Planning a Vegetable Garden for First Time Gardeners

How to Plan a Garden for First Time Gardeners

On the journey to becoming self-sufficient, creating a garden to grow your own vegetables is an essential activity. However, in order to make the most of it, you do have to have a basic understanding of what it takes to be a dedicated vegetable grower. This can be a challenge for those of you who are new to gardening. Without doing proper research and planning, you will end up with too much of certain crops and not enough of others, and in the worst case scenario you may struggle to grow anything at all. Here are some tips to help you grow a successful, thriving garden!

Common Gardening Mistakes

One of the most common mistakes when it comes to starting out with growing vegetables is that people plant too much. It is an exciting journey you are starting, but don’t be tempted to plant every kind of vegetable under the sun. To begin with, just choose your favorite vegetables, or choose those which may be too expensive for your budget. It is always less expensive to grow your own vegetables. Over time, as you grow in confidence and experience, you can add more varieties and a greater number of plants if you wish.

Choosing Vegetables for Your Garden

When thinking about which vegetables to choose, take into consideration how much your household eats. There’s no point in planting several rows of carrots if only one person likes them; equally, it is sensible to grow more of the vegetables that you eat the most. If your family lives off homemade fries and mashed potatoes, then grow more potato plants! That said, if you do get the quantities wrong at first, don’t worry. You always have the option of fermenting your own vegetables or doing home canning in order to preserve your food for longer.

Gardening Layouts

Next you need to consider the type of beds that you would like to use, and their layout. It is easy to think that a large vegetable garden is the best choice, but there may be factors of which you have not thought. It may cut down on your growing space slightly, but having paths in between your beds is a good idea. It will make it easier for you to access all your plants without stepping on any of them. Provided your beds are not too big, paths are also a useful thing to have when you are kneeling down doing the weeding!

Once you’ve decided on how your beds will look and which vegetables you are going to grow, the arrangement of your plants within the garden is the next thing to add to your plan. If you throw all your plants in randomly, you will not get the most out of them. Plant your vegetables according to the conditions that will suit them best.

For example, the plants that need the most sun should be positioned first, so that they can get most of the sun’s rays. These plants tend to be a softer vegetable such as peppers, or fruit such as tomatoes. Next, you should find homes for the plants that send vines out around the garden. These types of plants (including squash, melons and more) tend to have very large leaves, so by placing them at the edges of your garden, they will not cover and hinder any of your other plants. The amount of shade that plants get can also be crucial. If you are planning to plant any vegetables that grow vertically up supports (like peas and beans, for example), you will need to make sure that they will not be casting shade over your other plants. Unless, of course, you have other plants like spinach that enjoy cooler climes. Herbs or plants which you will want to harvest often are best placed as close as possible to your kitchen, so you’ll be more inclined to use them regularly.

Garden Watering and Drainage

At this point, you will also need to look at your irrigation and drainage needs. Certain plants are not suited to dry conditions. You will need to make sure they get plenty of water. Examples of these types of foods include strawberries and onions.

With regards to the rest of your planting, it is not a deal-breaker, but you may want to plan which types of vegetables you plant next to each other. Some plants need to be planted near to others in order to pollinate properly. Examples of this are tomatoes. They require pollination from other plants in order to produce their fruit.

Above all, the biggest trap when planning a vegetable garden, which you should be wary of falling into, is the temptation to overcrowd it. If you plant all the seeds you have, you’ll have gone to all that hard work and effort, only to have to go back later and remove some of your crops to give the rest space to grow. Go easy on your vegetables. You can always add more if you need to, but removing ones that you’ve already planted is a hassle!

Otherwise, you should be good to go. These are not hard and fast rules. Because every garden (and every gardener!) is different, just enjoy the process, and find whatever works for you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The fun thing about gardening is that if it does not go to plan, you can always take it all out and start again!

Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 7

As we continue on our journey forward in time, the seventh part of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the Marine Corps takes us up to and through World War II and the awards handed out for service during World War II and immediately following World War II. Because the war took place in a number of different locations, many awards were created to recognize service in differing regions of the world. While World War I was fought nearly exclusively in Europe, World War II had a number of different theaters to include the American Theater, European Theater, and Pacific Theater. Follow along as we cover each theater and the awards associated with service in each.

