Fresh salsa, anyone!? (guest post by Kelly!)

Hi friends, my sweet friend Kelly is doing another guest post for me. 
I like her, and her art, and I get to see her this weekend! Hooray!
Enjoy her and be sweet to her. Also, my "garden" failed. So, I'm going to start over this weekend and hopefully Kel will help me out:) 

So Mary Mary quite contrary... how does your garden grow???

You're probably not named Mary or contrary in the least.
But how does your garden grow, sweet lady? 
This mama and her two babes (now 7 & 9), just planted our very first veggie garden.  I tend to lean towards the too-nonchalant camp, when it comes to things that grow from the ground.  If God doesn't dump rain on them, I usually forget to turn on the spout and fill my watering can.  I'm the type that thinks, "Hmm... I really should water those" and then before long, our poor flowers wither and hang their little heads.  And I hang mine until the next season rolls around and the artist in me attempts to surround our home (or at least the steps) with color.

But this year, my children were gung-ho for a garden.  A REAL GARDEN.  They wanted to plant one desperately!  I set my expectations low.  Really low.  And chose to give it a whirl. 

After buying a few $1 seed packets from the mega-store, gardening aisle along with a couple of inexpensive plastic "greenhouses," we carefully read the directions, and sowed the teeee-tiny seeds.

The next day we stuck our faces down at the little peat pellets, staring for signs of change... already!  I'm pretty sure I expected to see a tomato. Course not. :)  But we checked daily, as if one would sprout up any moment. And soon we had these!:

Hmmm, now what?  I asked local experts where I should plant, what type of soil we needed, what I should avoid and other questions that seemed almost dumb, but I asked anyhow.
Here's what they said:
  1. Always plant veggies in full sunlight. 
  2. Soil around "these parts" usually needs lime.  (statement applies to us folks living in rural SC, Pee Dee region... oh wait, that's just me) :) So actually it is very great to check your soil's PH level.  That sounded like a lot of work to me, so at least just ask someone what your region's soil is typically like.  Odds are, yours is similar!  Lime helps balance acidic soil.
  3. I also heard:  "Rabbits ate everything & we gave up." & "Deer jumped over our little fence and got at our garden."  Okay, so put a fence... a tall fence around your garden, where Peter Rabbit AND Bambi will stay out.  If you don't have any hungry creatures lurking about, then you're good to go!
  4. It's better to plant once it's 60 degrees at night.  (we planted a wee bit earlier than that)
That's all I know!  Apparently, the soil quality matters big time.  We were blessed with this soil:

I read that if it was dark brown, stuck together when you squished it into a ball and then crumbled kinda like a brownie when you poked at it... then voila!  Congrats, good soil.
If you have yucky soil, using compost is an excellent way to have rich wonderful soil.  We don't have a compost pile.  Yet!

Next we cleared out the spot for our garden. Out went the weeds!  In went our fence!
I'm just a single mama that got a hammer, wooden stakes, and some metal fencing.  My kiddos held the fence in place while I secured it with floral wire.  Our fence actually survived multiple severe thunderstorms with wind gusts up to 50 mph!  Good enough for me! 
We made a "door" by not attaching the left side to the stake but rather just tucking it tightly behind it. 

So... most of the seedlings didn't fair too well.  I guess they were too small to handle pelting raindrops and hail.  The banana pepper plants and one squash plant survived. I went to our local "Feed & Seed" store and got a few small jalepeno plants, zuchinni plants, and the kids were given tomato plants at school.  We just added corn seeds tonight!  (I purposely am not planting cucumbers or bell peppers, as a sweet friend of mine, gave me more than we could ever eat last summer, so I figure I'll trade my fare for hers.)  
Kids and I painted these cutsey signs, which we hot-glued to wooden skewers.

And long story short....  the Lord, who has provided plenty of sunshine and rain on our little garden, made this appear!  YIPPEEE!!!  Check out this incredibly cute kid and jalepeno!

Christian (that cute boy of mine) has been giving our family daily jalepeno updates.  Our tomatoes have flowers and the rest are still just green plants.

But I can't wait to make ultra fresh homemade salsa!!!

Okay, so what are your best vegetable gardening tips?  Share!
And for those of you that have never planted a thing, doesn't that jalepeno just make you want to try!? :)