May 5, 2014

How To Garden: Soil and Garden Type

This week we’re taking a slight detour to somewhere different: the great outdoors! Now, if you’re not a nature-girl or woodsy-kinda-guy, no worries. There is something for everyone in this series, mostly because caring for God’s creation (the earth and ourselves) is a way to honor and glorify Him.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” And 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 asks, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

So this week, I’d like us to take learn the basics of gardening … look at how working the land to bring forth a harvest and nourish our bodies lives out the Scriptures above. Even if you don’t garden, I hope you’ll join us! 

Before we start, I’d like to give you a little background. Every summer, I had the great joy of spending time in Downeast Maine with my grandparents. We dug the ground and sunk our fingers in the soil of their gardens (veggie and flower). The seeds were planted in my heart then. My love for gardening grew as I helped my dad with his raised beds in our family’s back yard and planted cosmos and gladiolas with my mom as a kid. As I grew, so did my knowledge and skill. I tinkered with houseplants, flowers and container gardening.

Now, my husband and I have turned our backyard into an organic garden with a mix of vegetables, fruit trees and bushes and flowers.

Despite my 30+ years experience in gardening, I’ll preface this series by saying there are many different ways to garden. We have figured out what works for us with our soil, amount of sunlight, zone, pollinators, dietary habits, time, and all the other factors you have to, well, factor in! So I encourage you to do the same. That said, the way we do things isn’t necessarily the best or only way. It’s the way that works for us (and many of the experts we go to for advice, from online experts like John Kohler to the 74 year old farmer to our favorite local garden center guy, Clint!)


To begin, there are a few things to consider:

1. Why do you want to garden? Gardening takes time and energy, so having a passion of one kind or another for it can help sustain you when it’s hot and buggy outside, and you’re done for the day but you still have to harvest.  Start out small and add each season as you become more comfortable with everything.

Joshua and I garden for several reasons. First, we feel the Lord gave us the land to work so it’ll produce food for us. So we honor God and the gift of the earth by gardening. Second, it’s so good for us to eat foods we know are GMO- and pesticide-free and fresh. Third, savings, savings, savings! Fourth, I love it!

“The one who works his land will have plenty of food, but whoever chases fantasies lacks sense.” ~Proverbs 12:11


2. Study your yard. Observe the pattern of the sun and how much sunlight you get per day. Most veggies and flowers need ‘full sun’ or 6-8 hours/day. Remember this will be different in the summer and winter, so plan accordingly. Notice bug activity in your yard. You’ll want pollinators (bumble bees and butterflies) and some beneficial bugs too like ladybugs and spiders (ugh! I do not like spiders, but they are good for the garden). Watch to see if you have any rain water that pools in your yard and where the natural drainage occurs. If you have puddles, you’ll need to build that land up if growing in the ground.

3. Location, Location, Location. Pick a location, your crops, and how many you’re going to plant. Then create a ‘map’ for where you’ll plant each crop. (we’ll cover companion gardening in another post to help you decide on this). Try to plant rows in a north-south orientation to take best advantage of morning and afternoon sun. Plant tall plants farthest north {corn, beans, tomatoes}, medium height plants in the middle {cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, squash, etc.} and short plants to the south {radishes, carrots, beets, lettuce, onions, etc.}. This will help your shorter plants NOT be shadowed by your taller plants. But you’ll need to take in to account  your own personal sunlight in your yard, as well as drainage. Do what makes most sense for you.


The next step: Determining what kind of garden is right for YOU!
Quick! When you hear the word garden, what image comes to mind? A wood pallet? 5-gallon bucket? Rain gutter? OR maybe a 500-acre farm? A 4×4 box?

There are as many ways to garden as there are varieties of veggies! What’s important is to remember: you are NOT limited by your space! And remember that many things can grow up, using things like trellis and cages, so take advantage of limited horizontal square feet. Here are a few different kinds of gardens you can consider to decide what suits the factors mentioned above (time, space, sun, etc.). When I lived in a townhome, I had an 8×8 concrete patio as my ‘backyard.’ I assembled a 4×4 wooden raised bed and had 2 laundry baskets, 3 small pots, and 2 long containers. It was hard to take my trash out without tripping, but well worth the fresh fruits and veggies!


