“It’s like Fort Knox to the Rabbits”

We finally finished the last piece to constructing the garden before we could plant, rain and all!

It was a long day and wet day that started with trudging into the mud with my pink floral rain boots to take out the wood and fencing from my old garden at my dad’s house. I was all by my lonesome because Jordan had to work and my dad no longer lives at that house anymore (he rents it out). I’m actually quite proud because little ol me got the four boards unscrewed (two 9’x6″s and two 7’x6″s), the fence all pulled off, and loaded the muddy items in my car making as little mess as possible. As I did this a neighbor was outside ducked under an awing smoking a cigarette, blatantly staring at me like I was crazy (probably wondering why in the world I had chosen this rainy day to do such a thing) as I placed the large boards in my trunk.

“Do you need help?”

“Nope, I got it!”

“…Cause that doesn’t seem right, you doing that all by yourself.”

I wash my hands in the stream of water flowing on the street, look up and confidently state that I have it all under control and that I’m finished (all within about 20 minutes! Woot). Getting this done was a huge feat because I had been meaning to do this chore for about two months.

So then I drove around to three different places that sold plants in search for green beans because, sigh, mine didn’t sprout. But the mission proved to be fruitless (literally! ba-da-tish) as I arrived at Jordan’s without green beans. It was my plan to plant green beans, snap peas, and lettuce on this day because they are able to withstand a little cold (although snap peas are still a little move sensitive than green beans or lettuce). I just needed to get the snap peas in the ground because they were growing in the little dirt pods like wildfire; I didn’t want to lose them or stunt their growth by not allowing the roots to grow down.

Here’s the snap peas after planting. I also planted lettuce but the picture turned out blurry because of the rain, I’ll post another picture of those guys soon. To be honest my lettuce looks like it needs some help, I think I started the seeds too early and stunted their growth. I may throw some seeds down to see if they’ll take. Anyway, here’s the sugar snaps!


I used old tomato cages, turned them upside down, and twisted the ends together for a support structure for them so I didn’t have to buy or really construct anything.

When Jordan finally got home from work we used the wood from my old garden as an extra border to staple the fencing to. We did this because the railroad ties are in pretty rough shape and have some holes in them that the rabbits could sneak through. There was just enough wood left from my old garden to border the three sides open for bunnies to enter, wherever there was a gap we just stacked some bricks to block them out. It added a little style to it if I do say so myself.

I almost had enough fencing from my old garden but luckily I kept the leftovers from last year in my garage. The fencing is 1/2″ gauge chicken wire. I started with 1″ last year but found that the baby bunnies could still squeeze in. After replacing it with the 1/2″ I didn’t have any rabbit issues. Here she is all finished, and me with soaking wet pants and my pink floral rain boots:


Pay no attention to the awkward hand position. I think they may have been sore; you could say I went a little crazy stapling the fence. Jordan had to tell me to calm down, “it’s like Fort Knox to rabbits.”

“Well good! That’s the point.”


Seedling Update 2

Another seedling update. Here’s where they are in the growing process:


As you can see, I’ve now transitioned them outside so they can start getting used to the different elements (colder weather, wind, rain, more heat), although I still bring them in when the weather forecasts freezing temperatures. It is important to do this to your seedlings at least 3 week prior to planting! Otherwise, they may go into shock if you just stick them in the ground. The key is to slowly introduce them to the outdoors; place them outside during the warmer times of the day for a few hours and take them in at night. Then after a week of that, leave them outdoors throughout the entire day and night in a sheltered area, only bringing them inside if the weather is supposed to get below freezing.

In the middle planter, towards the left you’ll see the snap peas and cucumbers growing like crazy. I am eager to get these planted so the roots can get stronger by growing down but I have to wait because of the risk of frost. I will probably plant the snap peas and lettuce early because they can handle a bit of the cold weather.

Only two of my sunflowers came up, but that’s okay, they’re experimental this year anyhow. On the right we have the corn; doing very well. I actually replanted the corn after the mold incident. The cinnamon did the trick for the other plants, but the mold was too much to contain with the corn so I threw them out and started new. Also, as soon as I took the plants outside any remaining issues with mold cleared up right away. There just must not have been enough circulation of air in the spot I had them inside. While inside, the cinnamon seemed to have been a barrier from the mold and the plant because the mold did continue to grow, but only on top of the cinnamon which I often scraped off and reapplied to the seedlings.

