buying a bunch for a specific meal, only using half and having the other half go off. Fresh herbs also liven up foods, particularly in winter when it’s too cold to want to eat salads. Some fresh basil added to a bowl of tomato soup makes a basic dish feel like something you’d have out at a restaurant – a great way of sticking to resolutions to eat at home. I have several criteria for what to grow – firstly because I like it, secondly because it is easy, thirdly because it has a short shelf life (leafy greens for instance), and fourthly because it is not commonly available in supermarkets or is only available at a price that is considerably higher than most fruits or vegetables. The great thing is that many of these criteria apply to the same edible plants including pomegranates, persimmons, apricots, artichokes, asparagus, jerusalem artichokes, guavas, feijoas, asian greens, and lots of heritage and rare varieties.

    A great way to save money and get free exercise all at once. Also fantastic for children. Most kids love gardening and can look after their own patch of fast growing vegies and herbs.

  40. Katie says:

    Hey Trent,
    I skimmed the replies and didn’t see any suggestions for renting a tiller. Highly recommended. You don’t have to store it for the rest of the year and you can use a large enough machine to break up yard and turn it into garden. After a few years of renting big machines and adding a lot of compost it would probably make sense to buy a smaller machine as the hard work would be done by then. Also read Square Foot Gardening even if you don’t adopt the whole program it will help you plan your space very efficiently. I love planting 16 carrots in each square foot! Good luck!

  41. Deb Coyle says:

    I have never used a jiffy pot, but I have used toilet paper rolls cut in thirds or fourths and a clean potting mix to start my tomato plants. Another particularly frugal idea is to recyle plastic milk jugs into an effective watering system. Simply poke a few holes in the bottom of the jugs, place by your growing tomatoes, fill with water and the water slowly leaks out of the bottom, directing the water deep into the soil and to the very thirsty root system. It saves money and water!

  42. Juli Ruffing says:

    Your research needs to include canning methods and your costs for gardening (since you mention intending to can) should include the start up costs for a canning set up– the proper jars, seals and rings, plus the pot, tongs, rack and other assorted goodies.

    I am still learning to can and I think it’s absolutely essential to learn from someone, rather than a book, if possible. The possibilities of poisoning your family from bad canning is high. The measurements must be absolutely precise- from how much sugar is added to a recipe, to the amount of head room at the top of the jar, to the temperature of the water you can in.

  43. Cindy says:

    Hi Trent,

    About 5 years ago my husband built me a raised vegetable garden running parallel with the house. There is about 5 feet or so between the house and the garden. The tomatoes are tucked up next to the house where they happily suck up the reflected heat and are somewhat protected from hail while the raised garden contains the rest of the vegetables. Instead of soil we used free sawdust from a sawmmill (you could possibly get it from a lumber yard), a couple bags of peat moss and some lime. For the first two years you have to add liquid fertilizer each time you water but by the third year the sawdust is nicely turning to soil and there is no longer any need to fertilize. No weeds. All winter my garden is fertilized with vegetable waste, I mulch with grass clippings in the summer which nicely amends the soil too. Here in Canada we can get overnight frosts too so most gardeners don’t plant till the end of May but there are cool crops which love to be planted in early April and do not mind a late spring snow fall dusting their new leaves: spring onions, peas, radishes, lettuces and swiss chard. As a result we have fresh salad stuff very, very early. We get so many cucumbers out of the raised bed that we can hardly eat them all and by the time the season is over I’m heartily sick of them. Canned vegetables are great but I don’t usually have the time to do that but freezing tomatoes works well and makeds a decent sauce. As far as I know that is as much as you can do with frozen tomatoes. I pick them green as our frosts come early enough that there are usually pails full of green tomatoes still on the vine. I put them in the basement on the cool floor where they slowly ripen for a few months giving me a regualar supply of tomatoes. Vegetable gardening is incredibly rewarding, I’m looking forward to your gardening experiments.

  44. Rita Waters says:

    Jerry Baker has several books with some wonderful tips and tonics made from household stuff. For example, “Practically all four-legged garden pests and pets will flee from the scent of ammonia. Soak old rags in the stuff, put them in old pantyhose toes, and hang them in areas you want to protect. If there’s no hanging space, pour the ammonia into wide neck bottles, like the kind juice comes in , and bury them up to the rims.” This year I’m trying this homemade tonic for deer.

