Bigger, Better, Greener: Our Garden Grows Up

[ 5 ] April 25, 2008 |

Last year, we had a little garden where we grew a couple of radishes, some peas, beans, a few tiny carrots and one very impressive zucchini. Now that our littlest one is walking, we’re kicking it up a notch and turning a big section of our yard into a lovely, suburban, organic garden. Seed Packets on Kid o InfoThis year’s planting plan includes turban squash, corn, a strawberry patch, another attempt at Brussels sprouts (which got munched by something last year), pumpkins, lettuce, and various herbs, along with last year’s favorites.

We’ve spent the last couple of cool spring weekends keeping warm by loading rocks from the garden area into a wheelbarrow and moving them to another, less fertile location. Stacking the rocks into a loose, low wall makes for an interesting outdoor space in and of itself, which will inspire bug-hunting and possibly snake -finding fun.

Preparing the soil and choosing the right plants is an important part of planning your garden. If you’re starting your first garden, you’ll probably want to test the soil to find out what you’re working with, as soil can vary in its pH and nutrient content. Since our soil is sandy, we’re adding topsoil mixed with a little peat moss. Sites like Clean Air Gardening offer great products and tips for using natural fertilizers like bat guano, bone meal, and fish meal, as well as vinegar-based weed killers. (I’m sure I’ll be writing more about fighting weeds organically later in the summer!)

If you’re not already composting, now is a good time to start. Composting is a great way to feed your garden as well as reduce the amount of trash you and your family generate, since many table scraps can go directly into the compost bin. We looked briefly into worm composting but decided that it was a bit too labor-intensive (not to mention kind of icky), so we’re going with a standard, low-maintenance recycled plastic compost bin. Table scraps in, compost out; that’s what we like!

Also new for us this year will be a rain barrel to capture rainwater for watering purposes. One inch of rain water can generate up to 620 gallons on a 1,000 square foot roof: that means free water for us and it’s better for the environment. The Rhode Island Water Lady offers pretty, affordable rain barrels and is currently taking pre-orders for May/June pick-up in various locations around the state. You can also order through the New England Rain Barrel Company: call 877-977-3135 to place your order.

Short on space or not ready to commit to a bigger garden? Try growing lettuces, peppers, herbs, or cherry tomatoes in pots or window boxes. Remember, kids often enjoy the process of gardening as much (if not more) than the final product. Time together spent planting pots, watering, and cooking with fresh herbs and veggies makes for fun family memories, even if not all of your seeds sprout.

Tomorrow our topsoil is being delivered, my son’s been designated Chief Bad Bug Squisher, and we’re just about ready to put our first batch of seedlings in the ground. I’ll be documenting the whole process on flickr — you’re welcome to follow along! Let the gardening begin…

Photo credit: Michelle Riggen-Ransom


Category: food + recipes, nature/nurture

Michelle Riggen Ransom

about the author ()

A fan of all things oceanic, Michelle keeps moving from one coast to another. She's lived in many cities (always by water) and now with her husband in Seattle is raising two fourth-generation beach babies. Michelle currently works as a communications consultant for tech companies, and on building apps like Craftmonkey and InstaChimp. Apparently a love of nature and a passion for cool technologies are not mutually exclusive, as she is equally smitten with both.

Comments (5)

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  1. Jaci Arnone Jaci says:

    Looking forward to following your progress.

    Thanks so much for the link to the low-maintenance compost bin. I’m asking for that for Mother’s Day (glamorous, huh?).

  2. I think it is a great Mother’s Day present! Hope you get your wish – and thanks for the nice comment!

  3. calendar scrabulous playah says:

    And I’ll be asking for the rain barrel.

    Hey! So! Thank you for this–your info, along with the few pages on gardening I ripped out of a Body + Soul magazine are all I need to get me going. Much better than a whole complicated gardening book for a new gardener like me. I really have come to hate big gardening books. Really.

    I have my strawberry seeds, lavender, oregano, chives, and basil started. I have mint, thyme and morning glories already trying to cover over everything. If you find yourself with too many seedlings of one kind or another, feel free to dump them on me! And if you want anything I have going, let me know!

  4. Cheryl says:


    I found this post really inspirational. I’ve always been a terrible gardener, which is especially sad as I come from a long line of women who were fabulously talented at growing things. So this year I bought an EarthBox, which is a really low-tech gardening system, a kit really, for people who aren’t naturally green-thumbed. My kids and I are growing strawberries, herbs, and peppers, and so far everything is coming up beautifully. Finally!

    Now you’ve got me interested in composting, too…

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