Spring Garden Prep

Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite tips for prepping for a garden! And make sure you make it all the way to the end for a fun spring cleaning round up AND giveaway!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

We started our garden for the first time in 2011 and we haven’t looked back since. I’m definitely not a gardening expert by any means, but I know what does and doesn’t work for us and hopefully that will help you if you were thinking of starting a garden!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Building our first raised bed.

Raised Beds – We decided to go with a raised bed garden and it has definitely worked out for the best for us! Brandon built ours out of 2x4s he bought at the store, but you can also find pre-made box kits online and at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Our first bed was a 4×8 bed and we have since added an additional 4×4 bed next to it and then another 4×4 bed in another location in our yard. And actually we’ve now expanded that second 4×4 to much larger to enclose our hop buckets. Yes we also grow hops!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

And then we built more beds the next year!

Square Foot Garden Method – Do some research to see what will work best for you. We decided to use the “square foot garden” method because it seemed the easiest for a small space and still have a lot of variety of veggies. There are lots of books you can buy to learn how to don’t, but honestly we just searched for everything on the internet! A great starting place is this site and this site.

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Mixing up the soil while super pregnant with Jude in 2014.

Mix Your Soil – Along with the square foot method is the soil mix. It’s called a Mel’s Mix (named after the creator of square foot garden method). This is why we also liked the raised bed approach, after you build your bed you fill it with this mix instead of using the soil already in your yard. The official Mel’s Mix is as follows – 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost. The initial fill can get a little expensive depending on how big your beds are, but we only have to add a few bags of each the next year to refill our beds.

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Make Your Grid – After you make your raised bed and fill it with dirt you have to make your grid! This is where the square foot part comes in, each box is 1 foot by 1 foot. We chose to make our grid using string and screws. Some people use wood and I can’t remember why we initially chose not to, but the string has worked out great for us! We do have to replace it every year, but I just pop the screws out, tie on new string, and reinsert the screws. I also have a printed out grid on paper that I use to write down what I plant where, because when all the green starts popping up in the beginning it all looks the same and then I can’t remember what anything is!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

And again super pregnant, this time with baby boy #2 in 2016!

Tip: Use desk screws because they are treated and won’t rust from year to year!

Get Some Seeds – This is the most fun part, picking out what to plant! This one takes some time, as we’ve planted many things in the past that we either ended up not enjoying or didn’t grow very well. We usually head to our local Rural King to buy seed packets. The great thing about seeds is they are fairly cheap and we are able to use them multiple years because we don’t usually use all of them. We also love getting onions at Rural King. They sell them in little bags by weight and we usually get the red and white type as well as some green. I know lots of people start their seeds inside, but the one year I tried it I did not have much luck, so we just plant straight into the raised beds!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Picking our favorite seeds!

Here is a list of my favorite things to start from seeds:
Radishes – all time FAVORITE of everything we plant
Peas – sugar snap peas and regular peas – don’t forget to put a trellis up for them to climb
Basil and Cilantro
Cauliflower and Broccoli
Spinach and Lettuce – lots of different varieties
Chives – Sort of crazy, but the chives I planted the first year of our garden and they come back every single year so I’ve never had to plant them again!

Now depending on the size of the plant that’s how many seeds you put in one square. For example, 16 radishes or carrots go in one square, 6 peas go in one square, and only one broccoli goes in a square. You also can look at companion planting charts to see what plants will grow well next to each other.

Tip: Soak your pea seeds before planting them. I read this somewhere and now I do it every year and we get AMAZING peas.

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Tip: Stagger when you plant things. For example, we love radishes and usually plant multiple squares of them, but we don’t want them all at once so we will plant one square then wait a week and plant another square.

Buy Some Plants – Okay hear me out, we buy some of our veggies already started. We’ve found that our local nursery has great prices on starter plants and they’ve done all the prep work and then we know these plants are going to grow to their full potential. We usually get 4 tomato plants to go in the separate 4×4 box (we usually get a variety of grape, roma, and large tomatoes). We grew our tomatoes in the 4×8 box the first year of our garden and then decided since they get so big and bushy we wanted them to have their own box. We usually plant onions in that box as well. We also buy our zucchini and pepper plants already started. Peppers go in the 4×8 box and zucchinis go in the newer 4×4 box on the other side of the yard. One year we also bought brussels sprouts, which was a ton of fun, but they have to grow all summer and then you harvest them at the end of the year. It seemed like a lot of work for not as much yield all summer. So we haven’t planted them again.

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Jude at our local nursery in 2014 and 2015!

Tip: BTR actually hand pollinates our zucchini plants. They get these beautiful blooms on them and you can tell which are the female and which are the male stems. He pulls the male flowers off and then rubs them on the female flowers. We’ve had awesome success doing this and usually end up with a million monster-sized zucchinis and then we share them with family and neighbors!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Tip: When planting already grown tomatoes (and peppers and other plants) we dig the hole pretty deep and then we trim off almost all of the stalks already growing out from the main plant. This makes the main stalk stronger once it starts to grow tall.

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Ellie and Addie think they are helpful in the garden.