  45. Marilyn says:

    Another use of milk jugs or even large soda bottles: I have nasty, evil, vicious, vengeful squirrels who enjoy eating or extirpating young seedlings. Cut off the bottom of the jug and push the bottomless jug down into the soil, creating a shelter and individual greenhouse for each seedling. Do not leave the lid on the bottle. Removing the lid allows hot air to escape on hot, sunny days and admits moisture from outside.

  46. valerie Wicks says:

    We lived at one time in a central California town where one of the farmers actually left a strip of tomatoes by the road for anyone who wanted to have them to pick. It amazed me how many tomatoes it took to make tomato sauce. Our favorite thing was homemade catchup.
    One thing to be sure to think about when planting tomatoes is that the best canning tomatoes are not the best eating tomatoes. So you probably want a variety of types in your garden.

  47. Karen says:

    Trent,

    Peppers and tomatoes do not like to be planted next to each other.
    Tomatoes like carrots and nasturtiums. Peppers and basil like each other. Petunias and beans are good companions. There are books on companion gardening at the library.
    Eating from the garden is one of life’s great joys. You will be amazed at how many fewer trips to the store you’ll make.

  48. shan says:

    I hope this is not too off-topic…

    I make a point of bringing in my peppers at the end of the season, before the frost gets them. In their native state, peppers are not necessarily “annuals”. I have a single pepper plant survive 4-5 years this way. They’ll even produce fruits in the winter. It’s nice to see green and living things in one’s kitchen (or wherever you keep’em) in the middle of winter.

  49. Bobbi says:

    Last year we had only 1 tomato plant. But we tended it carefully. And just before the frost would have ended it in the fall, we picked all the tomatoes and put them in the basement between sheets of newspaper. We had tomatoes ripening well into January.

    This year we are growing our garden a bit. Wonder how long we will have fresh veggies this year??

  50. bacall says:

    While I would love to have a garden, our extremely compact clay soil combined with my recent shoulder surgery ranks gardening unlikely. I’m planning on joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)group this spring. For about $300/season, I can pick up fresh produce once a week (about a 7 mile roundtrip that I can tack on to other errands), reduce fossil fuels since I don’t have to buy fruit/veggies trucked over 1500 miles to the grocery store, and support local farms!

  51. Chris says:

    How about planting garlic? It would go great with those Italian inspired dishes!

  52. Nerida in Oz says:

    A word of general “warning” – my parents have an amazing garden this year, with tomatoes that are particularly tasty and wonderful.

    However, my father’s family are disposed to gout. Tomatoes can be a trigger for episodes of gout. Between the tastiness of the tomatoes and his own stubborness, my father is constantly crippled by gouty outbreaks!

    And this is without cooking/canning/doing anything to concentrate the effects of whatever it is that sets it all off!

    However, I’m praying that I have my mother’s genes when it comes to this, as sun-ripened cherry tomatoes are a little taste of heaven!

  53. Jason says:

    I’ve got similar plans and ambitions Trent. After a dismal experiment last year, I came back full force this season. I built a 4ftx24ft raised bed and filled it with unscreened black cow composted manure, which has a nice loose quality. Additionally I added some oak leaves from last fall, and plan on fertilizing with worm castings. I’ll also bee adding several pounds of live earthworms to the soil, so they may begin to do my bidding for me, as this will be a no-till bed. Like in personal finance, everything is easier when it’s automatic, so I ordered a T-tape kit plus a battery operated timer from dripworks.com, so that watering will continue if we decide to take a weekend trip. After planting time the only maintenance will be weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting. I will set up a grid over the bed with white twine, and begin intensively planting according to the square foot gardening guidelines. I’ll be focusing on romano green beans, conch peas, English peas, and limas, plus brandywine, yellow pear, and roma tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, mustard greens, cantaloupe, watermelon, okra, and sunflowers, plus anything I pick up at the gardener’s festival this weekend. I am planning to expand to a total of three identical beds by next spring, and possibly begin marketing surplus to local eateries, if I get good enough at producing. I’ve even thought of starting an edible garden design business, for people who have the desire but not the passion to research all this for themselves. One day I’ll make the leap to aquaponics, and raise my own tilapia with my vegetables, but that is another post for another day. Best of luck with your garden. Genesis 2:8

