Our Shopping Trips

Gardening Update: Switched to Square Foot and Things I Learned

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by Cassie


Exactly 2 months to today’s date, we gave you an update on our garden… well more specifically at that time, it was our seedlings in the house that were just about ready to be transferred to the outside!

We hardened off the seedlings and was ready to plant in our garden.

But then something happened that abruptly caused us to make a major garden switch!

Thanks to my friend and faithful reader here on our site, Jolee, she really, really encouraged me to look into square foot gardening after the update a couple of months ago.

At first I was like -”no way, we want to grow so much that it won’t work for us!”

Well, I also seem to forget each year just how much work and effort it is to run a garden in our yard with weeds (trying to keep on top of them without pesticides) and the terrible, I mean totally awful, soil we have in our area! It is a lot of work for veggies that barely grow as they can’t move through the soil very well with it being so awful… but we have yielded some produce with a lot of effort.

So, my friend told me that we can fit A LOT of food in square foot gardens.  I decided to check into it.  I WAS SO GLAD I DID!

In fact, I was out working to lay down weed barrier, bark and my neighbor saw and came out and we chatted, to only find out that she had the official book and let us borrow it!

Well, this was a huge blessing.  We followed the plan exactly and we were both surprised about how easy it was! The cost was about $15 – $20 to make the boxes with new wood or nearly free with wood that was available.

We decided just to start with new wood because we have a limited supply of tools in our home.  And for the free wood, we would need a table saw, which we did not have…. we could have borrowed one from someone I am sure, but we were now a week behind in getting our gardens in since making changes to the plan, so we needed to be quick!

Well, we literally got the book on a Friday night, read it and planned for our “date night in” that night, and on Saturday morning, Alex went to Home Depot (because you can cut the wood to exact sizes with their table saw for free!), got the supplies, built 4 boxes and had them ready to go by noon! We then followed the formula for te soil – 1/3 compost, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 soil and filled our boxes and transplanted all in one day!

So here’s some things I learned

1. This is our corn that was not transplanted, but started from seed 1 month ago.  I learned that you cannot transplant corn seedlings.  They are fast growing, and they will not make it if transplanted….. as demonstrated by my attempt! The Square Foot Gardening Book pointed out this fact that I did not know before!

But now my corn is growing like CRAZY!


You can grow 4 stalks in one sq. foot and so we wanted a lot and used 8 squares, which means that we have 32 stalks growing.  I also learned that I may be able to plant another crop of corn after harvesting these.

2. I was able to transplant some of my beans and peas, but I had way more room in those sq. feet to start a lot more from seeds right in the box!

So I did!

Aren’t they beautiful?

We will need to build a trellis in the back (which is always the north side!) and plant the taller plants in the back (N.) in each garden.  These will soon be climbing up a trellis that is posted in the back of the box (combining vertical and sq. foot gardening).

Here’s a close-up of the peas (9 in each foot for 18 total).


Here’s the green beans and they are the same as the peas – 2 feet with 9 in each for 18 total. They are both on the same back side as they have about equal growing and vertical space needed!


So I basically learned that it isn’t necessary to start beans and peas in the house before the season as they are fast growing (I should be able to do a late season pea crop too) and the transplanted ones vs. the ones planted in the box are about equal size as they thrive outside much better!  So I will wait on these next year until it is time to plant!

3. Starting broccoli and cauliflower in the house is necessary!


Here’s a close up of one of the broccoli plants! It is so gorgeous! What is interesting is that we planted the seedlings in the house at the same time for both the broccoli and cauliflower and they are all growing at much different paces… which I am happy about so I can harvest both over a few weeks and not all on the same day! But I don’t know why some are naturally much more mature than others.  In the future, I think I will start the seedlings several days apart.  The only bad part about broccoli and cauliflower is that they take 1 sq. foot per plant.  Now this wouldn’t be much of a problem if they were like squash growing many on one, but I am pretty sure we will only get 1 per plant??

4. Starting peppers in the house was necessary and they need to be done earliest of all!


In fact, I am not sure if my seedlings are going to make it before the frost season….. they are very slow growing.  I transplanted 3 of them and they are growing, but at a snails pace.  When I went to buy my tomato plants (the plan to buy these all along) I found a purple bell pepper plant for $1.  I decided to get this one now and have peppers soon since they others were going to be much later….. if they make it! I will need to start these sooner in the house next year!