American Defense Service

Established in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American Defense Service streamer was awarded to units that “performed military duty between September 8, 1939 and December 7, 1941.” These dates signify the period of World War II in which the United States had not formally participated. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States in the famous Attack on Pearl Harbor. After the attack, the United States became heavily involved in the war and subsequent service streamers were created to commemorate those campaigns.

American Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American Campaign streamer was awarded to units who served in the American Theater during World War II. The American Theater consists of North and South America as well as the neighboring islands in the region. The vast majority of the action during World War II took place in Europe and Asia; however many well known battles did take place in the American Theater, including the Attack on Pearl Harbor, the Aleutian Islands Campaign and the attacks on Newfoundland. To receive the award, a unit must have served with the American theater between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946 and met one of the following criteria:

-On permanent assignment outside the continental limits of the United States

-Permanently assigned as a member of a crew of a vessel sailing ocean waters for a period of 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days

-Outside the continental limits of the United States in a passenger status or on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days

-In active combat against the enemy and was awarded a combat decoration or furnished a certificate by the commanding general of a corps, higher unit, or independent force that the Soldier actually participated in combat

-Within the continental limits of the United States for an aggregate period of 1 year

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign streamer was awarded to units that “had performed military duty in the European Theater (to include North Africa and the Middle East) during the years of the Second World War.” The majority of the conflicts during World War II occurred in the European Theater and US Marines were instrumental in securing victory on the European front. Known as the EAME streamer for short, the award is given to units who served between December 7, 1941 and March 2, 1946 assuming the service took place between the following locations:

-West boundary – From the North Pole, south along the 75th meridian west longitude to the 77th parallel north latitude, thence southeast through Davis Strait to the intersection of the 40th parallel north latitude and the 35th meridian west longitude, thence south along that meridian to the 10th parallel north latitude, thence southeast to the intersection of the equator and the 20th meridian west longitude, thence along the 20th meridian west longitude to the South Pole

-East boundary – From the North Pole, south along the 60th meridian east longitude to its intersection with the eastern border of Iran, thence south along that border to the Gulf of Oman and the intersection of the 60th meridian east longitude, thence south along the 60th meridian east longitude to the South Pole.

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign

Established in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign streamer was awarded to units that “served in the Pacific Theater from 1941 to 1945.” The United States Marine Corps participated in 50 campaigns in the Pacific Theater. Therefore, the streamer is adorned with eight silver stars and one bronze star. Each Silver Star signifies six awards of the streamer and each bronze star signifies an additional award. Some notable campaigns that occurred in the Pacific Theater include the Battle of Midway, Wake Island and Guadalcanal.

World War II Victory

Established in 1945 by an Act of Congress, the World War II Victory streamer was awarded to units “for service between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946.” Originally called the “Victory streamer,” the award was issued to units, both active duty and reserve, who served between the dates listed above. In an interesting twist, despite the namesake, some units received the award without actually participating in World War II. This is because President Harry Truman did not declare an official end to war until the end of 1946, even though the war ended on September 2, 1945. Therefore, receipt of the award does not necessarily signify that a unit fought in World War II, but instead was a part of the military at some point prior to December 31, 1946.

Navy Occupation Service

After the close of World War II, much like after World War I, United States troops occupied regions of Europe and Asia to enforce post-war sanctions and ensure stability in the region. While the streamer is a Navy award, it can be “issued to Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard personnel who participated in the European and Asian occupation forces during World War II, and following the close of the World War II.” Because forces occupied regions of Europe and Asia, two service clasps bearing the name of the region are authorized for attachment if a unit served in that region. If a unit served in both regions, both clasps are authorized.

Follow along next week as we move forward in time to cover the National Defense Service, Korean Service, Armed Forces Expeditionary, Vietnam Service, Southwest Asia Service, and Kosovo Campaign streamers. Be sure to check out the previous editions of our series below as well!


Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 6

In the sixth installation of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps, we move forward in time to cover more modern history. In this installation, we see the rise of Germany as the primary enemy of the United States. In our previous edition, you learned that Germany supported the rebel forces during the Haitian Campaign, leading to tense relations between the two nations. In this edition, you will see the tension develop and finally reach a breaking point during World War I. This period of United States military history also signifies the rise of the United States as a true world power and dominant presence in international relations.

