Picking and Planting Seeds

So I picked out the garden box I wanted, built it and filled it with dirt. With a lot of the initial labor done, I needed to figure out what I want to grow. I thought the easiest thing would be to plant things I eat regularly. People who know me know that I love my carrots! (I usually have one Bugs Bunny style for lunch every day.) Carrots went on the list along with lettuce, cucumbers and watermelon. When I was looking at the rack of seed packets, those seemed pretty easy to grow. I also picked out green beans but  I didn’t realize until I got home that they needed to grow on a trellis or next to a fence. Another project for another time. I didn’t want to get overwhelmed, so I stuck with those basic four.

Digging hills for gardening rows

Digging hills for gardening rows

I asked SJ to help me plant because I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing. The instructions said to build hills and plant seeds an inch or two down. I didn’t know how to get hills out of my flat soil, so I was just going to drop seeds in the dirt until SJ suggested building the dirt into mounds. The light bulb went off. That made perfect sense! And not too difficult either.

Out came the shovel to dig rows and create nice even rows. I was going to originally do four rows but went with three because the watermelons needed extra space. I took advantage of the smaller 4′ X 4′ box for the cucumbers.

By the time I was done digging and arranging rows, things were looking pretty good. SJ and I planted the seeds according to the instructions. There aren’t any pictures of him because he said his main jobs were to look good and take pictures. Thanks SJ!

After a couple of weeks of work, the seeds are in. The only thing left to do is wait for the veggies to start growing.

Finished garden with veggies planted

Finished garden with veggies planted

Planting the vegetables

Planting the vegetables

Step 2: Adding Soil to the Garden Box

Step 2 for starting the garden is pretty simple. Once you’ve built your frame, you need to add some dirt for planting. Rocket science, right?

Well, you can’t use just any old dirt, it has to be nutrient rich. In North Carolina, a lot of the soil tends to be clay-like. (Fun fact- this makes building true basements very difficult in NC homes.) So off to the local home improvement store to find dirt good enough for the garden box.

Once I got to the store, my first step was staring at the different types of soil, mulch, compost, etc. So many to choose from! I was staring at the bags of soil for so long that SJ came and asked me if I knew what I was doing. I replied confidently, “Of course!” As soon as he was out of sight, I pulled out my phone to do some research and figure out how many bags I’d need. I looked this stuff up several months back in my new project excitement, but forgot most of it in the meantime.

I settled on Miracle-Gro Flower and Vegetable Gardening Soil and Nature’s Helpers Premium Mushroom Compost. The instructions said to mix 50/50 so I got 12 and 13 bags respectively. Hauling all those bags took two trips so we had to dump the bags in the yard between trips before going back to the store. More accurately, I dumped the bags. SJ was smart enough to at least leave the ones he took out of the car and put them inside the fence. He had another errand to run so it was just me and the 25 bags of soil.

Between me, a wheelbarrow and a whole lot of lifting and cursing, I managed to get the all of the dirt in the garden boxes. I was happy that I got all of the dirt poured on my own, but my back was nowhere near as cheerful.

Take a look below at the filled garden box.


Garden box filled with soil and my blood, sweat and tears

Next up, choosing and planting seeds!

Step 1: Building Raised Garden Beds

Garden area before

I decided to use raised garden beds instead of digging in the ground because it seemed easier and honestly, I’m a bit lazy. It also helped that there was a 4X4′  raised garden bed in the backyard from the previous homeowner. I didn’t want to go too big or too small for the size, so like Goldilocks I chose a size in the middle and settled on a 4X8′.

Next I did some research on local home improvement store websites to see what products were out there that I could use. I didn’t want to go too high-end in case (the very real possibility) things don’t work out. I settled on the
Frame It All variety. It seemed easy enough to put together and that it would hold up.

Using Power Tools to Build the Garden Box

Using Power Tools to Build the Garden Box

Once I got home and opened the box in the backyard to start the assembly process, I realized there were a few broken pieces. One to never let an incomplete set stop me, I plunged ahead with the help of my husband.
Thanks SJ!