Water and Fertilize and Weed – Don’t forget to water your garden! We try to do it early in the morning every day, before the sun gets to hot because that could fry the plant leaves. Otherwise we will water in the early evening when the sun is starting to set. We also like to use a fertilizer called Tomato-Tone and Garden-Tone. We try to sprinkle it in the holes when planting seeds and plants and then again a few weeks later once the green starts popping up! As for weeding, I used to be super diligent and pull every single weed I would come across. And then I had a kid and life got crazy! So i don’t stress about it too much anymore and I just do my best to pull weeds.

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Have Fun – This is the most important part of gardening for us! When we started doing this 5 years ago we really had no idea what we were doing, but we had so much fun with it and it’s turned into a major summer hobby for us. It’s something I can’t wait to do more with Jude (and baby boy #2), and I’m hoping this summer he gets more excited about helping and playing out there while we water and pull weeds. Gardening has also become a huge stress reliever for me. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but being outside and working in the garden really does calm me down!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

One year we had so many tomatoes I made and canned salsa, i hope to try it again this year!

Follow Along – If you are interested in following along on our garden adventures, BTR and I have a hashtag on Instagram that we both use when we post garden photos, it’s #rotzgarden (I know, super original). And if you ever have any gardening questions shoot me a message or comment on IG, I’d love to help you out!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

And now make sure to check out all of my favorite blogger’s posts about spring cleaning! We all picked different topics to share our best cleaning and organization tips!

Spring Garden Prep | Ellie And Addie

Sara @ Running from the Law – Spring Cleaning with Toddlers
Sarah @ Seeing All Sides – Garage Organization
Meghan @ The Adventure Starts Here – Tips for Keeping an Organized and Semi-Clean House
Jess @ Scott Family of Maine – Spring Cleaning Printables
Liz @ Ellie & Addie – Spring Garden Prep
Chrissy @ Simple Joys – Diaper Changing & Dresser Organization
Leah @ Leah With Love – Spring Cleaning Schedule
Stephanie @ Wife Mommy Me – De-clutter Your Home Printable Checklist
Whitney @ Work It Mommy – Re-purposed Storage Solutions
Emily @ Dear Owen – Organizing Kids Closets
Jess @ Being Mrs. Beer – Essential Oils for Spring
Vanessa @ Sunflower State of Mind – Spring Cleaning Hacks
Laureen @ Chateau Deveau – Playroom & Toy Storage
Jessica @ Secrets of a Stay At Home Mom – Organizing a Kids Craft Area
Ashley @ Being Brickner – 10 Cleaning Tips for Working Moms
Karli @ September Farm – Spring Cleaning Checklist Printable
Laura @ Happily Ever Parker – 20 Things to Purge
And to make today even more fun, make sure to enter our Spring Cleaning Giveaway! We are giving away Mrs. Meyer’s Variety Gift Buckets to FOUR different winners!

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  • Jessica

    Love your gardening tips! We had a raised garden bed at our old house and I’d really like to have a few here, but we are going to wait this year. I am planning to plant some tomatoes in pots though. Can’t wait to see your gardens when the plants are really going!

    • Thanks Jessica! I would love to get some pots to put herbs on our patio so they are easier to get too!

  • This post is such a WEALTH of good tips!! Definitely pinning & saving this post. I want to love gardening (does that make sense?) but sometimes the not being good at it already paralyzes me haha. I can’t wait to put these tips to use! :)

    • Thank you so much! I didn’t love it at first, but now I can’t get enough of it! And I’ve killed many plants along the way!

  • Great tips Liz! One day I’ll do this….

  • Meghan Flinn

    This came at the perfect time! We have a raised bed that the previous owner had built. So far we’ve just planted flowers in it but just yesterday I asked Noah if he wanted to grow some vegetables this year and he said yes :). I may be bugging you with lots of questions!

    • Yes do it with Noah! And if you already have the beds even better!! Ask me anything!

  • I am so impressed with your garden! I wish I had the motivation/drive to do this. I typically try to grow tomatoes but I can’t even keep up with watering those! Better yet, I wish my husband was into gardening as much as yours!

    • Thank you Sarah! I’m surprised at how much Brandon and I both ended up loving it!

  • Oh, how I wish I was a gardener, so cool having fresh veggies. My mom has a HUGE garden so maybe it’s the memories of hot summer days weeding that has me not ready to dive in quite yet. ;) I love your raised beds, that seems to be the way to go. Homemade salsa, YES PLEASE!! Dan is getting into growing his own hops, I’ll have to let him know you guys are pros, if he has questions. :)

    • I remember picking tomatoes with my grandparents and I hated tomatoes when I was little! And weeding isn’t always my favorite thing to do either, but salsa is! And yes you definitely need to grow some hops! We bought hop rhizomes at our local home brew shop a few years ago and surprisingly they keep coming back. They will grow SUPER tall though so be prepared. It looks a little sketchy because we just have ropes going up to our gutters (attached with christmas light hooks) and I’m sure our neighbors think we are crazy. BTR likes to use them at the end of his boil or sometimes he puts fresh hops into a glass of beer he is drinking. But we definitely still use hop pellets in all our recipes, this is more just for fun!

