Category Archives: I'll Grow It Myself!

Growing Your Own Fresh Veggies

As a child, I remember walking through grandmother’s garden.  The whole thing was huge and ringed with marigolds to keep the bugs and rabbits out (not sure if that trick works or not).  The rows were neat and weed free and everything that the family would eat during the winter was growing there.  In my mother’s slightly smaller garden, I learned how to keep the rows weed free with a hoe and a lot of hard work in the hot summer sun.  As an adult, I live on a lot in the city where there is not enough space for a huge garden.   However, I still want to grow some of my own food.  Let’s be honest, it just tastes better than the produce you buy at the store.  I am going to give you some tips on how to grow your own veggies in a small space. 

Choose a good location for your garden.  This should be an area with 6-8 hours of sun light.  To prepare the soil remove the grass or sod growing in that area.  You can place this in your compost pile to break down for use in your garden next year.  Dig up the soil with a garden fork or tiller and add 2” of organic matter or compost.  Fluff the soil again until it is loose and crumbly.  Your “bed” is now ready.

When deciding which plants to grow you have two choices, either start them from seed or let someone else do the work and start with a small plant.  If you’re starting with a small plant, it is important to purchase your plants from a local nursery that you trust.  Though the box stores might have cheaper product you can never tell what diseases they might be selling as well. www.extension.org/…/Plant_Disease_Threatens_Tomatoes_and_Potatoes

Great plants for beginners would be tomatoes, bush beans, peppers, and cucumbers.  You can grow early spring crops of leaf lettuce and peas. 

Plant at least 2 but no more than 3 plants of every plant; unless you have a huge family or plan on canning or freezing the excess.  Plant the plants with enough space to grow, 2 to 3’ spacing for tomatoes.  3’ space for cucumber etc.  I let my cucumber vine trail through the tomatoes to keep the weeds down.  After planting, you should water carefully and soak the soil at least 1” deep.  I place newspaper in between the rows and cover them with grass clippings to reduce the weed growth .  After all, who has time to weed a garden these days?  This will break down over time and you can till the organic matter back into the garden in the spring.

Keep an eye out for insects and disease.  If you remove the insect by hand, you can reduce the need for chemical control.  If you have to spray you should use an organic product.   http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/organicag/supplpm.html

It is always good to remember that any chemical product will leave a residue which you will then consume, not a good thing if you want to live a long life.  For fertilizer you have several organic options.  Cow or poultry manure can be applied to the soil and worked in before planting or you can use topdressing of fish emulsion or bone meal. 

With these tips you can grow enough food for fresh salsa, BLT’s minus the B of course, or a cucumber salad in a space as small as 10’x10’.  Pick and enjoy!

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Fixing Your Own Grub

Ever feel overwhelmed after collecting your bountiful harvest of veggies that you’re just not sure what to do with them?   My garden hasn’t even started to produce and I’m already worried about how I’m going to use the 20 plugs of peppers I’m pampering.  So I’ve begged for help from the Veggie Chef himself, Sam Auen.

Chef Sam Auen’s love for cooking from the garden started early in life.  Born in Denison, Iowa and raised with Julia Childs, Jaques Pepin, and Jeff Smith on the television, a backyard garden, and fresh produce from his grandparents’ farm, he saw the possibilities of fresh cuisine were far beyond that of the growing processed food trends of the 80’s.

Cooking for family and friends as a child on into his teen years Sam discovered a true passion for food which landed him a job cooking for a Korean-owned restaurant at the age of 17.  Six months after high school, the travel bug struck and Mr. Auen joined the U.S. Army, which brought him to South Carolina, Washington D.C, and Tenessee among many other places.

After living in the South and in the Philadelphia area and sampling food from all corners of American Cuisine, Sam settled back in his native Iowa in 2002 and adopted a strict-vegetarian diet.  With this new diet came an exciting time of cooking re-discovery which prompted a return to the professional cooking world.  He has brought his Vegetarian flair to such diverse Downtown Des Moines kitchens as Beggar’s Banquet, Cafe Di Scala, Centro, Gateway Market Cafe, and Zen Sushi.

With eight years of Vegetarian and Vegan cooking under his belt, Chef Sam will use his experience starting next week to show you new and possibly exciting ways to prepare the vegetables harvested from your personal garden.

In the meantime, get that garden growing!

