Even though I grew up in the heart of Dallas, surrounded by houses with small yards and elaborate landscaping, my mother reserved a portion of our backyard for a vegetable garden. I can remember every Saturday working in the yard and helping her tend to the garden. She taught me how to make something beautiful and delicious out of just a small seed. She taught me that to get there though, we had to WORK: tend the plants, nurture them, prune them, fertilize them. Working in the garden by her side was the first time I learned that I had to work for what I wanted in life and ultimately I learned that I ENJOYED working for the end result. Gardening is one of the most rewarding types of work you can do because you get something in return (usually) for your labor!
When my husband and I moved into our home, one of the first projects my husband took on was putting in four large raised beds in the backyard so that I could continue the tradition my mom and I had growing up. I couldn’t wait to tend my own vegetable garden.
To this day, my mom still comes over to my house each season to help me plant the next round of crops. For the spring garden this year, we started out by planting lettuces and leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and my personal favorite to grow, potatoes.
One of the MOST important things in gardening is your soil. Each season I top off the soil I already have with more compost and garden tone to replenish the soil with nutrients. Make sure you till the compost into the soil really well (bonus: you get a good workout doing this)!
If you are just starting your garden, a good mix of soil for raised beds is:
- 33% Soil Menders Topsoil
- 33% Vital Earth Compost
- 20% Garden Soil Builder
- 13% Cow Manure
- BONUS: 2″ layer of organic mulch, Herb & Veggie Food and Liquid seaweed for nutrients
Once you have your foundation (soil) ready to go, get planting! Another important factor to successful gardening is to consider the source–where you buy your plants from matters. Remember, you get what you pay for. If you go to Home Depot or Lowe’s, you get cheaper plants, but they likely won’t be as good of quality as your local garden center and you will end up having to put in more time and effort to keep them alive and thriving. In Dallas, I go to North Haven Gardens. The plants are incredible quality and the staff are extremely helpful. I always come with a list of questions to ask and they happily answer. They also offer classes which are great for first time or experienced gardeners!
Before you begin planting, lay your plants out in your beds to ensure you get proper spacing. As I plant, I add a fertilizer blend to the soil to aid each individual plant. NHG has a great blend that hasn’t failed me yet! Once all of your plants are in the ground, thoroughly water your garden to give them the right start.
Now to my favorite thing to grow, potatoes! These are the easiest and most rewarding vegetable in my garden. To start, cut up larger seed potatoes into 2 or 3 sections (golf ball size is a good rule of thumb). Lay out on paper to dry for 2-3 days. Then, dust with dusting sulfur and plant!
- Dig a trough about 6-8″ deep and about 4″ wide
- Plant seed potatoes about 12″ apart
- Cover seed potatoes with 3″-4″ soil mix, mixed with pine straw to make it loose and aerated around the seed potatoes.
- Once sprouts emerge and get about 8″ tall, back fill around them with 3-4″ of soil/pine straw mix.
When the plants are flowing, that is when they are forming potatoes (how cool is this?!)! To harvest baby potatoes, harvest 2-3 weeks after the flowering begins. For larger potatoes, harvest 4-5 weeks after flowering begins.
These are just some of the basics of backyard gardening. What else do y’all want to know and learn??? Let us know and we’ll keep you posted on our harvest!