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My First Garden Journey - Cathy Harris

My First Garden Journey
by Cathy Harris

Growing our own foods is new to me, but I am up for the challenge. No...the picture above is not my garden. However, it looks identical to our garden when I was growing up. My garden so far - is the picture below, or that's how it initially looked when my mate and I got started with it. 

Being raised on a farm, this is my first garden as an adult. At 60 years old, many people would probably be too embarrassed to admit that they are finally growing their first garden. However, it's especially Seniors today that need to start growing their own
foods to make sure foods are safe to eat; to fight diseases; and to cut down on grocery bills, especially as they age. 

Check out this picture from my first backyard raised bed garden. We found some plywood laying around and just put the garden together. The stick is propped under there until we can level the ground under the bed. Some people said the plywood might last anywhere from 2, to 5 or 10 years.

The dirt was hard clay and we did not want to go out and buy the right tools to dig up the garden, for instance, we could have rented a tiller from a garden center or bought a rake, but we took a short cut and used weed barrier paper to keep the weeds from growing up in the garden, once we leveled the ground. 

We also have birds and rabbits so we will be investing in rabbit repellent or putting a fence around the raised bed garden -- probably a fence. For the birds, we already bought some bird scare tape, which is suppose to scare the birds away.

We did not bother to test the soil, since we knew that we would be dealing strictly with organic soils and organic seeds (or seedlings/transplants) in our raised bed garden

My mate has a green thumb, and as far as I know I don't, but I have never tried growing anything so who knows, you might be able to develop a green thumb as you age. I am hoping so. 

So follow us on our journey to grow our own foods. Just go out to your local garden center and get some pots or containers or get some untreated plywood and put together a raised bed 4 ft. by 8 ft. or just go to or and buy these raised beds that are easy to assemble. 

Another reason that many people use raised beds besides being able to control the soil content, is to get more sunlight so when you are thinking about planting these beds, keep that in mind. 

The reason that many people use the measurements 4 ft. by 8 ft. is that you can reach across the garden and get something. Also with raised beds, you have the opportunity to sit down on the edge while planting your foods or invest in something for your knees.

We officially starting planting this week (the middle of June 2017) and will be keeping a record of our journey, possibly for another book down the line entitled something like "My First Garden Journey - How I Got Back To Nature and Saved My Family and Community." 

When you start planting in a raised bed, don't plant a whole bed of one thing because if pests get on your crops, they could eat the entire crop, but many times they will be after a certain food. 

I am still a little confused on a lot of the information, but as I conduct more research, I become more confident. can be very helpful, however, it can be overwhelming too, but try to follow some of the timely and relevant shows that I have posted at my garden club "Cathy Harris Garden Club"

Many gardeners on add coconut coirpeat mossworm castings and other fertilizers to their soil to help the plants grow healthier or even faster, but as far as I know, organic soils have everything you need already in it, so all you have to do is add some type of fertilizer

It's important to use your native soil in your area for raised beds to grow your foods. So I went to Austin Natural Gardeners for a class and looked at their organic soil and it was $28 a bag, "Happy Frog Soil Conditioner." With that size of raised bed (4 ft. by 8 ft.) you will need at least 8 to 10 bags to fill it, so that's a lot of money. So they sent us to Austin GEO growers, who said we could bag our own organic soil for $4.65 a bag or just bring a truck and they would put the soil on a plastic tarp on the bed of the truck, and it would cost 
$55.00. They will also deliver the soil. Either of these are good deals and of course we have a truck,
after all we are in Texas, where everyone drives trucks.

As you can see below, we still did not have enough soil for our gardening project so we had to plan another trip to Geo Growers.

The 4' by 8' garden is about 12 inches deep and after leveling the garden with a shovel, before putting down the soil, we put down organic garden paper, to keep the weeds from coming back up, which is 100% biodegradable, which means the paper will eventually dissolve in the soil and allow the earth worms, amongst other ground creatures to come up and become a part of the soil. This is what you want to happen.

On many people use cardboard boxes to keep weeds from coming up in raised garden beds, but it contains glue and tape so again, we are trying to stay totally organic.

After putting down the organic garden paper, we went to Home Depot and bought 10 bags ($1.57 each at 10 bags = $15.70) (40 lbs. total) of organic TOP SOIL to put down, which turned out to be about two inches throughout the 4' by 8' raised garden bed. 

We did not really need to use Top Soil, but many people do use two different soils in their raised beds. Just make sure both are ORGANIC. We could have just used the organic soil from GEO growers throughout the bed and add a fertilizer before planting. We used the Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable 7-4-5 Fertilizer on our raised bed.

On our first trip to Geo Growers, we bought 8 bags for $39.84 so we had to go back and get another 8 bags. The bags were much smaller than I thought. 