On the left we have tomatoes, jalapenos, and the different types of pepper plants all growing. These took a little longer to sprout but they’re coming in full blast now! My bell peppers are also just starting to come up in the middle tray. Now I just have to wait for Mother Nature to warm up to get these little guys in the ground.

Breaking Ground

Over two weekends, Jordan and I, with some help from good people, prepared the ground to receive the beginnings of a garden. Remember, this is what it looked like before:



We started by raking all the leaves from the two corners of the yard and set them aside to put on the new soil. The two corners needed to be exposed to soil because we wanted to replant the grass we were digging up in the middle section in the corners since we’re not using the corners of the yard. In the picture below, you can see the soil in the (left) corner was a rich, dark color because the leaves had been left on it throughout the winter. I was sad because we weren’t planting there! BUT as soon as we started pulling up the grass we were exposed to more of the nutrient packed soil. You can’t see it here because we already placed some leaves on top but trust me, there were worms everywhere.


After getting a shovel full of dirt down my pants from Jordan carelessly tossing dirt aside as I was kneeling planting the grass, catching up with a friend of mine (coincidentally her name is Megan, too) through sweat streaked faces, and two hours later this is where we finished the first day. The corner in the right is all freshly planted grass, looks like it was there all along!

Jordan "just doin it"

Jordan “just doing it”

The next day we finished taking out the middle section and tilled up the soil and leaves. It is important to loosen up the soil about a foot down so your plants’ roots can grow down easier and in turn become stronger, “rooted” plants. This what we used to till the soil. It’s not technically a tiller, it’s a “mixer,” says Jordan’s dad. But it got the job done!



The following weekend we placed a border along the front of the garden to prevent grass from making its way into the garden uninvited. We did this with the old railroad ties Jordan’s parents had in the yard already. The pieces were pretty decomposed, but they’ll do for now. No sense in buying something new when you already have something good enough! Plus, I am planning on taking the wood I bought for my garden last year and using it as needed.

We then set out to find some wood chips to put on top of the soil to help it retain moisture, for nutrients from the wood chips, and to help prevent weed growth. So we called the all knowing wood chip dude: Drew (one of Jordan’s friends who has an odd obsession with wood chips. In reality he just knows all of the benefits of wood chips and is very enthusiastic about it but we like to joke here.) Good thing Jordan and I have friends who enjoy the outdoors and manual labor because not only did Drew tell us where we could find some (for FREE!) but he also joined us in loading them up and getting them on the garden.

We got the wood chips from a local tree service who sends the trees they cut down into a wood chipper. So if you’re looking for wood chips, calling a tree service wouldn’t be a bad idea because they have to do something with all the dead trees they cut down. As I mentioned in my previous post about urban gardening, one of the benefits is making relationships or connections with those around you to share resources just like we have gotten from friends and this local tree service.

Look at the difference in richness and retention of moisture between the wood chips on the right and the soil on the left. After a while, the top layer of your wood chips will get dry, but right underneath you’ll have a layer of damp wood chips decomposing and letting loose nutrients for your plants as well as providing a layer to protect the soil from drying out. This is nice because you won’t have to water your plants as much.



It was a great feeling getting this done because all that’s left is to plant and wait for all the fruit of your labor to come. Well, maybe not completely….but it’s nice to think that after a day of hard work.

You CAN be self-sustainable in the city

Some of you may have already heard of the Dervaes family, a family that lives completely self-sustained right outside LA, but they are proof that living in the city shouldn’t hinder your opportunity to garden and strive to be more self-sustaining. If you haven’t heard of them yet, check out their blog urbanhomestead.org or watch this video that’s been circulating Facebook to give you a good summary of how they’ve done it.

dervaes family garden

Although their story is very inspiring there are a few factors that some people may differ in, adding some complications to the process. For example, I love meat and am not a vegetarian. This is a difference that I have with the Dervaes family because they’re vegetarian which is one of the reasons they’re able to live on so little money. Because I eat meat, I would want more chickens and possibly even some beef. This may require a little more space. A solution to this would be to join a food cooperative or even build a relationship with a local farmer and trade goods.