5. I had a hard time transplanting the plants where there are 16 in each sq. foot.   The below picture shows radish transplants as well as radishes from seed – they both look about equal in growth! It actually looks like we will be able to harvest the first batch in a week or two! radishes-july3-sm

Because I went into this not planning to do sq. foot gardens, transplanting shouldn’t have been much of a problem….. well, when you are trying to transplant 16 of something in a 1 foot space, things get squished and they don’t like it.  I transplanted my carrots, radishes, beets and green onions…. all of which you can plant 16 in each sq. foot (which is a lot!) and some made it, but it was seriously too tight of a space to transplant.  I ended up re-planting seeds for the ones that just seemed so weak and sad.  The seedlings are now stronger and healthier than the transplants.

So….. I will again wait on these and plant seeds in the ground when it is time! Seedlings that grow inside and then need to be planted that tight probably will not make it or be very happy!

6. One of the best transplanting was the squashes and cucumbers….. unless they get broke!


My squash plants (yellow, zucchini and spaghetti) transplanted well, they were already quite mature and hanging over a bit! Well, life happens and the stems of many of them we crushed against the side of the box by kids, life,etc. cutting off nutrition to the plant.  I tried to “cut” off down below the squished part of the stem, but they just didn’t seem to be re-growing.  So the ones that got broke, I just decided to plant the seeds again! And this is a week old squash plant! According to the growing cycle, these should be fine, although started later in the season, to be harvested before our first fall frost. They are also 1 per sq. foot and will grow up a trellis as well when they get big enough to climb!

And then I did start roma tomatoes in the house and they are doing very well after transplanting! I did buy tomato plants from the garden store (only $2 per mature plant …. we will be harvesting tomatoes starting in the next week or two!) and they are all doing well…. despite some very violent wind storms in our area! They are the tallest plants at this point and I am surprised the wind hasn’t ripped them out of the box.  If anything, they are probably stronger!

Finally, I didn’t get pictures this time ( I will for the next update), but we planted the following fruits too:

  • 1 Johnathan Apple Tree (self-pollinating) 
  • 1 Red Delicious Apple Tree (pollinated by another apple tree – like the one above)
  • 1 Bartlett Pear Tree (self-pollinating)
  • 1 Plum Tree (we already had one mature, fruit producing plum tree and this will pollinate the plum tree)
  • 1 Elbert Peach Tree (which should be pollinated by the plum tree according to the gardener at the nursery!)

We also transplanted 7 strawberry starts from our neighbors patch.  She needed them thinned out and so we gladly did that for her! They seem to be in a bit of shock, but hoping they will start producing next year!

Finally, we have planted 2 Goji berry bushes, 1 golden raspberry (we want more red raspberries, but it’s too late now this year!) and 1 green grape vine.  Plus, we cannot grow blueberries in our soil….. but I am trying a container blueberry bush on the back patio! I don’t know if it will work, but the bush I bought was a complete kit intended for container growing in areas that have the wrong soil.

Since most fruits take a couple of years or more to bear fruit, I can’t say if they are doing well yet, but they look good – so I am hopeful! Our current plum tree that is about 8-years old grows tons of plums each year and does well…. so I am hopeful!

This is by far the biggest and most we have planted in one year.  We have been working hard to try and have a self-sustaining produce market in our backyard!

AND… I will tell you….. I LOVE the square foot gardens.  There are really no weeds, the food seems to be very happy so far and it is very easy to maintain! I can’t wait to start digging into our food!

Next year, I am going to add 3 more sq. foot garden boxes, I am also planning to finish planting fruit (from purchased plants/trees) like an apricot and cherry tree and more grapes and raspberries. I also want to grow blue potatoes and sweet potatoes in a tire container! More about all of this in the future! But my dream is too have this totally fruitful and plentiful backyard that will supply us with future food and seeds galore! I hope I can really work on my green thumb as it is far from green…. but doing what I can!

This is the EXACT book we used and seriously we read and researched on a Friday night and was done by Saturday afternoon building the boxes ourselves!

How is your garden going?


