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Gardening From Scratch Pt. 1 – Planning and Design

Hey there! This is Kaitlynn from MIgardener. In this new blog series, I’ll take you on a tour of my garden progress as a third-year gardener. Last year during COVID, I was one of the many people who gardened to get out of the house. Gardening materials skyrocketed in demand, and so did prices. We worked with what we could get our hands on in 2020. For me, that meant in-ground beds and a few bags of compost for amending.

This year, my goal is to kick it up a notch. Some of you might be thinking, “wow, isn’t it a little late for starting a garden in Michigan?”. The answer is: of course not! For anyone at the beginning level like me, don’t get discouraged because you forgot to start seeds indoors. Michiganders can garden into the fall season, so there’s always time to throw a few seeds or store-bought plant starts into the ground to see what happens. I’m building off of very little this year AND in late May. At least there’s no threat of frost from where I’m standing!

Take a look at my progress so far.

1. From The Ground Up

Two bare garden beds with lots of extra space for potential beds.

These are last year’s in-ground garden beds. Keep in mind; I am a beginner. Forgive me for forgetting; the soil was left uncovered last fall. Because of this, each bed will need some amending. I’m hoping I can get my hands on some more compost. Compost is the best growing medium. I had a small amount from my own compost bin, but only a little for each space. As you can see, we have in-ground beds near the fence, one along with the house, and a small flower bed along with the shed. We’ll need to spend a bit of money on compost. We won’t be making the mistake of forgetting to cover the beds next year.

An uneven crescent shaped garden bed on the side of a house.

As you can see, we have in-ground beds near the fence, one along with the house, and a small flower bed along with the shed. We’ll need to spend a bit of money on compost. We won’t be making the mistake of forgetting to cover the beds next year.

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

A slightly shabby flower bed with half done plastic edges and metal stakes.

Reusing materials I already have on hand is very important to me. Repurposing allows me to save money for more important gardening ventures! Our flower bed, for example (pictured still messy from last year), is contained with plastic garden edging that I didn’t really know how to install at the time. This year, I discovered some beautiful rock edges that I’d like to use to replace the plastic. We will move the plastic edges to another bed (and installed correctly this time).  We’ll continue repurposing the metal stakes if any of our sunflowers go lopsided. Our little herb planter is filled with good compost, so I’ll use that compost to amend the flower beds and use the container elsewhere.

The hope is to beautify the edging of our in-ground beds however possible and add a few raised beds for extra growing space. We have a lot to work with! I’m excited to see how it grows!

3. Weeding

To prep, our raised beds, clearing the ground has never been easier than with this method! Tear up any cardboard boxes and line the bottom of each raised. Make sure they are completely covered so no grass or weeds can climb through. Once you fill the beds, the weight of the soil will hold the cardboard down and clear the grass in that spot. For our in-ground beds, there was a bit of weeding that needed to happen. You can compost some weeds with a hot composting method. It sort of counts as weeding, but we’ll be moving a chunk of our overgrown chives to make more space. As you can see pictured above, they have gone a bit wild.

4. Plan For Each Bed

 

It’s best to dream big when planning the garden. Our space isn’t small by any means, but I still like things to look organized and have a little bit of flair. I drew out my vision and highlighted the projects that will be brand new additions to the garden. We have enough room for two small raised beds, which we could find pre-made for $25 each from a neighbor. That provision alone will save us tons of money in the long run. Additionally, I love utilizing as much space as possible by growing vertically. In the future, we’ll install a cattle panel trellis for runner beans and cucuzza squash to grow!

The in-ground beds near the fence line get full sun, so it is the perfect spot for cucumbers and radishes, which my family eats the most of. One of the raised beds will be dedicated to winter squash and zucchini. Keeping them contained in their own space will ensure that the plants don’t overshadow other varieties like last year. The other raised bed will be near the side of the house with partial sun and will be used for lettuce, spinach, broccoli rabe, and peas! Finally, our flower beds will be dedicated to sunflowers, with snapdragons and chamomile to accent.

Conclusion

Right now, the only thing we are harvesting is rhubarb. I’ve been baking my heart out for the last few weeks with it and have been freezing any extra for strawberry rhubarb jam! I’m so excited for what this year will bring. Gardening from scratch will transform my space this year, and I can’t wait to update you on what’s next.

– Kaitlynn from MIgardener

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