Another issue you may have living in the city are the zoning regulations for the space you live in. For example, Jordan’s parents house is just outside the zone where they can have chickens in the backyard. But because of the regulations in their zone, they are not allowed to have chickens. I think it’s very impressive that the Dervaes are able to have so many animals in the middle of a city; that’s rare in the more populated areas of Omaha. But again, I think the way around this would be the food cooperative or making some hookups with fellow farmers and gardeners in your community! That’s one of the best parts about living in a city, there’s a wealth of people to build relationships with. If you’re planning on moving soon and are desiring to become more self-sustainable this is something you really want to look in to. Because I am more of a country girl, I see myself living out in the country. But for those of you who love the convenience and action of the city, don’t let that be an excuse for striving for self-sustainability in the city.

Seedling Update!

Just four days after planting and it’s here! The first sprout!

Sunflower Sprout

Sunflower Sprout

I believe this is the first moment you feel the satisfaction of gardening. You have carefully and tenderly placed two or three seeds in each dirt-filled pod, watered, and you wait until your efforts are rewarded with a simple little green sprout. It’s that feeling you get when you’ve put your heart and soul into that paper for school and you get a large A+ written in red at the top of your paper in return; when you’ve slaved over a hot stove, burned yourself a few times, sliced and diced 10 million vegetables, and finally see the faces of your guests melt with pleasure at their first bite; or when you’ve sacrificed your personal time to do overtime to get your project done at work and your boss–who rarely recognizes hard work–takes the time to tell you you’ve done a great job. This is why I garden, my friends. And the feeling only increases as you watch your plants grow bigger and bigger until you’ve make your first fresh meal with goods from YOUR garden that YOU’VE worked hard for.

But along with this sprouting, I found something else sprouting that is not good–you may have spotted it in the picture. Mold! This is the first time this has happened to me so I quickly researched what to do. I found a few people who recommended to scrape off the mold as best you could, and sprinkle cinnamon on your seedlings (that’s the light brown stuff in the picture). This process may have to be repeated a few times, but it’s the most natural way I found to get rid of the mold without using a harmful chemical on my fragile seeds that I spent so much time searching for without being chemically altered.

If you have another way to get rid of the mold, using natural products, please let me know! Until then, we’ll see how this works. I’ll keep you all posted.


It’s begun.

The time when you eagerly check your little dirt squares encased with germinating seeds every morning; making sure they’re watered correctly, ensuring they’re getting the right amount of sunlight, and waiting impatiently for that first sprout of green!

This is what I’ve been doing every day since last weekend when Jordan and I planted our seeds. Last year I used a tray with dirt pods that expand when you pour water on them, and it seemed to work, so I did the same this year.

Things I didn’t mention in the video that should be mentioned…
1. Cut or poke vents in the lids if you’re going to use them. The plants need ventilation!
2. Place you’re seeds in a sunny spot after you’ve planted.
3. It is a good idea to start your seeds inside if temperatures outside still reach freezing, or gets below that. Once the temperature starts warming up and your little plants have grown a bit, start putting your plants outside during the day or for a few hours to get them used to the temperatures outside. Once you’ve done this for a few weeks, and there is no more risk for freezing temperatures, leave your plants outside all the time for at least a week or two before you plant so they won’t go into shock from the elements when they’re in the ground.
4. This is my first video, woo hoo! But if you have any other questions on starting your seeds, feel free to comment and ask! Also, for those of you who’ve use this method and also the more traditional method where you buy and empty tray and fill with soil, have you found that one way is better than the other?

Plan for Your Garden’s Design Pt. 2

With a heat wave wiping through the Midwest this week and the extra hour of sunlight, I am on the edge of my seat as I pray there will be no more days below 32 degrees (Fahrenheit for all you metric system peeps). Because as soon as you have a day above 60 degrees it means it’s summer, right? I wish. But lo, I live in Nebraska so it will indeed get below freezing again. I will just bask in the warmth for now and plan for preparing my soil and what materials I will need for the upcoming planting season.

