The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden

It is feeling like springtime here in Seattle, the blossoms are out and making the neighborhood smell divine. This time of the year brings about such possibility. Seed catalogues have arrived and the possibilities are endless. I’ve never had the garden that I have dreamed of, I have always had a porch or a cement pad that I have been able to utilize and turn into something.  However, having a small space does bring about certain challenges.  The goal of this 40th anniversary edition is

To accommodate today’s lifestyles, a garden needs to fit easily into a very small plot, take as little time as possible to maintain, require a minimum amount of water, and still produce prolifically. That’s exactly what a postage stamp garden does. Postage stamp gardens are as little as 4 by 4 feet, and, after the initial soil preparation, they require very little extra work to produce a tremendous amount of vegetables–for instance, a 5-by-5-foot bed will produce a minimum of 200 pounds of vegetables.

Cover

Recently, I came across Karen Newcomb’s most informative book The Postage Stamp Vegetable Garden: Grow Tons of Organic Vegetables in Tiny Spaces and Containers.  This book is filled with such helpful pieces of advice and tips for making the most of the space you have.  I think that one thing that this book does really well is offers the specific types of midget vegetables that work the best in containers and smaller gardens…for me, this has always been the most difficult aspect of the small garden – finding the varieties that are successful.  This book takes all the guess-work out of planning.

Karen Newcomb gets even more specific by telling you which varieties and types of veggies will give you the most bang for your small gardening buck.

What I like most about this book is that it really covers all you would need to know about having a small garden.  If you were to buy one book as a resource for your small garden this book should be it.  There is no reading about a variety of tomato then needing to get out another book to read about the details of that plant or of getting on the internet to find out who sells those seeds.  This book has all of that information in one easy to read and use location.

The varieties of plants are specific, with how much space you need, how long it takes, what the plants prefer and also where you can find them (which seed companies).  There is also a section that clearly tells you how much time you will need to start those seeds indoors.  Something I’ve not seen before that this book has is a table that tells you how many plants you will require to feed each person in your family.  This is so helpful when you have limited space and need to maximize what you do have.

 

This book is packed with information that will help you to have your dream garden no matter how much space you have.

When first published 40 years ago, the postage stamp techniques, including closely planted beds rather than rows, vines and trailing plants grown vertically to free up space, and intercropping, were groundbreaking. Now, in an ever busier world, the postage stamp intensive gardening method continues to be invaluable for gardeners who wish to weed, water, and work a whole lot less yet produce so much more.

The one downside of this book for me is the lack of pictures.  I am very visual when it comes to things like gardening and I would have loved to see more pictures of the plants or actual gardens.  With that said the information is so thorough that I almost didn’t mind the lack of pictures.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  The opinions in the post are my own.

Starting Seeds Indoors in Egg Shells

photo 5

Kentucky Wonder Green Bean

As spring rolls around in most parts of the country, here in Seattle, we usually have a few warm days and lots of rainy days intermixed.  I don’t mind the rain for sleeping in, lounging and reading a book, sipping tea etc.  For planting seeds, it is often too soggy.  A few years ago I had a student who made me a grow light and stand in wood shop – awesome right?  However, I have no idea where my precious light went.  So this spring I have decided to try a new way of starting seeds inside.  Egg Shells.

I had seen and read about people using egg-shells, and I wasn’t really sure how this would work, in the past I’ve used the little peat pots, or the starter discs that fill up with water.  Last spring, I used those little discs and the batch I got was infested with bugs and once I started watering the plants the bugs hatched – super gross.

I also really am not a fan of paying for things that have temporary uses  – like those little dirt discs or peat pots.  My thinking is that we eat a ton of eggs, probably should have chickens we eat so many eggs.  Since I have an abundance of free egg shells I thought I would give it a try.  Let me tell you, I am so glad I did.

I was able to grow seeds in  lightning speed.  Within one week the seeds were doing amazing and some were even overachieving like the one on the left.  Okay let me tell you what we planted in our egg-shells.

Going from left to right:one week in

  1. Kentucky Wonder Green Beans
  2. Tender Green Beans
  3. Straightneck Yellow Squash
  4. Zucchini
  5. Cucumbers
  6. Kentucky Wonder Green Beans

After two weeks some of the green bean seedlings were getting so big they needed a larger space, so I put a few of them into smaller pots.  It is still in the low 40s at night, sometimes still frosting and I am planning to keep them inside just a little bit longer before the hardening off process will take place.

