Saturday, April 23, 2011

Semi-Urban Homesteader...Meet Working Homemaker!

We looooove to get posts from people who are out there doing, working, creating things related to sustainability, environment, and recycling. Here is a post from guest-blogger Stephanie "Working Homemaker" Duckett, my colleague, friend, and fellow ladies' garden club member!

I am challenged with (among other things) a small garden space. This winter to alleviate my discontent, I passed the time thinking of how to make my summer garden more glorious. I came across the All New Square Foot Garden book by Mel Bartholomew touting a revolutionary way to get more out of your garden with not only less space (ME!) but less time, less money, less work (me, me me!).

You see, I’m a working mom, so my regular home-making activities of laundry, feeding, bathing, cleaning, reading, cuddling, kissing, have to fit into narrow hours of the day like a Cirque de Soleil contortionist (which incidentally is also how we five fit into our tiny house). Where does one find time or space to garden?! Beats me.

But, on Tuesday, I got lucky. Nephew John had a “fever” on Monday when I picked him up from school and they wouldn’t let me bring him in on Tuesday morning, EVEN THOUGH HE WAS FINE. So instead, I had a whole sunny day to garden, with help.

We started by digging out all the old dirt from our raised beds and transplanting it to future beds. Then we added the very specific soil mixture of 1/3 compost (bought, since my composting days began mere months ago) 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 vermiculite. What’s vermiculite you say? Well it’s sorta like those white pebble things you find in store bought plant soils (which is called perlite). Except its gold and very hard to find. Home Depot didn’t have it in store. Yes, yes, I know the evils of corporate mega marts, but let me brag on the HD for just a minute. When I went to find the elusive vermiculite in store, a kind attendant told me they didn't carry it in store, but I could buy it online. But he said don’t bother doing that, because I could get it at Corvallis Hydroponic in larger bags for cheaper. And I’ll be dammed, he was right. $20 for 4 cubic feet (compare this to another place up the street that sells theirs for 2qt at $12.99 and you know you’ve found a deal.).

John and I mixed it all together and (fingers crossed) I now have weed free, highly efficient garden beds.

Now Mel really wants you to do square grids on your garden. And, now that I’ve bought into the soil, I see no reason to stop there. To save money, John and I stopped by the Benton Habitat for Humanity ReStore and bought 8 foot blinds for $5 instead of expensive wood. This was the best idea ever. They’re lightweight, cheap and you can staple them to your boxes with a staple gun and they trim up with a plain ‘ol pair of scissors. And, should I choose to do a SFG next year, I have hundreds more in my shed now (anyone need blinds?)

The overall effect is cute, and adds such a level of organization that I wish I could square foot everything. I don’t yet know how my garden will grow, but I’m very excited to find out.

Total cost:

Peat Moss: $44

Compost: $30

Vermiculite: $80

Blinds: $5


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