Sustain Yourself: Grow a Garden

We hear all this talk of saving the environment; recycling, reducing your waste, using energy conserving light bulbs, etc. But what if you wanted to do more... something bigger? A lifestyle change. But where to start?

I really want to "watch what I eat"; try make sure the food I eat doesn't come from half-way across the earth, and that it's as fresh as possible. The best way to do this, I think, is to grow and make everything myself. I know this isn't entirely possible for me (well, it is, but I like to start small), so I decided to try my luck with a vegetable garden. I've also recently acquired a bread maker, so I'm able to bake my own loaves. Toasted veggie sandwiches and BBQ'd veggie skewers all summer long... *drool*.

However, a garden isn't quite as simple as throwing in the ingredients and pressing the bake button. I figured I'd keep a kind of journal, take some photographs along the way, and share them with you. Perhaps you'll decide to sustain yourself vegetabley too, and we can help each other along the way.

The first task in any project like this is research. I checked out some websites, and came across the Better Homes and Gardens guide to planning your first veggie garden. The second page in the guide talks about the layout of the garden, and they suggest a book called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Batholomew. For some reason, that name sounded familiar. I checked my own bookshelf and what do you know? There it is! It was fate. This is the garden I'm supposed to grow.

The square foot method of gardening is a space-saving, time-saving, labour-saving system (perfect!), that divides the garden into small beds (typically 4 x 4 feet), instead of the traditional rows. These blocks are then divided into one-foot squares. Each one-foot square is planted with one, four, nine, or 16 plants, depending on the growing space needed for each plant. Bartholomew's book is supposedly the bible for this method of gardening. Good thing I picked it up for $2.99 a few months ago from the Goodwill on Roncesvalles! It sounds complicated, but after skimming the book, I'm finding that most of it is just common sense (an expert gardener's common sense, that is).

Sunday is the day we're laying out the garden. It's now past the last frost of spring (I hope). The farmer's almanac says May 9th is the start of this year's 149-day growing season, but some plants are meant to go in the ground early (like lettuce). I figure if we start things out on Sunday, it'll give us a couple weeks to get the rest of the plants/seeds ready.

Here's a rough sketch of the garden design:


CLICK HERE to see the full size image on Flickr.

I need to decide if I'm going to plant in the ground, or make some planting boxes and build up. Either way, I'll have to mix a special soil concoction that I've learned works well (1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite, 1/3 compost). Unfortunately, we don't have a compost pile at my place yet, so I'll have to buy it, along with the other two ingredients. Anyone know where to buy nice big bag of vermiculite?

Look forward to seeing some photos of the gardening action on Sunday. It's supposed to be really beautiful this weekend (finally)!

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