Raised Garden Beds and Year-Round Gardening–How We Transformed a Tiny Yard Into a Suburban Farm

As you’ve seen on the blog, last year, we (and by we, I mean my husband) installed a series of raised garden beds and started adapting multi-season gardening approach. This week, a friend from church contacted me and wanted to know more about how we transformed a postage stamp-sized backyard into a thriving, year-round vegetable garden. While I’ve documented the garden a lot over the past year, here’s a more in-depth look at how we did it.

First, just so you know, the distance from the porch to the  fence is only about 12 feet. We spaced the beds so that the mower could fit between them and the fence on all sides. Our beds are just a basic construction, and you can find plenty of instructions online. Pioneer Woman had a good, beginner tutorial on her blog way back in the day.

Next, we calculated how much soil we would need, and I ordered it from Lowes for delivery. A professional nursery can help you with the calculations if need be.  We tried sourcing the soil locally, but my nursery wanted about two-times the price of what we could get at Lowes. This was an expensive initial investment, but well worth it. We started with good soil suitable for raised beds, but we also sometimes add compost or fertilizer when we switch out crops as needed. I know it’s tempting to go for the cheap topsoil to save money, but that’s a bad plan. By the time you add the stuff you would need to make it workable/grow-worthy, you might as well have invested in decent dirt. If you really want to guarantee success, you can test your soil and see what it needs for your plants. It’s simply a matter of how deep a mental dive you want to take. But long story short, raised beds and container gardens succeed or fail on the soil quality. That’s the shortcut you cannot take.

In garden adventures past, we stuck to summer crops, usually tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and melons, with an occasional experiment. Also, I have a kitchen herb garden with basil, rosemary, thyme, and sage. So, when transitioning to the multi-season model, we found that the LSU Ag Center had excellent information online about what would grow in our area and when to plant. So, I’d check out your state resources, especially university agricultural programs. Based on what we found, we planted cabbage, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and strawberries (note, we plant strawberries in the fall here for a spring harvest). We based our selections on space, and obviously what we would use. Overall, all of our winter crops were a success. While I have several gardening books that are “supposed” to be geared to our region, I’ve found that our state agriculture resources are much more realistic about what can grow here and when.

If you look my posts from last summer, you can see that our tiny garden fed the dang neighborhood. So, if you are thinking about starting your own raised bed garden, here are my quick takeaways:

  • Building the beds is fairly easy if you have minimal knowledge of a power drill and a level.
  • Soil is an investment, and is what will make or break your garden. Just like you have to cut your hair, you have to occasionally add stuff to your soil to keep it healthy.
  • Local garden clubs, agricultural centers, or state-based information sources are great avenues finding out what grows in your area and when to plant it. Mass-market books may be overly optimistic/uninformed for your region, which I learned when I saw guidelines for planting things which no farmer here would ever plant.
  • Year-round gardens require planning, but it can be done (obviously depending on your climate). By adapting to a year-round model, we are making the most of both the space and investment.
  • Even with a garden so small, we have excess. We can items religiously, share with neighbors, and freeze anything we didn’t can. You can make friends, fill your freezer/pantry, and take a tiny step toward more mindful eating. Bonus points for sharing with those in need.
  • Even if you can only start with a pot of tomatoes on apartment balcony, just go for it. We all need a little more green in our lives.

So, that’s the intro on the garden. I’m dreaming to tomato pies, tarts, and replenishing my stash of Roasted Tomato-Lime Salsa. I may hate summer in Louisiana, otherwise known as The Hellmouth, but it sure is dang tasty.

Bayou-Mama Tries Yoga and Gets Her Butt Handed to Her

So, as part of my whole spring reboot, I decided to finally check off one of those things I wanted to try but never got around to: a yoga basics class at my local studio. My experience with yoga extends only to that time I played WiiFit, despite the doctor telling me for years I needed to take it up to help my back be less of a a**hole sometimes. I bit the bullet and paid for a drop-in class, convinced that I would hit up Planet Fitness or the rowing machine afterward for a “real workout.”

So, I walked in to the class, which was full of senior citizens, sure that I was going to breeze through this basics gig and sign up for the more advanced classes on my way out.

