square-foot gardening.

over the past three years, i've become an avid gardener.  it began with the basics: potted basil, tomatoes, rosemary, mint, and a few other herbs for good measure.  when a. returned home from iraq in 2009, we decided to renovate out backyard the following summer.  one criteria of the remodel was a space for a backyard vegetable garden.

we chose three, raised-bed gardens along the fence and after a couple seasons of trial and error, this year, i opted for the square-foot garden method.  in years past i tended to over-crowd vegetables in these beds yielding both a small crop and an unsightly, jungle-like garden.
but this year, man how things have changed.  the garden is flourishing.  we have an endless (or seemingly so, anyway) supply of roma, heirloom and cherry tomatoes.  with tomatoes, i've used stakes, string, and absolutely nothing to support them in the past.  this year i planted them in tomato cages and i can't say enough good things about them.  the tomatoes are growing so tall, branches are supported, and the garden looks so organized.  this makes weeding and finding the ripe fruit so much easier.
in addition to tomatoes, we have these little, itty-bitty, white eggplants, jalepeno and serrano pappers, yellow squash, acorn squash, green beans, basil, rosemary, thyme, strawberries, cucumber and yellow onions.  while i'm so happy everything's growing well, i'm most excited about the acorn squash and onions!
i'm a self-taught gardener and generally resort to a hands-off approach.  i water and pick ripe veggies in the mornings, refuse to use any fertilizer, and weed on a weekly basis.  also, i refresh the soil with our compost (we keep this in a tupperware with lots of holes in the garage).

not everything with gardening is fun and games.  last year, i had a major mole infestation, so this year i dug up each of the beds and placed fine chicken wire beneath the mounds of soil.  i chose this method because rumor has it, they tend to nest and return to the same grounds year after year.  so instead of dealing with the issue annually, i figured i'd nip it in the butt once and for all.  as of today, i've not seen a single mole.  
not only have i had issues with moles, i've also found issue with specific plants.  last year, i had failed attempts at sweet potatoes and cantaloupe.  this year i gave the cantaloupe another shot (still nothing to report there) in addition to green beans and artichoke.  the green beans are being over-shadowed by the acorn squash, so not much is growing on these plants and besides some large leaves, i haven't seen anything even remotely vegetable-like from the artichoke.  que sera, sera.  
backyard gardening is a case-by-case basis and obviously differs depending on your climate.  it also requires lots of patience and love.  by giving these little plants about 30 minutes of your morning or evening (avoid watering during the mid-day hours; this can potentially steam the plants), weeding regularly, and giving them enough space to grow, you'll have a thriving little garden.  this is such a rewarding hobby and even though it's august, it's not too late to start.

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