As I thought, the raised bed was pretty easy to put together. It just took drilling a few holes, inserting some screws and snapping the pieces into place. I even got to use some power tools (and looked good doing it!)

After an hour or so, including preliminary work like leveling the ground, we had a raised bed. We also put down a screen to prevent weeds from growing.

Adding dirt was a step for another day. It was enough effort to get the thing built.

Partially Built Garden Box

Partially Built Garden Box

Finished Garden Box Close Up

Finished Garden Box






My Top 10 Reasons for Starting a Garden

I’m starting a garden this summer so I want to share my reasons why. My top 10:

1. Prove I don’t have a black thumb- My husband tells me I have a black thumb because I manage to kill almost all the plants/flowers I bring home. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the reason why he tells me I have a black thumb. I want to grow a garden and do it well.

2. Save money on food- You can’t get much more cost effective than buying seeds and then doing the rest of the work yourself. If done right, you’ll end up with a variety of fruits and vegetables that last all summer, for much lower than grocery store prices. Like a lot of people, I eat a lot of produce during the summer months.

3. Learn more about gardening- Since this is the first time I’m growing a vegetable garden, I expect to learn a lot this summer. I’ll use what I learn this year to have an even better garden next year. Although if I’m no longer a veggie garden virgin next year, I’ll have to rethink a new name for the blog.

4. Develop a new hobby- I’ve been a competitive runner for over half my life, until earlier this year. I’ve had knee problems on and off for the last couple years and few months ago, my knees told me enough. (Cue the sympathetic violin music.) So I have to find a new hobby. I don’t know if there’s competitive gardening, but vegetable gardening will do.

5. Make good use of outdoor space-I lived in a townhouse with an 8 X 8 concrete patio for several years. Since moving last summer, I have an actual yard! Now I’ve got enough room to make a go of a proper garden.

6. Exercise- The bending, pulling and movements needed to till, weed and tend to a garden are all good exercise. The best kind in fact- exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise because it’s something you enjoy doing.

7. Enjoy the outdoors- Gardening is a great way to spend time in the sun and enjoy the warmth of summer. Although June through August in North Carolina, summer warmth is really blasts of a hot furnace blowing on you combined with the humidity of a wet blanket thrown over your head.

8. Relax- Gardening is a great way to relax and get lost in what you’re doing. It’s also relaxing to listen to the sounds of nature like birds chirping. And hopefully not the sounds of the non-stop barking dog that lives behind you. Just me?

9. Easy access to delicious, fresh foods- You can’t get fresher than your own backyard. I’ll have access to fresh foods all summer that will be perfect for salads or the grill. All I’ll have to do is walk a few feet from my back door.

10. Take on a new challenge- I don’t know if I’ll be successful at this or not. It will be interesting to see if I can solve problems that come up and become a full-fledged gardener.

Welcome to Veggie Garden Virgin!

Welcome to Veggie Garden Virgin! So MJ… what’s up with the name? No, this isn’t a fetish site for vegetable enthusiasts. I chose the name because I’m growing my own vegetable garden for the first time.


Photo by Sheila Brown

Since moving last summer from a townhouse with a tiny concrete patio to a house with more land, I actually have room to try what
I’ve been wanting to do for years. Hopefully my efforts this summer will go better than when I tried to grow tomatoes from seeds a couple of years ago. Let’s just say that I started the seeds in March and didn’t get any fruit until November. And that was only because
a neighbor took enough pity on me to give me large pots and high quality compost. And then help replant the tomatoes. After that, I had a few juicy, although small tomatoes just in time for winter.

I’m using this blog to track my gardening trials and tribulations. Hopefully others will find this a useful tool (or a guide of what not to do.)

My husband has graciously offered to help, although I think it’s more for a front row seat of all the ways I could potentially mess up this summer. I’m hoping to have some friends with experience offer some tips and guidance as well.

I’ve done my research, which mostly consisted of reading a few gardening articles and looking at pictures of pretty gardens. Let’s see what happens this summer as a veggie garden virgin!