Alex & Cassie

Online Children’s Thrift Store Additional 40% off Thrift Prices Plus Free $10 to Spend

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie

We have talked about ThredUp multiple times and shared things we have bought before.  Well, we thought we would mention it again today because they had their Semi-Annual Sale that started today and runs through June


AND… since the prices are already reflected with the additional 40% off online thrift store prices, it also means that you can use a FREE $10 to spend on top of that!

What is ThredUp?  It is an online clothing store filled with gently used children’s clothing.  We’ve ordered from them 3 times and each time has been a very good experience.

They also now have women’s clothing! I haven’t even looked to see what they have, but noted that they now have this too!

Anyway, if you have been wanting to try anything from ThredUp (the inventory is different every time as it is gently used and so it is based on what they received!) then right now might be the time with the extra 40% off thrift prices and the $10 off that I am going to tell you about too!

First, I will show you a couple of pictures of what we have bought before, but you can read about it too:

Boy’s church clothes (Details HERE):

And…  here’s one of the dresses we bought our daughter, we bought her quite a bit for a good price and you can see those details HERE.


They also want you to give them a try by giving you a FREE $10 to spend on their site for trying them out! This is FANTASTIC news, especially if you are a family of 7 with 5 little kids like us who go through clothing so quickly (which is how we got hooked!)! This free $10 will make for some free clothing.  It also will help to cover shipping, so if you find a lower priced item around $3-$4, you can walk away with paying nothing for a gently used high quality clothing item.

Registration is easy and FREE. It is important that you verify your registration by checking your email immediately after and clicking on the link to verify your FREE membership and to get your free $10 credit to spend to and enjoy the freebies or really, really low clothing deals you can get!

Head to ThredUp HERE and register for a FREE $10 credit

We have also mentioned ThredUp as a tip to save that was featured in the July 2012 issue of ALL YOU magazine (pictured at the top)!

You can also “make money” with ThredUp by selling them your gently used children’s and women’s clothing.  I will be doing this for the first time this week and will let you know about my steps and experience on making money this way!  You can get store credit or cash out via PayPal.  I am excited to try this as I have some great clothing to sell to them :)

Also, you can share your referral link with your friends via email, Facebook, etc. and you will both be rewarded with credits! Just click on the “My Account” tab and then click on share to send your friends a $10 credit and get some credit yourself for doing so!


Alex & Cassie

Bountiful Baskets Results This Week: Where’s the Fruit?

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by Cassie


A couple of times a month, we’ve been sharing our checkout and order for our Organic Produce Bountiful Basket.  But we haven’t shared we we actually received (as it is a mystery when you order) for a while.  Well, I had some time this morning after Alex grabbed our basket that I thought I would share real quick!

So this week, we spent $25 for all this organic produce.


Our youngest son came down from bed and saw the box before I unloaded it and wanted a “banana.”  We very often get organic bananas and so he just knows that a Saturday morning routine is a nice fresh banana! He had to wait for me to unload and snap a couple pictures :) However, no bananas!

Well, this week was odd.  Bountiful Baskets claims that their baskets are 50% fruit and 50% veggies.  And that has pretty much been the case for the past few years we have gotten them.

Well today, it was like 85% veggie and 15% fruit.  Out of all of this, we only got 2 mangoes and a small pineapple.  So I guess I need to go get bananas at the very least.  However, it is berry season – one of our favorite produce seasons, and I was almost sure we would get some organic berries in our basket but since we didn’t I can get strawberries and more for a little less this time of year!

Even though there were no bananas, we did get some great stuff this week:


  • Organic Radish Bunch
  • Organic Romaine Hearts
  • Organic Bunch Kale
  • 2 Organic Orange Pepper
  • Organic Bunch Broccoli
  • Organic Bunch Cauliflower
  • 3 lbs. of Organic Yams
  • 3 lbs. of Organic Red Onions
  • 2 Organic Mangoes
  • 1 Small Organic Pineapple

Did you get one this week?  If so, what did you get? 

If you would like more information on the Bountiful Baskets produce co-op, be sure to check out this post HERE.

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Alex & Cassie

We Finally Have a Goodwill and Here’s a Treasure I Found In My First Visit

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by Cassie


We finally have a Goodwill relatively close to us! For years, they seemed to be everywhere except where we have lived.  Many of my friends across the country have shopped there for their families.