Because my garden will be new this season, there is a bit more work involved to make the ground ready for seedlings. I’m Jordan is going to have to take out the grass and pull out any left over weeds (just kidding, I’ll help!). Then, because the soil hasn’t been disturbed we will till about a foot down. Tilling up undisturbed soil is important for gardens because your plants need to be well drained and aerated for them to thrive. I am thankful Jordan’s family owns a tiller because with the size of our garden, that would be A LOT of work. If you don’t have a tiller at home, you can always rent one for a few hours at your local hardware store. I know Home Depot and Lowes definitely rents them out, but it is common for smaller hardware stores to rent them out if you don’t live near a Home Depot or Lowes. And if you can’t do that, or your garden is of a smaller size, you can always double dig. Double digging is where you dig about a foot down and a foot wide in a row down the length of your garden. You place the dirt from your first row off the side, and when you move to your second row (besides your first), you place the dirt into the first row. This continues down the line until you’re done.

It is also common to add organic matter (or store bought planting soil) within the rows as you double dig.

This brings me to the next thing on the list to have prepared for your garden: compost. Composting takes quite a bit of time as the matter you place into it needs to decompose so this would be something you would want to start months before you plant (depending on the size of your compost). I have planned a post completely dedicated to composting so we will go more in depth with it then. For our garden, we’re going place the composting materials in as we’re tilling, along with some planting soil from the store because we don’t have enough compost for the entire garden.

As you plan your garden, you may come across many different ways to create your garden bed: raised bed, standing garden bed, or in-ground. Ours is going to be an in ground because we don’t have enough compost, and don’t want to buy the amount of planting soil it would take to fill a raised bed. If you did want a garden bed that was above ground, another material you want to plant for is creating your borders. This can be done with wood, concrete blocks, bricks, or anything you can find that will separate your plants from the un-tilled soil surrounding it.

Ensuring your precious plants are protected from pests you also need to plan for some sort of deterrent; in my case I’m using left of chicken wire from my garden last summer because it seemed to work nicely. I will just have to be sure to get some wooden stakes to staple the chicken wire on. How are you going to protect your garden?

As you can see, there are a lot of choices to make and materials to buy before you start planting. I didn’t even mention plant supports, materials for paths, mulch or rocks for the top layer, or weed barriers. These are some more of the many choices you have when creating a garden.

A lot of gardening is learning by doing and by making mistakes, but that is what makes a gardener prideful in watching his or her work bloom; knowing you have faced and overcome trials along the way. But I do hope that you will consider some of these things before you take that shovel to the ground to save yourself some initial frustration!

Plan for Your Garden’s Design

Let’s pretend it’s finally nice outside. No snow, biting wind, or frozen ground. Your seedlings are almost ready to be planted so you decide, today is the day you’re going to plant! As you walk outside you smell the warmth in the air as the world comes back from its winter hibernation. The birds are out again, singing an ode to new life springing up from the earth. You walk into your yard, determined with shovel in hand only to stop suddenly and ask yourself, where are you going to dig? How big is your garden going to be? Where would be ideal locations for certain plants? What materials will be needed?

These are the questions that should be raised before you pick up the shovel, and arguably even before you select your plants. Because digging a plot from scratch actually takes a lot of work and it pays off to be prepared and plan ahead. You can get an image in mind of where you want to place certain plants and what you may need for those plants (e.g. arbor, supports, trellis), then  you can start collecting the materials you need instead of scrambling to find or buy them at the last minute. For example, I know I’m going to want an arbor for my cucumbers so Jordan picked up a large pallet from our local furniture store that we could use to create our arbor with.


I took the picture of the part of the yard I’ll be using to draw out where I’ll be planting certain things. This is what I came up with:

IMG_1573 - Copy*click on image to enlarge

The main reason these plants are placed where they are in this image is based on sun and shade. Mostly all of my plants need sun except for the lettuce which I put on the right end of the plot because it gets shade from a neighboring tree. When you’re looking at the garden, you’re facing north so the sun comes up from the right side of the garden and down on the left.

