Yard Transformation- Part 2

After finishing Part One of our yard transformation, we couldn’t wait to start on Part Two- expanding our patio area with pavers. The existing patio that was put in was SO TINY. Basically, our grill fit and nothing else. Not very conducive to spending time outdoors in the hot Colorado summers with kiddos and a dog. We needed enough space for our grill, table and chairs, and whatever summer toys we had. 

Let’s just say the project was a little more labor intensive than the husband anticipated. The project was quickly started, but, once day-to-day life stepped in, our progress slowed down. Plus, we underestimated how many pavers we would need to complete the expansion! 

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Spring Garden Series- Post #2 Choosing Your Seeds

Gardening and Childhood

Welcome to our second post in our Spring Garden & Homestead series!


Deciding on what crops you want to plant can be a tough decision, for beginner and expert gardeners alike!

One tip that will make your decision easier is to PLANT WHAT YOU WILL EAT AND/OR USE! If you choose to follow any advice we provide, follow that tip right there :)

If you hate radishes, don’t grow them!  Or, better yet, use them as a companion plants to aid in the growth and quality of lettuce,cucumbers, carrots, beans, melons, peas, beets, parsnip, spinach, squash or corn.  Then, once they’re mature, (if you still don’t want to eat them), give them to family or friends, donate them to a local food bank, or use them in your compost bin! If you love tomatoes, make sure you mark out some prime garden real estate for them this year!

When you plant what you will eat and/or use, you are guaranteeing that you will have minimal waste because you will be harvesting and enjoying what you’re growing. If you grow things you don’t enjoy on a regular basis, most likely, it won’t be used up and you will end up throwing most of your harvest away. Besides, why spend the time, money, and effort on crops you won’t use!?

The top plants for beginner gardens include:












*If you are interested in learning about companion plants, check out our post about them here!*

The above mentioned plants can make a nice little starter garden without crazy maintenance, while also providing a nice yield for the season! Also, don’t forget about herbs! The majority of herbs require minimal maintenance and they typically provide a quick and abundant harvest that you can enjoy all season long. If you are planning on canning some of your harvested goodies, think about some herbs that may go well with the food you are canning (i.e. basil and oregano for tomato sauce, mint for certain sauces/jams/jellies)- the possibilities are endless!

If you are new to gardening, you will soon find out that picking out seeds isn’t as easy as one may think. You don’t have “just lettuce seeds”- there are countless varieties of this leafy green vegetable, and most likely, many you’ve never heard of!

This is where RESEARCH comes into play. I know, I know- no one likes putting in extra work, but, researching your seed choices will be a crucial step in creating a thriving and productive garden that you can enjoy! Not all varieties of lettuce will flourish in your neck of the woods, just like not all varieties of tomatoes will flourish in someone else’s neck of the woods.

A helpful piece of information to have before choosing your seeds is knowing what ZONE you live in.

You can check out these sites here and here to find yours!

A climate zone map or plant hardiness zone map is just a simple tool to help you determine what plants are most likely to thrive in your area.

After you determine which zone you live in, you can start researching some varieties of plants that interest you and ones that will thrive in your backyard! I know- finally some fun stuff! :)

A GREAT resource to find the different varieties of plants (and order those seeds) is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Company’s 2015 Whole Seed Catalog ($7.95 in most natural grocery stores or through their website here). They also have a free catalog you can request from them, however, it does not include all of their seeds.

You can also simply Google search for different varieties of the plants you are interested in and then purchase those seeds from a local store or online seed company!

*Tip: Ideally, heirloom seeds are better to purchase instead of hybrids. This is because heirlooms provide better tasting and staggered harvests, more nutritious plants, and they are less expensive. Also, there is a higher probability of viability for heirlooms- if you can save seeds from this year’s harvest and replant next season, your plants will be true to type, whereas, a hybrid could grow a different variety. 

The bottom line is that researching your possibilities is going to really help you have a successful, long-term garden.

Now, let’s wrap up by talking about some common beginner gardening mistakes that could derail your hard work!

  1. Planting too much all at once– your garden goodies need room to grow and breathe. If you plant too many things, too close together, you risk your crops success rate. Also, the more you plant, the more work you have to do to maintain your garden. Another great idea for your garden is to not plant ALL of your seeds at once if you want them to produce all season. Don’t plant 40 lettuce plants at the same time, instead, plant 4 every week to maximize the growing season!
  2. Failing to prepare your soil correctly– soil prep needs to be done BEFORE you even think about planting anything. If you fail to get that soil ready and you plant your seeds, there’s no turning back!
  3. Giving your plants too much or too little light– this is something you will have to figure out for each type of seed you plant. Some seeds need full, direct sunlight while others need shade. By researching the seeds you plan on planting, you will be able to efficiently layout your garden so your plants get the Vitamin D (or lack thereof) they need!
  4. Using too much or too little fertilizer– some plants require different nutrients to thrive. If you go overboard with the fertilizer, some of your plants may not develop the way they should. This also applies if you don’t use enough fertilizer!
  5. Using too much or too little water– you don’t want to drown your plants, but, you also don’t want to deprive them of that good H20! You want your plant roots to grow deep so make sure you are watering just enough so it’s not just sitting on the surface. Don’t over-water or you risk rotting the root system- yuck.
  6. Planting your seeds too deep in the soil or not planting them deep enough– again, this is where your research comes into play! Your seed packet should tell you what kind of depth you’re looking for. You don’t want to plant your seeds to close to the surface because they could possibly dry out and you’ll never see a sprout! On the other hand, if you plant the seeds too deep, they may not be able to grow fast enough or tall enough to get the sunlight they need before dying.
  7. Planting your seeds too close together– this can sometimes be tricky. You want to plant your seeds far enough apart so they aren’t all competing for those yummy soil nutrients, but, you won’t have a sprout from every seed you plant. This means that you don’t want your seeds that DO sprout to be too far apart to the point where you are losing valuable real estate in those garden beds!
  8. Failing to tackle weeds when they’re small– weeds may seem harmless for the most part, however, they can grow big-FAST. Weeds are still plants and plants have roots- if you fail to remove weeds when they sprout, they may begin to affect your seedling’s roots and that is not good. There’s no need to weed your garden every day, but, you should definitely tend to it on a weekly basis at least.

