When Jacob, Winston and I first moved in to our new place, I always knew I wanted a vegetable garden. The chance to grow my own produce and eat from my own backyard was an attractive concept in of in itself. Getting the opportunity to put my gardening skills to the test was a feat I decided to take head on. Honestly, I felt like I’d be lucky to just harvest a few basil leaves and manage not to kill off too many tomatoes in the process. The funny thing is I used to hate tomatoes. If it wasn’t in a sauce or jam, I wasn’t touching it. Then, at some point between my picky 12-year-old appetite and now, my taste buds changed and long story short, tomatoes are my new favorite vegetable. Combine that with the sweet aroma of a fresh basil plant and the contents of my vegetable garden were set (along with a delicate rosemary plant just for kicks).
PREPARING THE BOX
Before I was ever even able to get my veggie plants, I of course needed to build a new home for them. We decided a spot on the south-western corner of our house would allow for enough suffient sunlight but also protect from a few stray winds that come off a nearby lake. So, after much deliberation at our local Lowe’s store, we supplied all that would be needed to create a healthy environment for my new plants: Three 8-foot wooden boards, a package of black sheeting and a staple gun.
Once again with the help of my parents, we began this project by cutting one board into two 4-foot boards. These will act as the sides of the vegetable box and attach to the other longer boards I purchased. While I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to vegetable gardens, I’m completely dumbfounded when it comes to saws, and I’m not afraid to admit it. What I am afraid of is winding up with an uneven board end or worse, missing fingers. So I let Dad tackle that aspect of the project without any complaint. I don’t think I’d be very much help with anything less than 10 digits anyway.
After we cut one of our boards into two side pieces, we started lining up the frame that would act as our vegetable box. Before you start, though, make sure the grass (if you have any) is nicely trimmed and cut low. It’s a pain to attempt to smash down tall grass and it won’t matter once the dirt comes in so make sure you take the time to prepare the section. We took one board and lined it up with the side of our house, essentially putting it right up by the siding to save some space in the rest of our yard. With a power drill, Dad quickly screwed in the sides of each board: one on the top and one on the bottom. Once all the sides were attached we had the final frame built for our box.
The next and final step to finishing our box is to roll out some tarp on the bottom over the grass (see why I said to cut the grass now?) The tarp will help keep the dirt in and the weeds out of our vegetables. Lay out the tarp into two side-by-side sheets longwise so that the whole bottom of the box is covered. Then, with a handy dandy staple gun, staple the excess edges to the side of the wood frame. This will help hold the tarp in place when the dirt gets dumped into the box. Once we finished laying out and stapling our tarp, we situated some stones between the two tarp halves just in case they decided to blow away in the wind. And there you have it. Our home for the plants are built and now we can move on to the final piece of the puzzle: the vegetables.
PICKING OUT THE VEGGIES
I knew from the moment I thought of building a vegetable garden I wanted two things: tomatoes and basil. These plants pair perfectly together, both in the garden and in the kitchen. If they were a match made in heaven, they’d make the perfect companions. Tomatoes and basil go so well together because not only do they share nutrients together, they balance each other. The basil’s scent even distracts insects from harming the tomatoes, so kudos to a tomato-basil pairing. So for my garden, I picked out four Roma tomato plants (pear shaped), two San Marzano tomato plants (thin and elongated), 1 cherry tomato plant, 2 basil leaf plants and a rosemary plant just because.
The day finally came when I was able to transfer my vegetables to their rightful place in our newly made box (or pot for the cherry tomatoes.) Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) I wasn’t able to be around when Mom and Dad loaded in the dirt, but I was appreciative nonetheless. It was like waking up on Christmas morning and finding all the presents neatly stacked underneath the tree. Only except presents, there was dirt. OK, maybe that’s overdoing it a little, but you get the point.
Here’s a few things to know about taking care of your first tomato, basil or rosemary plant.
Before you first plant your tomatoes, make sure the dirt is properly tilled so the soil is nice and loose. Plant the tomatoes two feet apart and make sure they get plenty of sunlight. For the first couple of weeks, the plants will need plenty of water a day. Once the tomatoes get big enough, you can water about every other or every third day. If you notice the soil drying out again, just aerate the soil until the dirt is loosened again. For the cherry tomato, I planted it separately so it wouldn’t lose any nutrients from everything going in the box planter. Since it doesn’t have as much dirt, make sure to give it tons of water every day. Also, find a place where it will get plenty of sunlight but be safely blocked from any harsh winds.
Plant the basil much the same way you would the tomatoes. Make sure it has plenty of space in between the other vegetables and water thoroughly for the first couple of weeks. It’ll need to be watered almost every day to stay moist and not dry out. Basil, like tomatoes, love sunlight so make sure other surrounding plants aren’t going to grow overtop of it. When the basil gets old enough, little rose-like shaped leaves will start to grow at the peaks of the branches. Make sure to pull those off or else no new basil leaves will be able to grow.
Once again, plant the rosemary so it has enough space to grow with the other vegetables. It works well with the basil and tomatoes too since it loves full sun. However, this little guy needs plenty of water in the beginning. Failure to properly water will result in reddish rosemary leaves, which is no bueno. I’d say to water almost every day if possible so you have nice, fresh rosemary.
As with all plants, it’ll take some time before you see the results of your hard work, but trust me it will be well worth the wait. Stay tuned for more to come in my veggie tale adventures and what advice I can pass on from my first year of gardening.