I finally got to visit one (I do visit a lot of other thrift stores in the area too) for the first time a few weeks ago.  I purposefully went looking for shorts for our kids.  We seemed to have a shortage and I just wanted to find cheap ones for outdoor playing and for the summer.

I honestly have struggled finding any great selection at thrift stores as the kids clothes are so picked through and hard to find anything good, I am not sure if this is just a problem in our area, or if that is the case everywhere! So it is always nice to have another thrift store in the area to help with more selection.

In the end, I did find a couple of pairs of shorts for some of our kids.  I wasn’t horribly impressed with the prices, but they were still much cheaper than buying them even new at Walmart.  Their prices were actually compared to ThredUp, and I love ThredUp as it is all gently used high quality clothing and it is easy to find the style, size that I want and I know it is good quality.

I wasn’t even going to bother looking for things for myself, mostly because I had tired kids that probably had not much time in them left before melt down and watching mommy sift through clothing was probably going to bring a fast roaring melt down.

But….. we passed the shoes.  I have to admit, I have a shoe fetish and it has absolutely drove Alex nuts in the 14 years we have been married.  I have gotten significantly better since our journey to become debt-free because there was no room to buy extra shoes.  since becoming debt-free, we’ve had 5 kids and now I am up to my ears in buying shoes for all 7 people in my family. So it practically feeds my obsession now when I buy 7 pairs, they’re just not all for me anymore :)

Well, as we passed the shoes, I instantly spotted a pair of boots which were exactly like what I had been wanting! I rushed over to them and saw that they looked practically new! I am not sure if they were ever worn as they had the original tags on them!

I was so excited because they were $9.99!  I haven’t been able to find anything close to this price.

I love these boots and they go many places with me :) Here’s pictures of my boots walkin’ around the zoo!


They are very nice and I love them and I love that I got a good deal on them!

boots-bird-show-sm Here we are at the bird show… kids are in the front row and that is my sweet Miracle Baby Josiah (if you haven’t read his story yet, please do so… he will be 2-years old soon!). He is sitting next to his brother who is wearing a shirt from ThredUp online kids thrift store and a pair of shorts that I bought at Goodwill!

Since this was my first time to a Goodwill, this has been the most exciting find there for me so far ;)

What is the best treasure you have found at a thrift store? 

Have you been to a Goodwill and how does it compare to other thrift stores you have been to?


Alex & Cassie

Gardening Update: Our Homemade Newspaper Pots and More

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by Cassie


Back in March, we shared about our 324 seedlings that we planted indoors.  We then shared an update in April and so now we are sharing our May (before planting in the ground) update!

These beautiful flowers and vegetables are growing and growing! We had to transfer them to new pots so that they had more room to grow.  We used old cottage cheese/yogurt containers (the big 32 oz. sizes) old flower pots and our own homemade biodegradable newspaper pots, all sitting on flats of cardboard from previous cans and food.


We do still have these 4 original seed starting trays that we haven’t transferred yet.  Three trays are the flowers and one in the top left is the broccoli, cauliflower and radish.  They will need to be transplanted soon, but they still seem to be okay!


Our tray of carrots, peppers and green onions are still in the original planting tray and I think they may be okay until we plant in the ground in a few weeks.

But as you can see, the rest have been moved to new pots.  It has been a lot of work to find and fit the fast growing ones into new pots and find space for them on the table.


This is the very top of the shelf with the roma tomatoes, green beans, peas (with the straw trellis!) and corn.  They are not under the light as it is the top shelf, which means we are rotating them since we are out of room under the light! But it all seems to be working!


So here’s a close-up of our newspaper pots. These are working very well and I wish I had known about them a few years ago to save money! I previously shared a different version of these, but ultimately decided to make the origami pots.  They are very simple and our 8 and 9 year old were helping out too!

I had a printed instructional on how to make them, but got frustrated as I couldn’t figure it out exactly.  So I headed to YouTube, just like we have suggested when you are wanting to learn something, and sure enough, found a video on it.  The video helped immensely and made it very easy!

Here’s the video on how to make them.  You can even start seedlings in these pots, not just transfer like we did!

Here in a few days, we will start hardening them off but placing them outside for a few hours at a time for them to acclimate to the outside temps and then we hope to plant them in the ground in a few weeks!

How is your garden going?

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Alex & Cassie