  • Sara McCarty

    Wow!!! This just totally blew me away! You guys are gardening gods! This is such a great post! I’m pinning like crazy! We had a little garden before we had kids, which did ok, but I didn’t do half of this stuff – I just learned more from your post than I did with my own garden for three years!!

    • Thank you Sara! I had so much fun putting this post together, I was amazed at how much we’ve done in the past few years! I’m hoping I’m able to get out there this summer with Jude more!

  • Oh my goodness! A. I want to come over to your house and see it all in person. B. I want to hire you to come do that in my backyard!

    • I wish everyone could come over and we could have a big salsa canning party! :) And I’ll definitely come design your garden!

  • Emily

    Ok, this is awesome! We are planning to do a garden this year and I will definitely be referencing your post. Thanks for sharing!

  • Karli Bell

    i’m so impressed. i’m married to a farmer and i have yet to attempt gardening. what’s wrong with me!!!!?

  • My hubby plants us a garden every year and it’s always so nice to just “shop” from it. Our favorite thing to plant is pumpkins!!

    • We always talk about pumpkins but have never done it! Adding that to my list for this year!

      • You MUST! Do princess pumpkins. If you plant them now they are ready in October. Just make sure to read up on them. You basically have to choose which ones to grow and which to cut. They take up a lot of room!

        • I told BTR I wanted to grow pumpkins and I think we have a spot picked out for them!

  • Wow, I SO needed this! We have been talking about starting a small garden this year for Arden to help take care of (and not just because “Arden’s Garden” sounds cute, haha) but I really had no idea where to start! Pinning this for sure! Also, every time I see pics of your yard it reminds me of our house in Edwardsville. Did I ever tell you we lived there?!? Only for a year before Chris got transferred to Houston, but we loved it!

    • Arden’s Garden sounds like just the CUTEST thing ever so you definitely need to make that happen! I had no idea you lived in Edwardsville, we were neighbors!!!!!!

  • Thank you for all your tips! I really want to start a garden!

  • Mande K

    This is awesome!! We did our first garden last year but I kind of just “winged it” using a patch of dirt around the shed. All our tomatoes were eaten! Did you have this problem? But our chives returned! As did the rosemary, parsley and oregano. I need to try zucchini like you – I loooove to eat squash blossoms :)

    • That’s awesome you started one already! We live in a newer neighborhood and have a fenced yard so we don’t really have problems with critters, unless you count our dogs! We have a small wire fence that goes around our bed to keep the pups out because they like to eat the peas! We used to have rosemary in our raised bed but it got huge so we tried moving it somewhere else in our yard and it died, I need to plant more! And I keep hearing how delicious squash blossoms are so I definitely want to try that this year! How do you make them?

  • Ashley

    I so need to be better about this – I am the worst!!!! Great tips!

  • I wish I was born with a green thumb. I’m just no good at remembering how to water. And I hate pulling weeds. H.A.T.E.

    • I only like pulling weeds in the garden. It’s almost a little scary lol. But weeds in the grass, uh huh, that’s BTR’s problem!!

  • So many questions!!! How can you tell the difference between male and female zucchini? I want huge ones lol (that kinda reads perverted, sorry ;) I started my peas and lettuce inside and have only transplanted the peas and made a teepee for them BUT didnt soak them, is that going to be a pitfall? Our garden is so small but if it goes well I want to try the grid method next year! Thank you for all the great information! It didnt disappoint.

    • Give me all the questions!! So the male zucchinis flowers are just a skinny stalk with a flower on them, the females have a mini zucchini on them already (they look fatter). Google “male and female zucchini plants” and you’ll see exactly what I mean! That’s awesome you started plants inside! It was just too much work for me, I probably did something wrong! Not soaking them will be totally fine, I honestly don’t know where I read it or if it’s really a thing, I just do it every year now! :) Peas and lettuce are good cold weather crops so they will do fine if they are started inside or outside! I can’t wait to see more of your garden!!

      • Im totally googling that now! Hopefully my plants make it to flowering lol

  • Wow!!! These are great tips! I don’t have enough room for a garden where I live now, but my brother in law loves gardening and plants a bunch of stuff at my niece’s school in some beds that they have there. If I ever have enough room for a garden, I’m definitely book marking these for future reference!

  • Chrissy

    Wow! I m impressed by all you grow! I do not have a green thumb at all but find it the whole processing intersting.

  • chall1018

    Oh how awesome! Great gardening tips. Confession – we have lived in our house since 2007 and have never really used our garden. We have a huge one that my in-laws have used many times. I think next spring I am going to take a try at it. I don’t have a green thumb, so we will see!

    • Start now! You totally don’t have to wait till spring! :) And I never thought I would have a green thumb but somehow I’m still doing it! :)

  • Loved this post! we had a raised garden bed at our last house and i’m so sad that our yard is full of tall, old trees that don’t let in any sun. i guess i can live vicariously though you!

    • We live in a newer(ish) neighborhood so we have like zero trees! You can come play in our garden anytime!