Dominican Campaign

By 1916, the Dominican Republic had endured a number of military coups and changes in power. This was causing tension and unrest in the area and the United States felt it necessary to intervene and stabilize the region, especially since they were simultaneously reconstructing Haiti, which shares a border with the Dominican Republic. On May 13, 1916, under the threat of military action from the United States, the Dominican Republic’s Secretary of War Desiderio Arias left the Dominican Republic for good. Within two months, the United States Marines had seized control of the country and began to restore order. Only the eastern region, the area that borders Haiti, was still in utter chaos. However by 1921 the eastern rebels were defeated and the United States had restored complete order to the Dominican Republic. Crippling debt was eliminated, the government had a balanced budget, and the economy was once again growing. Massive infrastructure was also built and new roads were paved while a new and legitimate military was formed. By 1924, a democratic President had been elected, and control was once again handed over to the Dominican Republic, making them a sovereign nation.  For a unit to receive the Dominican Campaign streamer, they “must have performed active military duty in the Dominican Republic between the dates of May 5 and December 4, 1916.”

World War I Victory

World War I is a war with which most Americans are familiar. The war was one of the deadliest in world history, with over 9 million soldiers killed in battle. Initially, the United States stayed neutral, attempting to reach peace without intervention. However when a German U-boat sank the British ship RMS Lusitania, 128 Americans were killed and the wheels were set in motion for American involvement in World War I. The breaking point was the Zimmerman Telegram, sent by the German Foreign Minister, which urged Mexico to join the war as a German ally against the United States. The Mexicans would receive German financing to win back Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in return. The telegraph was intercepted and published for the American public. They believed this was a reason to enter the war. The United States entered the war and helped to secure victory for the Allies on November 11, 1918. Originally known as the Victory Streamer, the World War I Victory streamer was awarded to units who had served in the United States armed forces between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918. It was also awarded between November 12, 1918 and August 5, 1919 in European Russia or November 23, 1918 and April 1, 1920 with the American Expeditionary Force Siberia.

Army Occupation of Germany

After World War I, Germany faced a number of sanctions as part of the terms of the armistice that ended the war. From 1918 until 1923, members of the United States armed forces, including a number of Marines, served in Germany or areas formerly occupied by Germany and Austria-Hungary to enforce the terms and occupy the countries to ensure civility. The Army Occupation of Germany streamer was awarded retroactively to units “of the U.S. military who served in the European occupation force following the close of the First World War.”

Second Nicaraguan Campaign

Following the initial campaign in Nicaragua in 1912, the United States turned oversight of rebel forces over to the Nicaraguan government. By 1926, the rebels were once again wreaking havoc and causing civil unrest. On August 27, 1926, Marines entered Nicaragua to protect the lives, as well as property of American citizens. Bandits had been pillaging goods and harming US citizens to get it. Once the Americans were protected, the Marines turned their attention to supporting the Nicaraguan government in suppressing thievery and insurrection. The Marines were also instrumental in training the national police force and supervising national elections in order to avoid corruption and unrest. By 1933, the job was done, and Nicaragua was once again a civil nation capable of governing itself. The Second Nicaraguan Campaign streamer is awarded to units that “served on a United States ship or as an embarked Marine, in the waters or land territory of Nicaragua between the dates of August 27, 1926 and January 2, 1933.”

Yangtze Service

From 1926-27, the US Navy, supported by Marines on the ground, served in China on the Yangtze River and in Shanghai to protect American civilians during the Chinese Civil War. Acts of violence against foreigners were rampant, and the United States decided to step in to protect lives. Once peace was reached, the US military presence retreated; however they were called back into action on March 1, 1930 when the Yangtze River valley experienced severe flooding. This time, the military was working in a humanitarian capacity to aid millions of Chinese who were left homeless by the flooding until 1932. The Yangtze Service streamer was awarded to units “for service in the Yangtze River Valley between the dates of September 3, 1926 and December 31, 1932.”