Cucumber

Cucumber

What I thought was so interesting about using the eggs is that the roots seem to be so much more extensive than I have seen in the past, I don’t know if it is the thin membrane on the eggs, but look at those roots.  photo 2The petite and I had so much fun pealing the egg off of the new little plant and putting them into bigger pots.

After already planting these little seeds I read that sometimes smaller seeds do better (oh well, mine did just great), so now I just need to make a frittata, quiche or something to get some more egg shells to start my next batch of seeds, as you may have seen me mention the petite wants to grow “salad” in the gutter garden, so we need to get seeds sown to make her gardening dreams come true.  I loved doing this project and it is really so easy to do.  The hardest part is remembering not to demolish the egg-shell when you crack it.

A really great blog that I am loving to read about all things garden related is Gardening Betty, she has given me some amazing ideas on using found items at home and ways to shop the local dollar store for items that I don’t have around the house.  I am most jealous of her amazing avocado tree, if only one would grow in Seattle.

Yay for Spring!

 

Pinterest Garden Obsession

I don’t know about you, but I look at Pinterest all the time.  It used to be a time suck, but now I do a lot of pinning while I am nursing the baby, so I count it as multitasking.  I love looking at all of the neat ways people out in the world maximize space in their gardens.  My latest obsessions are these amazing gutter gardens.  There are so many neat tutorials out there on how to make these awesome gardens.  Here is one that I loved from this super cute blog Borealis, my only problem is we don’t own, so we can’t drill into the fence.  I have been brainstorming ideas in my head for a few weeks now and came up with what I think to be a pretty solid idea.  To complete the gutter garden I need exceptionally large washers, and some sort of chain link, gutters (obviously) and end caps.  I really am hoping my idea works without, a. breaking the fence; b. falling from the fence; c. looking so bad I have to take it down; and d. all of the above.

This sent me and the petites to Home Depot.

Step One: Find Parts Needed.  I found the 10 foot long gutter right away – check.  Then the end caps were right underneath it – check.  Pushing a cart with a 9 month old strapped to the front of you and a four-year old trying to hold a 10-foot long vinyl gutter – not possible.

Step Two: Cut Gutter. So I asked the wood people if they would cut the gutter for me, “no can do Mam”.  Then I am directed to a self cut station.  With one petite in the cart the other strapped to me, I think yep, I’ve totally got this.  Yeah nope.  Luckily for me a nice man happened to walk by and saw me trying to saw a vinyl gutter with a nine-month-old strapped to the front of me.  He took pity on me and cut it for me.  The younger me, would have been mortified that I couldn’t do it all, that as a woman I would need help from a man.  However, now, I must admit I am very fond of my petites fingers that I said heck yeah, cut this gutter please and thank you.

Step Three: Find parts to hook it to fence.  Now for a way to get it to hook into the fence without doing any damage.  Here was the sort of laughable part, everyone is so friendly and really wants to help you find what you’re looking for.  Lucky for me, when I described how I wanted to craftily put the gutter garden to the fence the employees were able to direct me to all the parts I needed.

Step Four: Pay for ALL the items.  I decided to check out at self check and pay for all the items or so I thought.  Until a slightly terse lady notified me that in fact I had not paid for all of the items; that one of the petites had been sitting on some of them and I did indeed need to pay for them.  Fabulous.  I left being slightly embarrassed, but with all of the parts needed to make my awesome gutter garden.  (Another location that may or may not have a picture of me and the petites in some backroom – see my post on our art museum trip)

picstitchSo here is what everything looked like.  As you can see it’s craftily put together and for us that is just fine, it is holding dirt and water successfully and as you can see the fence is still standing.  Yay!  There are much better tutorials out there about making real gutter gardens.  For example here and here.

With that said, if you rent too and want some craftily put together gutter gardens here are the steps:

  1. buy one vinyl gutter, 6 gutter end caps, 14 feet chain (I chose 16lbs. chain), 4 very large washers, 1.5 inches in diameter, some wire(I used old wire from IKEA picture frames), zip ties.
  2. cut gutters into three sections
  3. put end caps onto gutters – they just push on
  4. drill holes all through gutter for drainage
  5. drill holes into gutter walls to hook chain
  6. use zip ties to hold chain and gutter together
  7. measure out how far you want gutters to hang apart, if they are slightly crooked it isn’t a big deal, it’s better for drainage
  8. hook wire to top of chain apex and then attach washer twist it together to hold tight
  9. repeat steps for single gutter that is left (more than two gutters would be too heavy with water and soil and plants)

I will post more pictures once the plants start growing.  The petite has been telling everyone she wants to grow salad, so that is what we will grow in the gutters.

Happy gardening,

E