I want to plant the cucumbers on the left side of the garden because the arbor I will use to support them will cast a shadow. Because they’re on the end, the arbor won’t be putting any other plants in the shade. I will be planting corn in the section to the right of the cucumbers because it is also a tall plant and it’s shade will be cast only on the cucumbers (which will be higher on the arbor by the time the corn gets big) and on the fence behind the plot. Beans will be to the right of the corn because they will be supported by a wire fence, which by the time they vine have crept up the fence, will cast shade on the already tall corn. I have not grown green beans or sugar snap peas before so am unsure how tall they will actually get. If any of you more season gardeners out there think they’ll cast too much shade on the corn, please let me know! This is the type of support I’m thinking of using for the beans (the fence) but the fence will be facing the opposite direction in my plot:



As my drawing of the plot shows, the tomatoes will be next to the beans because they  will have tomato cages for support and will also cast shade. Move on down the drawing to the right and you will find the hot peppers, sweet peppers, strawberries, green onions and lettuce. These are on the right side because they don’t require any sort of support that will cast a shadow on another plant. Another thing to note, most gardeners do not like to put hot peppers and sweet peppers next to each other because they often cross pollinate and your sweet peppers get a small kick of spice to them. I decided it wouldn’t be a big deal if my peppers cross pollinated because, once again, my family enjoys spicy!

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the sunflowers. I have planned to place these to the back of the garden so when they become the 6 feet tall they’re supposed to be, they’ll only be casting shade on the fence behind them.

Next week I will continue my planning for my garden by talking about materials. Stay tuned! Until then, please post any suggestions or concerns in regards to where I am placing my plants.

What to Plant?

With March around the corner and having a garden to plot out, I thought it might be wise to decide what I should plant this year. While I have a rough idea of what I want to plant, I need to consider the space I have available, where the sun will be shining throughout the day, what I want to cook with possible vegetables, how much tending I want to do, how much space certain plants take up, and how much of a demand there is for certain vegetables in my family.

Here is a rough list of what I would like to plant:

Picadilo Collage Labeled(Source: Google Images)

There are many other things I want to plant but I know I won’t even have enough room for all of the plants listed above.

Today I measured out my garden space and to my surprise it was quite larger than I was expecting; 9’x24’! That’s three times the size of my garden last year! …What am I getting myself into? Just kidding, I am looking forward to it a lot and while I know this is probably going to be three times the work as last year (especially getting the garden set up for the first year) I know the return in food will be three times the size of last year, if not more. That’s one of the best parts about gardening; digging, sweating, lifting, leaning over, sweating, trimming, building, sweating, becoming frustrated with weeds, pests, and Jordan and then, receiving the fruits of your labor. It makes all that hard work worth it because you have sustained yourself with that effort. Plus you get to soak in the warm rays from the sun.

Here’s a visual of the chunk I will use.

Blog post 2 fix

As you can see, with the big “N,” the yard is facing directly north so the sun will come up from the right side of the picture and move towards the left throughout the day. This space will have a lot of sun although the right side of the garden may be a good place for the plants that need shade (lettuce and Swiss chard).

Salsa is a large commodity in Jordan’s house so I know tomatoes will be a must. Actually, tomatoes in general are a staple in Jordan’s family. Last summer they went through three batches of salsa in two weeks. A batch was about two gallons and contained at least 15 tomatoes. I also want to make homemade spaghetti sauce sometime during the summer so I will need multiple tomato plants.

To experiment with canning some more, I want to pickle cucumbers and spicy green beans so they will remain on the list! The Achocha’s are just something Jordan and I are curious about because they have little spikes that look more soft than prickly on the vibrant green skin of the cucumber. Like those gooey toy balls you can get for a quarter at the bowling alley from a dispenser. I also have a weird thing with touching things (non-touch museums are NOT good for me) and I really want to see what they feel like…what would it feel like on my tongue?  Here’s a bigger picture of what they look like:




Achochas are a mix between a cucumber and a pepper. When you cut them open they have black seeds similar to the size of bell pepper seeds, and they’re supposed to have a burst of water like cucumbers do. I’m imagining a rush of water tinged with tangy notes of sweet pepper.

