Thursday, April 8, 2010

Do you grow your own?

I have a farmer for a Dad. No, he doesn't live on a farm, but he grew up on one, and the man can grow anything better than anyone I know. He lives up north and the growing season is shorter than it is down here in the middle of Michigan but he still manages to get a lot of fresh produce out of his garden.

Me? Not so much.

I have a number of garden failures under my belt, several of which have ended with big grassy dips in our backyard. I have tried digging up a plot and planting stuff. I might get a few beans or a couple stunted carrots but most of it generally ends up A-Eaten by cottontail rabbits, B-dead or C-taken over by weeds. I just suck at gardening. I don't have the time or motivation to put into it what I need to in order to make it succeed.

But I adore fresh produce and would LOVE to have a huge, productive garden. I really would. I guess I'll settle for a little one that doesn't take much effort, but that still leaves the problem of the rabbits eating everything.

Well, last year I was reading a copy of MaryJane's Farm, a magazine I love, and there was an article about something called salad tables. Nothing new, but I had never heard of one before. I instantly wanted to have one. I mentioned it to my dad and he cut some scrap wood he had lying around for me and basically assembled a kit for me to make one. That's Daddy for you, always willing to help out his daughter! What a guy!

So, Dad brought the stuff down and Hubby hammered it together for me and I had my salad table!

It looks like this:

After I got the table set up in this wasted little space behind my house, I mixed 50% peat from Home Depot and 50% compost from my backyard bin, and then I planted some stuff. I planted brussels sprouts, beans, spinach, lettuce, red onions, cauliflower, red bell peppers, peas, carrots, bok choy and kale.

Throughout the season, some things did well and others didn't. The brussels sprouts grew and got knobs on them but later in the summer they fell victim to insects, as did most of the kale. I got lots of spinach and lettuce. The red onions did well and I actually still have some in my fridge. The peas were too bushy/viny and kind of choked out the carrots and beans. The bok choy grew really well and we ended up with way too much of it all at once, so I gave some away to my neighbors and they enjoyed it. The peppers did so-so and the cauliflower grew really well and had beautiful heads on them. I should have cut them because they dried out and died while we were on vacation.

This is what my salad table looked like last year with stuff growing in it:

brussels sprouts knobs




I also had some lettuces and green onions and peppers and tomatoes going in pots on my deck, and some strawberries and cucumbers by the fence. I had mild success with all of that. By the way, the green onions were something I discovered in my compost bin. Did you know that if you plant the white hairy end that you trim off store-bought green onions, it will sprout new green onion stalks to eat? Try it! It works! I also have a small herb garden with chives, thyme, parsley and rosemary (I have to buy a new rosemary plant each summer because I always forget to bring it in for the winter).


Herb garden

Multi-hole pot with lettuces and green onions

Pots on my deck

Pots on my deck stairs

Bell pepper

Red onion

Cucumber growing

Cuke and tomato

A beautiful mixed lettuce salad grown in my table and on my deck

A big plate of steaming kale

So anyway, I've got the table back out for this year, I planted the first round of spinach and lettuce, and I'm excited to start eating fresh produce. I've already used chives and horseradish out of my yard this spring.

I don't know what else I'm going to plant yet. I have a little time to think about it, but do I know I learned some lessons from last year's salad table, like brussels sprouts take too long to grow, peas take over and don't leave cauliflower out there too long!

If you want to build a salad table, just Google it. You can buy pre-made ones here from the University of Maryland Extension (pricey!) and there are also instructions there on how to build your own and planting tips. Theirs, I think, is pretty fancy, but it gives you a good general idea of how to do it. I didn't put legs on mine. It just rests on some old cinder blocks. Sawhorses would work too. I love that it's higher so I don't have to bend down to work on it and the rabbits can't reach.

Also, Logan LOVES to help out and pick and eat stuff straight out of the garden. I am not complaining if he eats all the spinach and peas! It thrills my soul to see him enjoying that stuff.

So, as you can see, I'm slowly turning my brown thumb green, and you can too! If you have a little space, a salad table and containers on the deck are great, easy, minimal-commitment ways to get into growing your own food.

Thanks to MaryJane's Farm for inspiring me to get my own salad table going!


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to do this! Keep us updated on your greens!

Rene' said...

Great Blog, loved reading it as well as seeing all the pictures.
Rene' Groom
Sisterhood Coordinator/ MaryJanesFarm