My Garden 2020, Deborah Chaves

It is hard to believe that gardening time is here again in Northern VA. I have heard it said that St. Patrick’s Day is the traditional day to plant peas and potatoes.

This year I am expanding and changing my gardens. For the past few years, I have grown tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, herbs and a few other things in small in-ground garden beds adjacent to the sides of my house in the front yard. The back yard has been off-limits due to concerns that my two dogs would dig/pull up whatever I planted.

Sara gave me two books by a well-known sustainable farmer in the Shenandoah Valley, VA, Joel Salatin, that got me thinking about the need to expand and diversify and make some changes. He is a proponent of eating locally grown foods and encourages everyone to grow something they can eat. He says we may not all have farms or large areas, but there are other creative ways to grow. We can turn some of our lawn area into vegetable gardens; plant in pots on a balcony, or deck; plant in a raised bed; try a windowsill garden; use an empty city lot; etc. 

I thought a raised bed would work in my back yard. Easier for someone older like me to work in (not so far to bend down); not so accessible for the dogs; might make it portable (that’s something farmer Joel S. advocates…always portability in case you have to move or change). I considered buying a large livestock watering trough and drilling holes in it as I have seen this done in articles/pictures; or maybe big pots, etc. But then I stumbled on a video where one lady built a raised bed out of wood pallets (heat treated/not chemical treated); lined it with landscape fabric; filled it with soil and had a great growing bed. Having access to pallets, I mentioned it to my son Chris (he helps with the garden and canning on his Sunday visits) and he offered to build if I could get the materials. He also mentioned he wanted to build a potato box. Now, Sara asked me just a few days ago if I had heard of growing potatoes in a straw or hay bale and I said I had heard of but never attempted. I read up on it and it sounds like a great idea. So, we are going to add that potato growing method as well to the garden scheme.

Also, a teacher at school where I teach (who has a very successful and productive container garden) offered to give me a few of his ‘Earth Boxes’ (plastic container growing box systems) from his garden as he was down-sizing. I readily accepted his gift of 4 and then ordered 6 more. Tomatoes will go in some of those as they have not produced well the past few years; probably because you should not plant tomatoes in the same place/soil each year. So, the earth box will solve that problem as new soil can replace the old (which then gets moved to the in-ground flower beds).

Progress as of this writing: my son removed old shrubs for the new back-yard site and has almost completed two pallet raised beds and a potato box; I moved some small figs to a new area to make way for the containers and did some raking, clean-up and prep. Adding another pallet bed, a couple of rain-barrels and new plants for pollinators is also in planning.

I look forward to growing things again that did well in the front yard ground beds as well as adding different types of produce to the list (such as various greens, beets, carrots, okra (Sara’s suggestion), snow peas, melon…maybe even a small plot of corn ). I hope to have enough to can and share. Debi Chaves, Leesburg, Va

13 thoughts on “My Garden 2020, Deborah Chaves

  1. I hope I’m on the share list. It’s always exciting to see the earth calling for movement and the thirst for seed to feed. Love your new garden updates.

  2. You are at the top of the list, Sara! I hope to get snow peas, radishes, lettuce, kale, broccoli, spinach, beets, bok choy, onions and leeks planted in the next couple of weeks. Will keep you updated.

  3. Thanks for sharing the link, Sara. Great gardening ideas here such as how to extend your garden season, grow in buckets, plant on roofs, use milk jugs as mini greenhouses, and so much more!

  4. Upon reading your informative gardening blog and Sara giving a link to new ideas to how to garden in small spaces. (Sara, I hadn’t heard of the new way of growing potatoes😳 ), I decided not to just do flowers and tomatoes this year. You both inspired me.

    With the help of a neighbor giving me good soil (about 20 bags) I now have vegetables and flowers. I have three areas I plant in.

    1. Placement in front of flowering plants. I have tiny butterfly bushes planted (I mean a twig of growth) and I have planted zucchini in front of them. Next year I’ll have to choose a different place.

    2. I’ve planted blackberries, and in containers tomatoes and cucumber plants which the latter a neighbor gave me. I have strawberries which produce in a quarter barrel, but sneaky JD my Pug manages to eat before I can even get one.

    3. One area I have in the backyard has a gentle slope, so I used the 20 bags of dirt from my neighbor to form tiers and used 2 by 4’s someone else gave me to keep the soil from eroding too badly. There are single grouping of plants here. I’ve planted yellow squash, cucumbers of different kinds, peppers, and have ordered lettuce and spinach to plant. Any climbing plants I have plastic shelving shelves which have holes for plants to climb up. The shelving came from giving away things to Goodwill or trashing.

    Thank you for inspiring me Debi and Sara

    1. Rena, sounds like you have been working hard in your garden. I like that you are blending vegetables and flowering plants… the vegetable pollinators should like all the blooms and mix. And your shelving system seems like a great idea for vines.

  5. Mayling, my neighbor, asked me to post this.

    When planting in small spaces you can plant in a soil bag.
    Place the bag where you want it to go for planting.
    Make sure it is laying flat.
    Cut it down the middle from top to bottom.
    Plant your seed and watch them grow.
    Then enjoy the vegetable you planted.

    You can use the dirt later for something else.
    Use a little fertilizer to restore nutrients.

    1. Thanks Rena, my husband, Gary said wow, never heard that before. And, guess what, neighbor, Ms Mayling, we just happen to have a few extra bags right out our back door. Do you have a list of seeds that work best?

      Sure nice to have a happy garden tip. And, thanks for the CD by “Faithful Friends”…My favorite, “Just in Time.” Isn’t that title alone so needful?

      Thanks Rena for being a sower if the seeds♥️

  6. From Mayling

    Mayling said, on second thought you should plant small plants so you could get the spacing right. She likes to plant, squash, Jalapena peppers, tomatoes which need support, and eggplant with support. They are best for her.

    She said she likes to grow her plants, like cherry tomatoes from seed of last years plants by squeezing out the juice and placing the seeds to dry on a paper towel. She then places in small Dixie Cups until they have a good root system, and then plant in dirt. I now have many tomato plants to plant in my dirt bags. I think I might plant spinach and/or lettuce and just sit down in the garden with dressing and have a salad.

  7. Oop! After drying out the seeds on paper towels she places seeds in a small size pot. When they spring up, they are weak so then she divides them and puts them in Dixie Cups or anything small with water to let there roots get stronger and then plants in dirt with support as they grow.

    1. Rena, thanks for sharing the garden tips from your neighbor, Mayling. The soil bag seems like a great idea, especially if you don’t want to dig in the ground or don’t have good soil.

      Nice to hear she is collecting her seed, drying and saving for next season. I have heard that through local seed exchanges where gardeners collect seeds and then share/swap with others, you can get some really interesting seeds for your garden, and be able to give out some as well.

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