China Service

From 1937-1939, Marines worked in conjunction with the Navy to protect Americans residing in the international settlement in Shanghai. Tensions between China and Japan had boiled over, and Japan was becoming increasingly hostile towards neutral parties such as Americans in China. Aerial bombings were becoming increasingly more frequent as the US Military worked to evacuate United States citizens. By 1939, Americans had been safely evacuated just prior to the start of World War II. After World War II, US troops once again entered China to enforce the Japanese terms of their surrender. The troops were stationed in China and assisted the Chinese government both militarily and in humanitarian efforts to provide food and supplies to famished civilians along the Yangtze River and in Chinese mainland. The effort was complete in 1957 and troops withdrew from the region. The China Service streamer was awarded to units that “served ashore in China or who were attached to any of the vessels that operated in support of the operations in China between 7 July 1937, and 7 September 1939 or between September 2, 1945 and April 1, 1957.”

Stay tuned next week as we cover the American Defense Service, American Campaign, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, World War II Victory and Navy Occupation Service streamers. Also, be sure to check out the previous editions of our 10 part series below!


Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps: Part 5

We have reached the halfway point of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps and have also reached the midway point of American military history. In this 5th installment, we move forward in time to cover the United States’ intervention in other parts of the world as the country grew towards becoming a world superpower. With independence won and the country finally at peace, the United States turned their attention to global issues and began to expand their influence worldwide. Follow along below to see the military transition from primarily a homeland security focus to an international force worldwide.

Philippine Campaign

Following the Spanish-American War, the United States took control of the Philippines from Spain, and it quickly erupted into chaos with long standing tensions reaching a breaking point in 1899. Filipino revolutionary forces fought for their freedom beginning on February 4th, and this battle led to the Second Battle of Manila. By June, the “First Philippine Republic” had declared war against the United States. However, within 3 short years and lopsided causalities for the Filipinos mounting, the war was officially over on July 4th, 1902. In a cruel twist of fate, the Filipinos failed to gain their independence on the very same date that the United States had declared theirs. Despite the official end of the war, some Filipino groups continued to fight the United States’ soldiers, primarily in remote areas, until 1913 when all rebellions were halted by the overwhelming American victory at the Battle of Bud Bagsak. The Philippine Campaign streamer is awarded to units that served in the Philippine-American War between 1899 and 1913. 

China Relief Expedition

During the Boxer Rebellion, which lasted in China from 1898-1901, the Chinese government demanded that all foreigners leave the country immediately. When some refused, and violence escalated, the United States military intervened and, from 1900-1901, took part in the rescue effort to save the remaining United States citizens, as well as Europeans and other foreigners. Once the rescue was complete, the tail end of the mission saw the United States military working to suppress the rebellion. By the start of 1902, the rebellion had been controlled, and the United States withdrew their troops, ending the China Relief Expedition. In recognition for their service, the China Relief Expedition streamer was awarded to units of “both the United States Navy and the United States Marines for service in the China Relief Expedition between 1900 and 1901 during the Boxer Rebellion.”

 Cuban Pacification

The Cuban Pacification, also known as the Second Occupation of Cuba, began in September of 1906 when American troops invaded Cuba. After the collapse of Cuba’s Presidential regime, it was deemed necessary by President Theodore Roosevelt to invade Cuba in order to prevent further fighting amongst the Cubans. This helped to protect the United States’ economic interests and re-establish free elections. After many years of occupation and the democratic election of a new president, Cuba was determined to be once again stable, and American troops withdrew from Cuba in 1909. In order to receive the Cuban Pacification streamer, a unit “was required to serve in the United States occupation force, garrisoned on the island of Cuba between the dates of October 6, 1906 and April 1, 1909.” 

Nicaraguan Campaign

In the summer of 1912, a group of armed rebels in Nicaragua fortified an area with heavy railroad traffic and began to interrupt trains and pilfer the goods traveling on the railroad. After repeated requests by the President of Nicaragua to surrender and evacuate the area were defied, the United States Navy, supported by the United States Marine Corps launched an attack on October 4, 1912. The Marines participated in the Attack on Coyotype, the Skirmish at Chichigalpa, and the Capture of Leon. By November of 1912, the United States had completed a resounding victory and pulled out, believing the Nicaraguan government to be capable of maintaining the region previously occupied by rebel forces. The Nicaraguan Campaign streamer was awarded to “U.S. Navy personnel and U.S. Marines who had participated in amphibious actions in Nicaragua between 29 July and 14 November 1912.”