1. Container Garden: Rev up your creative juices and go to town! You can use buckets, clay pots, wooden pallets, a laundry basket … the sky is the limit. For best success: create a great drainage system by poking holes in the bottom of your container and giving water ample room to run out (we don’t want to leave roots sitting in stagnant water pooled at the bottom of your container. This will encourage the roots to rot.) Make sure your plants are receiving adequate sunlight based on their individual needs. Be mindful of using pre-treated wood, or other materials that could leach harmful toxins into your soil and get soaked up by the roots of your plants.

BENEFITS: If space if limited, you can get a lot of produce in many pots on a small patio, window box, lined up against your house or anywhere space is limited. If sunlight is limited, you can move your pots around to receive what they need. When weather is cold, you can bring your pots indoors.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Gardening gloves (if desired). A small spade. Containers and drainage trays or risers.

Pallet Patio Garden

  2. Raised Bed Garden: Here’s another chance to be creative and decide on any length or shape bed. Raised beds are built on the ground, or put on a table, cinder blocks, or any type of structure above ground. If your soil will be on top of the ground, you may want to till the existing soil, but it will be covered with several inches of your own mix of soil. Tilling the soil in the ground gives the roots a softer place to burrow.  You can make your frame of wood, rocks, blocks or any other materials fit to use in your garden. Be mindful of using pre-treated wood, or other materials that could leach harmful toxins into your soil and get soaked up by the roots of your plants.

BENEFITS: Raised beds reduce the amount of weeds (major bonus!). If native soil is of poor quality, you can basically start with a fresh slate in a raised bed by mixing your own soil. Depending on the height of the bed, you save your back by not having to lean over. And you also save the roots of the plant, by not walking on them as you would in a traditional row-by-row garden. Building barriers around raised beds is fairly easy as well. Additionally, when planted in square-foot or hexagonal-style patterns, more produce can be grown. One last benefit: if you have deer, rabbit, chipmunks or other critters who partake of your harvest, it’s easy to build a frame around your raised bed and attach either bird netting or chicken wire to deter the animals.

SIDE-NOTE: You may want to add chicken wire to the bottom of your bed to prevent little voles/moles from burrowing through from underground.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Gardening gloves. Shovel or tiller (especially if your soil is hard). Materials to build your raised bed. And materials to build any animal/critter barriers if desired.


3. In-Ground Garden: Good, healthy native soil makes for a great garden sown directly in the ground. This method of gardening requires the least amount of extra materials needed.

BENEFITS:  There is no real setup or building required, just put your seeds in the soil. Your harvest will give you a large yield, based on how much you plant. It is easy to walk around your plants.

MATERIALS NEEDED: Gardening gloves. Shovel or tiller. Materials to build any animal/critter barriers if desired.

(image source unfound)

Now that you’ve decided what kind of garden you’re going to have, let’s talk SOIL!

It’s important to my husband and me to grow organic produce and this starts from the ground up. Roots will soak up whatever is in your soil. So healthy soil= healthy plants! There’s an old saying, “10 cent plant, 10 dollar pot.”  In other words, your soil is the most important part of your garden and it is worth investing in quality soil.

When FIRST starting your garden, this is a good recipe to use as a foundation. Once you have this mixture established for your first harvest, you won’t need to continue adding each element every time you re-plant. Instead, when you pull up last season’s plants and put new seeds/seedlings in the ground, just fill your old hole with compost.



We use a mix of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 compost (try to use different types of compost that suit your dietary habits: cow, chicken, mushroom and/or homemade).

Additionally, we added two other components to increase nutritional value in our soil. Follow the instructions on the back of the bags to determine how much you’ll need based on the size of your garden.

1. Rock Dust
2. Worm castings (these are often found within organic fertilizers, but you can also buy them individually).

Now we acknowledge that this soil recipe is rather tedious to mix on your own, and it can be hard to transport to your house if you don’t have a truck and need more than just a few bags. Two things to help remedy that:
1. Most local garden centers (as in locally owned…yay!) will have a mix that is for vegetable gardens. It’s not their regular topsoil, but a step above geared specifically for vegetables and is organic.
2. Many local garden centers will deliver truckloads for you, though there usually is a delivery fee. This would be worth it to me for a one-time fee and to NOT use the bagged stuff found at big box stores (You know who I’m talking about… they do NOT give ‘miracle’ results (hint-hint). Trust me, I’ve used it in the past and did NOT get the results I’m getting now with this organic mix.)

