Each year I experiment a little and learn along the way. Here’s a look into the world of my garden: I grew up as the daughter of a row crop farmer. I spent most of my time outside as a kid and was fascinated with soil, plants and all the things my dad did as a farmer. My dad was always patient to answer my questions about farming, which only increased my interest in agriculture. I definitely inherited his passion! In fourth grade, my teacher offered a summer gardening program that I joined. It was my first taste of gardening and I loved it! I remember learning so much that summer as we toured the home garden of each classmate. I was hooked from that point on, and as they say, the rest is history! I love gardening because it allows me to live in the great outdoors and tell the story of my family while doing so. It embraces the fabric of my story – the Iowa farmer, science and great food. Everything is brought full circle when we bring the farm to the table by sharing a meal together around the fruits of our labor.
Each year I experiment a little and learn along the way. Here’s a look into the world of my garden:
Tools of the Trade
Like all gardeners out there, I have my favorite tools for digging in the dirt and growing a bounty of produce! I love my Ames® garden cart. Its poly construction makes it durable and simple to clean. Plus, it makes it easy for me to carry supplies from the house to the garden and vice versa. To keep my hands clean while gardening, good gloves are a must. My preferred gloves are the Nitrile Touch gloves we sell at our Garden Center. They are very lightweight, easy to wash, and fit a woman’s hand well. An added bonus is that they breathe well and keep your hands cool when working in the summer sun. Plus, they also come in an array of fun colors, so you can sport your favorite one!
One of my favorite garden treats to grow from seed is carrots. They are easy to start from seed and grow quickly. To make things interesting, I try a different carrot variety each year and have enjoyed them all – they are packed with so much more flavor than the store bought varieties. Corn is another mainstay in our garden, especially the peaches and cream variety. It is quick to emerge, grows rapidly and freezes well for that fresh corn taste year round.
I grow many other produce items from seed, starting them outdoors when the weather allows. I buy seeds locally and follow the growing instructions noted on each packet. If you don’t have a great source of water near your garden, I would suggest looking for drought tolerant vegetables. I have also learned over the years that some items do better when purchased as plants rather than starting from seeds; namely, tomatoes, peppers and herbs.
Sharing the Bounty
Our garden generally produces much more than we can consume on our own, so I love to share the bounty with family, friends, neighbors and local food pantries. Local food pantries, especially, are always in need of fresh food items. A great tool for finding a pantry in your area that will accept your overflow produce is AmpleHarvest.org.
I always reserve a corner of my garden for some flowers as well. I like to plant an annual mix that contains baby’s breath, corn flower, zinnia, coreopsis, cosmos, chrysanthemums, gaillardia and others. By purchasing a variety pack, it always adds an element of surprise to the garden to see what pops up. Flowers are the fun little extra of the gardening season. I create bouquets with them and share with family and friends, as well as keep a fresh arrangement on rotation inside the house.
Controlling those Pesky Weeds
Weeds are bound to happen in the garden, and mine is no different. Last year I tested out the use of grass clippings in the garden to reduce weeds. It worked! I collected the clippings after we mowed and spread them in about a 2 inch layer over the bare soil areas of my garden. We replaced clippings as needed, adding more on top of the existing clippings. The best part is that the grass composts over time and regenerates back into the soil.
I would encourage everyone to try gardening. It is a very fun and rewarding experience. For those with limited space, start with container gardening or get involved with a community garden. You can find a listing of community gardens in the Des Moines metro area on Eat Greater Des Moines. If you aren’t sure how to plan out your garden or when to plant things, there are many tools available online to help get you started. Gardener’s Supply Company has a great kitchen garden planner that I love to use. It allows me to design my space by square foot and creates a check list and calendar for planting and caring for your garden.
Our Garden Center will be opening on April 15. Make sure to stop on out to pick up some supplies and speak to one of our experts. I love to talk gardening as well, so feel free to drop me a note. More information about our Garden Center can be found online as well.
And bonus, here’s a few more pictures I’ve taken while in my garden!