Mexican Service

In 1914, tensions between the United States and Mexico had once again reached a breaking point, and a series of engagements were soon to follow. From 1914-1919, a number of operations against Mexican forces took place, and each merited the award of the Mexican Service streamer. The engagements, in chronological order, are as follows: Veracruz Expedition, Punitive Expedition into Mexico, Buena Vista, San Bernadino Canyon, La Grulla Texas, Pilares, Nogales Arizona, El Paso Texas and Ciudad Juarez. The United States Marines worked in conjunction with the Navy to quell hostile Mexicans and establish peace in the region. The Mexican service streamer was awarded to units that participated in any of the aforementioned campaigns.

Haitian Campaign

From 1911-1915, Haiti began a downward spiral into lawlessness and chaos. In that 4 year period, several assassinations and exiles led to six presidential changes and numerous revolutionary coups causing disorder. Rivals to the political group in power would enlist poverty stricken individuals from regions near the border of the Dominican Republic to upstage the current party with the promise of riches if they succeeded. This happened many times and finally the United States decided to step in to protect American interests in the region and avoid foreign powers, specifically Germany, from attaining a stronghold in the region so close to the American border. Marines landed in Haiti on July 28, 1915 and began the process of stabilizing the crumbling political situation in which Haiti was experiencing. With German backing, the rebels initially resisted American control of Haiti. However, with Germany fully engulfed in World War I, the rebellions were quickly quelled, and the United States was able to complete a total overhaul of Haiti. The overhaul saw the United States recompose the Haitian Constitution, establish a National Guard, and revamp the infrastructure to include roads, bridges, irrigation canals, hospitals and schools. The Haitian Campaign streamer was awarded to units of “both the Navy and Marine Corps who had participated in Haitian peacekeeping actions between the years of 1915 and 1920.”

Stay tuned next week as we continue our journey towards present day by covering the: Dominican Campaign, World War I Victory, Army Occupation of Germany, Second Nicaraguan Campaign, Yangtze Service and China Service streamers. Also be sure to check out the previous editions of our 10 Part Series on the Battle Streamers of the United States Marine Corps below!


Military Appreciation Month and the History Behind it

United States Marine Corps Drill Team

There are many different days and events in support and appreciation of the U.S. military. However, did you know that this year, May has been designated National Military Appreciation Month? It is a time for us to thank, appreciate and support the military, both past and present, and educate each other on the incredible job that they do for us.

US Marines at Parade Rest

National Military Appreciation Month started out life in 1999, when legislation from the U.S. Senate (supported by Senator John McCain, Representative Duncan Hunter, and others) said that May should be a month for honoring, remembering and appreciating the patriotism of members of the armed forces.  They also wanted to laud the dedication from their families. This idea was solidified ten years ago in April 2004, with unanimous agreement from both Houses of Congress. At this point it was suggested that the President should issue annual statements, reminding the American public to support the military throughout the month.

Although most of America’s incredible history involved the military in one way or another, children in school nowadays aren’t learning anywhere near enough about the importance of key events such as Pearl Harbor or the Civil War. This means that they are not as aware of how crucial the U.S. military has been in shaping our country. Consequently, they do not really appreciate it. That  is why, during the month of May, National Military Appreciation Month is combined with American Military History Month. The aim is to encourage schools to incorporate more American history into lessons, to educate the future generations, and to educate ourselves.May is an important month in the appreciation of the U.S. military, as it includes five national days of celebration. These are Loyalty Day on the 1st, VE Day on the 8th, Military Spouse Appreciation Day a day later on the 9th, followed by Armed Forces Day on the 17th, and finally Memorial Day on the 26th. These serve as useful prompts to remind us of how we should be thanking our troops throughout the whole month.

United States Air Force

Whether organised by the government, the state, local politicians or private organisations, there are loads of activities going on throughout the month of May in honor of the sacrifices that our troops make. From parades to celebration lunches to airshows, there are events taking place around the country.  These events not only highlight the magnificent work that the military does, but also give us a chance to give thanks.

Since the U.S. military was founded hundreds of years ago, nearly 100 million American citizens have either served (or are currently serving), given their lives, or had a close family member in the military. Now is your chance to celebrate them and the work that they do to keep our country safe. You are encouraged to do whatever you can to get involved in National Military Appreciation Month, which is now in its 15th year – it does not even have to be anything major like attending an organized event. Fly your flag, ask your local media to cover events in your area, send a care package, or even just thank a person in uniform for their service. Our troops deserve every token of appreciation that they receive!