Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lessons From The Garden

Today, I am going to share with you what I have learned so far with my first garden. This is my first year ever having my own garden, and it has taught me a lot about where our food comes from, what it takes to cultivate it, care for it, grow it, fight various pests and also enjoy it. I have had a lot of hiccups along the way and really am not sure how to keep track of them. I could just write them in a notebook, but what's the fun in that?

Lesson #1: Plant ONE zucchini plant. Not four.
Lesson #2: Do not plant them next to something that is low to the ground, like onions. The zucchini has shaded over the onions to the point the onions are not growing much.

Lesson #3: All herbs get their own pots next year. Lesson definitely learned at the expense on my chives. But the dill is doing wonderful!


Lesson #4: Be better prepared for the amount of banana peppers one plant produces, and plant only two, not four.

Lesson #5: Plant more Bell Peppers, and WATER WATER WATER!! I lost three to blossom end rot, but these three are doing well so far *knocks on wood.* I'm waiting for the tops to turn color, that way I'll know they are done growing. I kind of want to wait for them to turn all the way instead of leaving them green. We'll see.

Lesson #6: Potatoes do not belong in burlap sacks. It sounded like a good idea, but it's kind of a bust. If you look at the photo to the right, you can see all that dirt on the side.... yeah, that's because the burlap actually decomposed. Potatoes are cheap enough, I think it's going to be something I just buy from now on...

Lesson #7: Plant beets earlier in the season (along with carrots and peas). As you can see to the right here, some of the beets are very small still. Beets are a cool weather crop, and realistically should have been planted a month prior to when I planted them. Same with the carrots. I was at a slight disadvantage this year though, because I wasn't able to finish building the garden and plant anything outside until May 20th. Lesson learned for next year.

Some of the beets are doing okay though. This one looks a lot better than the other one. I think the root is going to be fat. I have pulled up a few of them here and there because I want to see what they look like, and they are small but have the nice coloring I wanted. I'd like them to be bigger so I can, you know, actually eat them. I will definitely be planting a fall crop of beets this year. I need to get new seeds though, because a certain naughty dog got into my seed stash and destroyed ALL of my seed packets. Seriously, I really need to clean my office and start using it. Wouldn't have had that happen if I was using my office for something more than storage.

Lesson #8: Plant sugar snap peas a lot earlier than the end of May. I am sad to say that none of the sugar snap peas made it. All of them bit the dust.
Lesson #9: Sugar snap peas also will get a trellis next year.

The cucumbers are looking good overall. Lots of flowers, but no fruit yet. But I hear that is not uncommon? I also think I was a little over-zealous with these... I have eight plants, and if they all start producing, I may have a cucumber overload on my hands. Not sure if I am going to use a trellis for them or not.

Lesson #10: Put the trellised and tall plants on the OTHER side of the beds. The corn shades out the beets, which in turn shades out the carrots. I find the way the garden is situated and where the sun rises/sets, that would be best.
Lesson #11: Get a jump on the Japanese beetles. They have been destroying my bean plants. To the right you can see how lacy they are. To the left, well, there is my first green snap bean flower of the year. I think the growing season was delayed a bit by how devastated the plants are. Hopefully it will still product a nice crop. We'll see.

I did do some research online of what they are, and discovered that pretty much the only way you can get rid of them organically is by hand-picking them off and putting them in a bucket of soapy water. I have been doing this several times a day over the past few days and I am seeing a big decrease in their numbers. I have probably caught over 100. The bucket doesn't have much of a surface anymore. Suck it Japanese beetle. Suck it good. 

The Japanese beetles don't like the purple snap beans as much as the green snap beans, but they are starting to infect the purple ones recently. But! The purple ones DO have fruit on them! I was able to pick only one bean so far (the one to the left) but there are several more that are going to be ready to be picked soon. That makes me pretty happy. I love it when I can harvest stuff. It makes me feel like all of this work wasn't a waste. I kind of felt like that previously when I had the tomato blossom end rot, then lost some of my bell peppers to blossom end rot too. It felt like insult to injury, because I was losing the pea plants, lost all my starting tomatoes, and also lost the bell peppers. Thankfully things are moving forward now.

Lesson #12: Beans are going to get trellises next year. The poles do look pretty cool, but the green beans are having a hard time climbing up, and the purple ones are already up and over. It's also a little more difficult to see if there is any fruit.

 Ahh, the tomatoes. So the tomatoes are actually doing pretty well now *knocks on wood again*. I have definitely learned some interesting things about the tomatoes though, which brings me to my next lesson....

Lesson #13: I will prune tomatoes to one stalk.  I have numerous stalks on all the tomatoes, not nearly enough stakes in the ground, and not even close to high enough cages. A lot of the tomatoes have easily outgrown their small cages and are falling over on top of themselves. I dead-headed them and ended up losing a few stalks and some pretty good-sized fruit in the process.

Lesson #14: I will also prune early in the season so I do not lose any fruit.
 The tomatoes are doing pretty well though. This one has a lot of maters on it, not sure what kind they are though. I think I explained it previously in one post that I had lost a tray of tomatoes, and subsequently mixed up all the tags on the remaining plants. So! With that said,

Lesson #15: I will label my tomatoes properly and will not forget or mix them up.
 I have lots and LOTS of yellow pear tomatoes on the plants. I saw a few today that looked like they were turning colors, and that's pretty promising.

I know that some of them are Roma tomatoes (I think three plants) and then four of them are the yellow pears that I bought from a local nursery, and the remaining six are mystery heirloom mix. I'm really interested to see what they turn out to be. Pretty sure those are Romas to the left and an unknown heirloom to the right.

To the left is the first tomato ripening on the vine. Today I picked that tomato, weight it, and then ate it. I probably should have waited another day or two as it tasted super sour, but hey, I'm impatient. We all know this.

 Here is a shot from the front. I think this photos gives a good view of almost everything in the garden and can give you an idea of some of the problems I am having.
View from the back, so you can see the last bed, the asparagus, and the potatoes.

Bruno is a sleepy little puppy, but he's so darn cute! But he is currently suffering from an eye infection. Not so cute.

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