And, steering clear of pesticides helps keep our bodies healthy!

That’s all for now folks! Stay tuned tomorrow as we talk about Companion Planting and Pollinators. 


May 1, 2014

National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer.

Let’s join together in praising God’s Name, giving Him thanks for who He is & all He does, seeking His will, repenting & asking for forgiveness, forgiving others, and asking the Lord for protection from the evil one.

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” ~Romans 15:6

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And if you’re new to praying or just don’t feel comfortable with it (especially in a group setting and/or out loud), that’s okay. God yearns to hear from you, especially if you haven’t talked to Him in a while. (ref Luke 18:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6, Matthew 26:41)

Here are a few recommendations to help ease you into it:

1. Pray to God as if He’s your father or grandpa, a dear & sincere loved one or friend. He already knows what your mind & heart have to say, so open up to Him. (ref Luke 16:15, Jeremiah 17:10, Psalm 44:21, Acts 15:18)


Use the examples in Scripture where Jesus specifically taught us how to pray or where He prayed to God the Father. I believe the two most prominent of these are the “Lord’s Prayer” in His famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-13), and His last documented prayer before His death in John 17 (one of my favorite parts in all of Scripture).


3. Know that you have help from the Holy Spirit. Here are Paul’s inspired words regarding this,

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.” (Romans 26-30 NLT)



If none of these prove helpful, that’s okay too. Don’t be shy to ask a true follower of Jesus to pray for you. Most Christians will be more than happy, if not excited and joyful, to do so and it can help to have someone guide us. And I pray that God will then bless you with the fruit of the Spirit as you seek Him.


“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.”
(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

{A big thank you to my husband Joshua for his help in crafting this thoughtful post!}


April 20, 2014

Holy Week: Sunday, Easter Sunday!

Happy Easter! I pray that on this day everyone, everywhere, may somehow or in some way understand the truth and beauty of the Good News of Jesus the Christ just a little bit better then they did yesterday, particularly in how it can radically change us and fill that gaping void within that only God can fill. Amen.

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“He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” (Matthew 28:6 NLT, emphasis added)

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT, emphasis added)


“And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (Romans 6:4 NLT, emphasis added)

“[God says] no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow” (Isaiah 1:18 LB, emphasis added)

Check out this awesome video… 


April 19, 2014

Holy Week: Saturday

Today, in 33 A.D. would have been a dreadfully dark day. Surely the death of their King, Teacher, and Friend left the disciples devoid of hope. Scripture is plainly silent on the actions of Jesus’ friends, except for the women. Let’s take a look at what they did today:

“Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” (Luke 23:56)

Some 2000 years later, we know that when the women go to anoint Jesus’ body, they find an empty tomb and a risen Christ. And this is cause to celebrate and sing. We often start Holy Week off with shouts of “Hosanna!” and wrap it up to the rise and fall of “Hallelujah” (think Handel’s “Messiah”).

As we prepare our hearts to worship our risen Lord, let’s take a look at what we’re really singing …. and why.

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word that combines ‘hallel‘ and ‘Yah‘.

Hallel is an exuberant, joyous expression of praise.
Yah is from the word YHWH, which is Yahweh or Jehovah.
Put together, Hallelujah means to exude praise to God. (It’s Greek counterpart is ‘Alleluia.’)

So, on this day before Easter when the world is dark and dim, we look to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our hearts are full of praise. Because He is a victor, not a victim, eternal life with God is our hope. And we’ll one day get to sing ‘Hallelujah’ face-to-face with our reigning King as His Bride. Look at John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 19 (emphasis added) for a beautiful example:

rev sm

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”  And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”

The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

For the Lord our God
 the Almighty reigns.

For additional reading, check out Where Did Jesus Go on Saturday? on the Resurgence website.

Tomorrow is THE greatest, most powerful day in all of history! I hope you’re as excited and in awe of His Majesty as I am. See you back here tomorrow friends.