  54. AnKa says:

    Trent –

    nice plans. Predicting the future is a hard science. We grow our tomatoes, too, and every year I have grand plans. In 2006 the grand plan was heirloom tomatoes. Uh oh. Lots of uninvited dinner guests appeared! Have you seen the feared tomato hornworm? Take a look: http://lashwhip.com/hornworm.html
    This little critter makes more damage than a family of deer. Which we also have. And rabbits.

    My best success so far is a perennial herb garden. I stock it in the spring with annuals such as basil. It’s so nice to step outside to have the fresh herbs at your fingertips. A simple omelette becomes gourmet!

    Since I am losing our tomato patch to our planned addition, I signed up for a CSA share this year. That might be a topic for another post sometime!

  55. Carrie says:

    We also have a garden which we tend to in cooperation with our neighbors. They’ve been growing organically for 30 years, and have much to teach us. Last year, they put in 24 tomato plants, and with that harvest there is more than enough tomatoes to can for juice, whole tomatoes, sauces, salsa, and of course, lots of sandwiches with tomatoes. We have 3 families that use the produce, and usually, we still have some left over from the previous year by the time the new tomatoes come in. So, 12 plants will go a long way. They’re starting their plants this week in a green house, and we’re all looking forward to a garden full of tomatoes, corn, beans, and squash. Best wishes!

  56. Evelyn Vincent says:

    Here are some links to articles I’ve written that reader’s may find helpful in having a successful and tasty garden… tips from my lifelong passion of plants.

    Safe Weed Killer’s

    When did “Flavor” fall out of Favor?

    There are so many books and garden gadgets out there that are unnecessary that I was prompted to write this article to help fellow gardener’s save time and money and have success…

    Where to find great seeds and gardening books.

    Happy Gardening!

  57. jaime says:

    To solve the critter problem, I always put a couple of 3′ stakes in my garden with a couple of disposable pie tins tied to the top of each one. When the wind blows, they rattle around a bit and scare critters off. And the birds don’t like the light that reflects off of them.

  58. greg says:

    100 lbs from a single tomato? Quite impressive.
    I grow about thirty different varieties of herbs and tons of chile peppers. With the price of spice drying your own chiles saves beaucoup denaros

  59. Daniel says:

    I hope your tomatoes came in as well as mine did this year. I’ve canned more than two gallons of tomato sauce so far, with another five gallons of tomatoes to cook down tomorrow. There’s little more appetizing than salad made from basil and home-grown tomatoes.

    I’ve written some tips about growing tomatoes–as well as other vegetables–in a kitchen garden. Please check it out if you have a chance: http://www.smallkitchengarden.net

  60. joan smith says:

    I have an upside down planter with tomato plant. Looks great, however, as soon as the tomatoes start turning red about half the tomato is eaten. Any ideas on what, how to eradicate the problem and get ripe whole tomatoes, untouched? Thank you

  61. Catherine says:

    I am starting my first gardening attempt, a modest small effort, this spring in our new home. My grandfather was an organic farmer long before it was in vogue. I loved the “cayenne/chili” spray. He always sprinkled straight cayenne pepper on his corn silk to keep the raccoons at bay. Plastic bags from the grocery store also flapped beautifully, if perhaps a little uglifully (a word?), but they worked. He loved compost tea and ladybugs, and I only hope I can match my grandmother’s abilities with canning. My mother only was able to drink soda-pop when it was time to make catchup! Here’s to beautiful weather to all across this wonderful land!

  62. Somehow everything in my life this year inspired me to start a garden – well, two actually, one on my balcony in pots and one in a communal garden – and I’m so excited! There is nothing better than watching the little seedlings poke up out of the soil! I’ll probably screw up a ton this first year, but oh well, it’s a learning experience. I think next year I’ll start a Square Foot Garden, maybe even up on cinder blocks if I have a problem with critters this year.

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