Gardening may seem like a lot to handle when you’re first getting started, but, once you get moving and start seeing your seeds sprout, you’ll feel like you’ve been doing it for years!

Stay tuned for Post #3 next week and don’t forget to enter our giveaway before Saturday, February 14, 2015 to win a seed collection and 2015 Whole Seed Catalog from Baker Creek!

What seeds are YOU planning on including in your garden this year? Any ideas yet? Tell us in the comments below! :)


Spring Garden Series- Companion Plants

COMPANION PLANTS: Harmful and Helpful Tools For Your Home Garden!
A quick look into companion plants that you can use alongside your crops to help with quality, growth, and pest control!

Photo credit: Tiny Farm Blog
Photo credit: Tiny Farm Blog

Every person who plants a garden wants their crops to flourish! No one wants to spend time, money, and effort on a garden and watch it wither and wilt within the first few weeks. Companion plants can be a HUGE help to your garden crops. Not only can companion plants aid in your crop growth and quality, they can also deter pests while welcoming helpful insects! Companion plants allow you to maximize your gardens’ potential and crop yield.

In this post, we will look at common, easy beginner crops and companion plants that are beneficial, as well as plants to avoid!

Below, you will find a helpful table that outlines ideal companion plants and “enemy” plants- this will be very helpful when planning the layout of your garden! You want to be sure that you are not planting enemy plants together as it will affect the growth and quality of your crops.

Since this is only a brief look at some common garden crops, you will not find a list of every possible plant combination. If you are planting something that is not on the table below, you can easily find recommended companion plants online.

Also, note that some companion plants can be herbs or flowers! Herbs are fantastic plants to grow since most do not require a lot of maintenance, they grow quickly and abundantly, and you can use them to spice up many recipes!  Also, using flowers as companion plants can really add some color and beauty to your vegetable garden.  Thinking of growing some tomatoes? Grow some basil and oregano, too! The oregano is beneficial to cucumbers and squash and the basil helps to repel flies and mosquitoes and together they make an excellent addition to homemade tomato sauce :) Want to make some refreshing mojitos this summer? Grow some mint and enjoy the crisp, tasty goodness that accompanies fresh ground mint leaves!  Just be sure to plant it next to tomatoes or squash to take advantage of its beneficial properties.

There are SO MANY possibilities to make your garden work for YOU so you can enjoy the harvest!

Crop Companion Plant(s) Other Allies Enemies
Lettuce Beets, broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, cucumbers, onion, radish, strawberries, dill Chives, garlic- deter aphids Cabbage- inhibits growth and quality
Spinach Peas, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, onion, strawberries, squash
Tomatoes Asparagus, carrot- sometimes tomatoes can stunt carrot growth, celery, cucumber, onion, parsley, pepper Basil- repels flies & mosquitoes while improving growth and quality; bee balm, chives, & mint- improve quality; borage- deters tomato worm; marigold- deters nematodes Corn; mature dill & kohlrabi- inhibits growth; potatoes; apricot, dill, fennel, cabbage, cauliflower
Squash Corn, melon, pumpkin, beans, cucumbers, onions, mint Borage- deters worms while improving growth & quality; Marigold- deters beetles; Nasturtium- deters squash bugs; oregano & dill- general pest protection Potatoes
Cucumbers Bean, cabbage, corn, pea, radish, tomato, beets, carrots Marigold- deters beetles; Nasturtium- deters aphids, beetles, & bugs while improving growth & quality; oregano, tansy Sage, potatoes, rue
Carrots Bean, lettuce, onion, pea, pepper, radish, tomato- may stunt growth of carrots, leeks, parsley Chives- improve growth & quality; rosemary & sage- deter carrot fly Dill- inhibits growth; fennel, kohlrabi, parsnips
Peppers Carrot eggplant, tomato, onion, parsley, basil, geraniums, marjoram, okra Fennel, kohlrabi, apricot
Radishes Bean, carrot, cucumber, lettuce, melon, pea, beet, parsnip, spinach, squash, corn Chevril & nasturtium- improve growth & quality Hyssop
Beans Beets (bush beans ONLY), cabbage, carrot, celery, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, peas, potatoes, radish, strawberry Marigold, nasturtium & rosemary – deters bean beetles; summer savory- deters bean beetles, improves quality and growth Garlic, onion, & shallot- stunts growth
Basil Tomatoes, peppers, oregano, asparagus, petunias Rue, sage
Onions Beets, cabbage, carrot, chard, lettuce, pepper, strawberry, tomato, leeks, kohlrabi, dill Chamomile & summer savory- improve growth and quality; pigweed- raises nutrients from soil to onion; sow thistle- improves quality Beans, peas, asparagus

If you want to check out more options, consult the following resources:

Homesteading- A Backyard Guide 2nd Edition
Edited by Abigail R. Gehring
ISBN: 978-1-62914-366-8

Burpee Seeds: Companion Planting Guide

Golden Harvest Organics Companion Plants