Peppers and lettuce are also an obvious given because they’re another basic item my family uses a lot to make salads, add some flavor to eggs, hamburger/sandwich toppings, and the list goes on. Now what I am more concerned about are the vine-y and gourd-y plants like squash, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Because these aren’t as much as a desired item and take up a lot of space, I have decided I won’t grow these.

I am hesitant to grow corn because it is known to be a challenge to grow in smaller areas due to its pollination. For corn to grow to its potential, pollen must cover the silk where the ear of the corn will start to grow. Therefore, the more corn you plant, the more pollen your corn silk will have. When you only plant a few stalks, your corn won’t produce to its potential because of the lack of pollen. BUT Jordan is bound and determined to try corn again (I attempted last year and failed) so I will try again but this year I will plant more to aid in the pollination process. Another plant I am hesitant to grow is strawberries. This is because they don’t cultivate a lot the first year. It usually takes a few seasons for the plant to produce a good amount but I guess if you want strawberries, you have to start them sometime! So they have made the list as well.

After considering many factors of what to plant, here’s the final list:

  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Sweet Corn
  • Jalapenos
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Swiss Chard
  • Green Onions
  • Habaneros
  • 5 Color Chinese Peppers
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Strawberries
  • Achochas
  • Sunflowers
  • Sweet Peppers

Free Seeds and Some Snow

This weekend was the beginning of my new garden. On Saturday, as the big, wet snowflakes came drizzling down I went to a seed sharing event at a local library. There were four other locations that day around town doing the same. I had never been to a seed exchange and was informed about it through my boyfriend’s mom who had read it in the paper. As my boyfriend (Jordan) and I walked in, we weren’t sure what to bring or expect.

“Do we have to bring seeds to get other types of seeds? Will they cost money? I bet they’ll only take cash. We needed to bring envelopes?? Crap, what do you have to put the seeds in? Why are there so many old people here?”

It turned out they did provide envelopes for the first-timers (phew, I was not wanting to somehow construct the three receipts Jordan had crumpled up in his pocket into a make-shift envelop for all the seeds we were going to get). As we walked around I took all the seeds we want to plant (for FREE) and put them in the little envelopes as Jordan scribbled what each seed was and information about it. I did feel bad for not bringing any seeds of my own to contribute, but that will be a goal for next year. We were given some worm castings (worm poop) for natural fertilizer and a lot of information about joining a food cooperative.

For those of you who may not know, a food cooperative is a group of producers and consumers who rely on each other to buy and sell fresh and homegrown goods. This piqued my interest because people who cannot ideally grow their own food can still get farm fresh produce this way. Another benefit is buying meat in addition to produce from local farmers. The particular group I got information from was the Nebraska Food Cooperative and after researching a little more on their site, I learned that not only are you getting locally grown food, but you are also able to see how the producer is growing their foods (pesticides vs no pesticides, fertilizers vs no fertilizers, organic vs non organic, etc.) and you can personally meet the farmer from which your food is coming. SO much more knowledge to where your food really comes from.

This was our bounty of seeds:


While I’m only going to plant vegetables in my garden, I grabbed a few flowers packets for Jordan’s mom to plant in the front yard. The sunflower seeds I grabbed are an exception though. I want to experiment with them but I haven’t decided if I’m going to plant them this year or not because they are so large and I don’t want to intrude too much in Jordan’s parent’s yard. But I do want to plant them eventually to use the seeds; and of course because they’re pretty. For all you sunflower growers, is the sunflower seed harvesting process difficult?

There were only two vegetables we didn’t find at the seed exchange that we are going to buy online which are jalapeños and achocha cucumbers. For more information on achochas, also known as a New England cucumber, watch this video from An American Homestead.

Overall, this was an exciting event for me. It was a chance to see fellow gardeners come together in the community and provide seeds, other recyclable materials, and support to people wanting to plant.  Another great opportunity from seed exchanges is finding heirloom seeds that are not genetically modified and have been being used for years. We tried our best to get all the heirloom and organic seeds we could but came back with a few different packets of non-organic seeds which were too hard for me to pass up being free and all.

Now this snow needs to melt so I can start to plant my new seeds!