They also had thunderdirt for small trees, shrubs, native and xero scapeplants, double thunder, turf topper, geo tree mix, poultry compost, and magic mulch, but we bought Thunder Garden soil for flowers, vegetables and raised beds. 

My mate was quite surprised and complimented me for finding the place. He does all the yard work, but when I got serious about growing our own foods, I was all over Austin trying to learn the process so this is a project that the both of us are working on together. 

After saying he did not want any foods growing in the house, I went downstairs the other day and saw that he had bought a tomatoe plant so looks like this is definitely rubbing off on him. He was preparing to plant the tomatoe plant in this big pot outside so I surprised him with several other smaller, organic tomatoe transplants (6 total at $1.69 each) that I bought after a class, to include in the large pot.

Couples have to agree to disagree on how and where to grow foods. This is not just for the betterment of the community, but it's especially for the betterment of the family. So hopefully couples can get on the same page when it comes to growing foods.

I am excited about growing my own foods and will report back to you guys with any progress. Since most of my foods that I eat for my blood type diet are the green leafy "nutrient-dense"  greens, which grows in September (in colder weather), if for some reason the foods that I planted now are still growing, when I prepare to plant the crops for September, we might need to look at building our second raised bed - what a dilemma to have.

I was surprised to see that my mate had went out and built a smaller raised bed garden made out of cinder blocks (sample garden on right), next to the other 4' by 8' raised bed garden made out of plywood, for the 7 tomatoe plants, instead of putting them in the big pot. You can actually build these raised bed gardens out of anything, so conduct your research.

Again, this is really rubbing off on him and many people are telling me that their neighbors are starting to grow foods, especially in raised beds, pots and containers -- simply because they are growing foods. So growing foods is contagious!

Packets of seeds only cost $1.99 to $3.99 with many seeds inside the packet, but make sure they are ORGANIC. And the back of the seed packets contains instructions on how to space the seeds (most said to space seeds 4 to 6 inches apart). Some seeds, like the New Zealand Spinach, you might have to soak for 24 hours before planting. 

The goal is when starting out, you don't want to overwhelm yourself so we just planted on June 14, 2017 in our FIRST raised bed garden rows of honeydew melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, pepper, cucumber, New Zealand Spinach, and Swiss Chard. We also have 2 citrus fruit trees (a lemon and tangerine tree) in pots on the back porch. 

I chose the foods (or seeds) because Natural Gardener recommended them for growing foods in June and they fitted my blood type diet.

The trainer in the class burst my bubble the other day when she told me that Austin has two SHORT growing seasons instead of two LONG growing seasons. I thought simply because we lived in a hot climate (hot and hotter), we could grow foods all year, but she said NO -- and that we would be lucky if the foods we plant don't bolt on us from the extremely hot temperatures. What an eye-opener! So if you live in a region with a "long-growing" season, like my last state, Georgia, you are so take advantage of it.

We finally had enough soil for the garden so this is how it looked before planting. So now all we need to do is sit back -- water it -- and watch it grow. 

So the steps for our first raised bed garden included:
-Made the 4' by 8' raised bed out of plywood (another one out of cinder blocks).
-Leveled the ground with a shovel (but you can rent a tiller from a garden center or use a rake).
-Added biodegradable garden paper.
-Added Top Soil (2 inches across).
-Added Thunder Dirt from GEO Growers.
-Mixed in Fertilizer (Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable 7-4-5 Fertilizer).
-Added seeds (Selected seeds for our region and the foods we were already eating)
-Water regularly and wait for garden to grow
-Eat good tasting, "nutrient dense" foods
-Live a long, healthy life while you grow foods that are safe to eat, fight diseases while you cut down on doctor's visits, cut down on grocery bills, etc. 
-Get your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues to do the same, while you help build a "brain-healthy" community.

I hope this e-newsletter and especially this session, have allowed you to expand your level of thinking, and now you know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you too can grow your own foods, especially in raised bed gardens. Now you guys know as much as I do about growing foods in raised beds, especially those of you starting out. 

On the next "Virtual Organic Garden Clubsseries, I hope to educate you on container gardening, since I just finished up another class at Austin Natural Gardener on Tuesday on that topic. 

I also spoke with a lady who was renting her home, who had 100 pots and containers so that is very encouraging so if you don't want to do a raised bed garden or get your soil tested and plant foods in the ground, just use pots and containers to grow your foods on porches, patios, balconies, rooftops, in kitchens, etc. -- again "the sky is the limit!"

The goal is to have fun growing your own foods and don't forget your new motto Self, Family and Community - in that order ONLY.

Cathy Harris, Speaker, Author, Coach
National Non-GMO Food Expert
Cathy Harris Garden Club
P.O. Box 19282
Austin, TX 78760
(512) 909-7365 


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