I….WAS…WRONG. SO VERY WRONG.

By the time the hour was up, my muscles were shaking, I was sweating to an embarrassing degree, and my Fitbit told me I burned over 300 calories during what I assumed would be a glorified stretching hour. Meanwhile the experienced (and way more limber) senior citizens probably took bets on whether I would fall on my face before the class was over.

I survived…barely. Thoughts of my “real workout” went out the window as I mentally ate my humble pie and hobbled right out of there on wobbly legs. Glorified stretching, my butt. To add insult to injury, I had not had a pedicure in months, so my hobbit-like feet were on full display to further my humiliation.

However, as much as I was dyyyiiiinnnggg after the class, I keep going back. Hopefully, it will be another tool in the toolbox for rebuilding my fitness and health.

Something must be working though, because I convinced my husband to give it a try. He will be joining me tomorrow.

This should be interesting.

 

Greek Bacon-Chicken Wraps and BBQ Bacon-Chicken Wraps–Low SmartPoints and Weight Watchers’ Friendly

So, a couple months ago, I joined Weight Watchers to try and get my health pendulum to swing into a more positive direction. I had previously just been calorie counting in My Fitness Pal, but I was getting concerned that I was so focused on the calorie content of foods, I was missing the fundamentals of nutrition and turning to too many processed foods. I decided to give the new Freestyle program a try, and it’s slowly been changing the way I approach most meals (dinner still has to be a compromise for the husband and Heathens). What made me try it? Here is what is making it worth it for me…for now:

  • I used to just grab a ZonePerfect protein bar for breakfast. It only has 210 calories, so that’s good, right? Um, nope. WW rates this bar at a whopping 8 points, which is over 1/3 of the 23 points I’m supposed to eat a day. Not to mention, I’m starving by 10 and sugar-crashing. However, most fruits have 0 points, as do eggs, which means I could eat a larger portion of something that is better for me, and not a processed, added-sugar cocktail.
  • Lunch was typically a Lean Cuisine. Convenient, and low-calories, right? Um, no again. The Chicken Alfredo meal clocks in at 8 points (man, that protein bar is really looking evil now). The portion is tiny, and I’m starving by 2. However, I can now craft one of my wraps below, piling on chicken and spinach, and come away with a 3 point meal with fruit or veggies to fill in any cracks.
  • Dinner, like I said, is a compromise. I try to make a couple of healthier meals, and air-fry extra veggies for me on the less than ideal meals. However, just running the meal through WW to see points helps me adjust my portion back into sane levels.

Overall, I was skeptical that WW had any value for me, because the food equation seemed straightforward. However,  I fell into the trap of a calories-in-versus-calories-out approach to fitness. Now, I am more thoughtful about the underlying value of what my food choices have, and I can say that I can feel the difference. While I still have some processed ingredients, it’s way better than it was.

So, there’s the explanation as to why you will occasionally see me share a few meal ideas for WW peeps. Now, onto my 3 SP lunch this week. Just remember not to overfill if you want to be able to actually wrap them:

Greek Bacon-Chicken Wrap

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Ingredients

  • 1 Ole Extreme Wellness Spinach & Herbs Wrap
  • 2 TBS Hidden Valley Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing, divided)
  • Fresh baby spinach leaves (as much as you want)
  • Cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, shredded (as much as you want to try and fit in there)
  • 1 ounce fat free feta cheese
  • 1 tsp. real bacon bits

Procedure

    1. Place wrap on a plate and spread with 1 TBS of the ranch dressing. Add spinach and top with cooked chicken. Top chicken with the remaining ranch, then sprinkle with feta and bacon bits, wrap burrito style, and enjoy!

These wraps clock in at only 3 SP:

Additionally, I also make a BBQ variation that comes in at only 2 SP! Same concept, just swap the ranch for Stubbs BBQ sauce and the feta for fat free cheddar:

P.S. I cook chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on Sundays, shred them, and store them in the fridge, so I have the chicken ready on-hand.

**Disclaimer as usual. Weight Watchers doesn’t know me, my blog is not monetized or sponsored, and nobody gives me free crap or anything like that. Oprah is cool, but she doesn’t know me either. I just want to pass along stuff I like someone might like too**