Katie Ketelsen

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Spread the Garden Love

An efficient way of gardening is to plant perennials and ornamental grasses that can be divided and spread throughout your garden.  This works really well if you’re on a limited budget and have a little patience.  Spring is the best time to tackle this project and it’s really easy….a 6 year old could do it!

You can either completely dig up the plant to divide above ground and replant….

Or stick your shovel down at the center of the plant and pop out the size of plant you’d like to transplant.  Just make sure to fill the hole back in.

Generally it doesn’t matter much where you divide the plant, how careful you are when you divide or how large you make the new plant.  Once the perennial has been divided and planted, give it a good drink of water.

Here are some examples of perennials that can be divided:

1.  Ornamental Grasses 2. Perennial Salvia 3. Monarda 4. Daylily 5. Hosta 6. Sedum


7. Coneflowers 8. Black Eyed Susans 9. Irises 10. Threadleaf Coreopsis 11. Daisy 12. Bergenia


13.  Ferns 14. Baptisia 15. Asiatic Lilies 16. Coralbells 17. Peonies

Happy Planting!

Katie Ketelsen

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I thought it was cool

So last year I was privy to a purchasing decision.  I thought it was a good one..so did the person asking my opinion.  Yet NONE of you purchased one of these cone-shaped, mossy baskets last year…or maybe one of you did.

What you can’t tell from this picture is that the dark spiral on the basket is actually green (I love the color green) and the shape of the basket was different.  I’m sure now you may find these everywhere, but I still contend they would look nice in your garden and if none of you take me on my word..then I guess I’ll have to take em all home..and have the coolest garden on the block.

Try one.  I dare ya.

Happy Planting!

Katie Ketelsen

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Rotate~Water~Rotate~Water

So…how’s your victory gardening coming along?  Mine surprisingly~very easy.  I’ve only watered once since I sowed the seeds and have rotated the tray probably every 4th day or so.  Rotation is important to balance the stalk from reaching for the sun.  And from this view you can see clearly the 2 sprouts per soil pack I stuck in based purely on the lack of patience I had.  We’ll see if this will prove a wise decision….or not.

If you’re still struggling to figure out which seeds to sow…whether to sow inside or wait for the frost to disappear, don’t fret.  Next week I’m going shopping with Hannah Inman with KDC Builders and we’ll be digesting the overwhelming decisions surrounding seed selection.

Til then…Happy Planting!

Author: Katie Ketelsen

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I see a sprout!

Just wanted to share with you all that I saw a sprout yesterday….several sprouts in fact, and I’m barely 14 days into it. Getting excited!

What do your seedlings look like?  Did I start too early with  my peppers?  Still got enough snow here to last us till July!

Author: Katie Ketelsen

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I hate tedious work.

My cabin fever was overwhelming and the smell of soil was too appealing, so I have begun my Victory Garden.  Just in case I didn’t tell you….I found some of the Burpee seeds I’d been eying online, marked 40% off at a box store here in town.  I also managed to grab a 72 soil pellet pack for under $6 (online $8-10).  Needless to say, I was VERY excited with my find.  And alas…. that’s where my frustration began.

I hate….HATE with a passion tedious work.  It drives me crazy bonkers.  Makes me want to scream!  And distributing those dainty little seeds, into their respecting soil pods was TEDIOUS!  I only plugged in the peppers (as it’s too early for the others), however, when the time comes, I’m contemplating hiring my husband to do the sowing.  He’s gotta earn his keep around here anyway.

Soil pellets need to be saturated before setting the seed.

Pellets should expand approximately 1-2″ tall with the soil loose.  (weird sidenote: I love the smell of soil.  Something about it makes me feel good.  If someone knows of a “soil perfume” drop me a line)

It’s begun….tedious tedious tedious!  Keeping my hands steady enough to drop the seeds on the pellet, and NOT along side the pellet where my fat fingers could not rescue a seed=TEDIOUS

Call it frugal or that sowing these seeds was getting the best of me, but I packed 2 seeds in each pod.  In less than 10 minutes, I had had enough.  I’m fairly certain this is one of those moments, that I previously disclosed may happen, where I make up my own rules.  Two to three seeds in one soil pod is just fine guys!

Now, if I was really pinching my pennies, and had a little more patience in me, I would have possibly researched further the many ways I could have re-purposed some of the crap lying around my house.  So take it from the amateur and try following one or more of these frugal methods to starting seeds, I think I’ll be smarter on my next trial.

Happy Planting!

Author: Katie Ketelsen

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