Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Our First (real) Vegetable Garden

     I've been planting vegetables since I was a little girl. It was one of the benefits of having a HUGE yard and massive amounts of super private land which we had when I was a kid. After I moved out, me and Jeff lived in little apartments and places that either didn't have a yard or had one that we couldn't dig up and honestly I kind of forgot about growing. 

     Now that we have kids and have been thinking more and more about eating healthy food and the safety in organics over the past few years, I started getting the itch to start having a garden again. Buying organic all the time is expensive, so last year I bought a few seeds, and a few strawberry plants and we had a very small little crop of just a few things (squash, tomatoes and strawberries I think) in a little 4'x2' plot near the porch. 

     This year we cleaned up a big section of the yard, tearing up the rose bushes that were here when we bought the house, which I was a little bit sad about. I had this big plot (possibly I think 10'x10', maybe more) and the small side plot. I added a few bags of soil but honestly the soil that was there was pretty good. It must have been a garden before that just needed a little help.  I got organic seeds which were a little more expensive but worth it, and we planted two tomato plants, a patch of rhubarb, onions, garlic, two long rows of corn, one zucchini plant and a small patch of broccoli in the big garden. In the small plot I planted carrots and what I thought were strawberries since that's what it said on the BAG, but turned out to be butternut squash. I really wanted the berries but hey, We like squash too. We also planted blackberry and raspberry bushes on a whim, which shriveled and died.  I also had one cantaloupe plant that I thought was dead, but then gave one delicious melon. 

What We Learned
     All summer I was griping that my rhubarb, onions and garlic never grew. Last weekend I bought a Farmer's Almanac and found out that, well, that's possibly because you're supposed to plant them in the fall. My plan is that I'm just going to leave them there and hope they come up in the spring. Ewps. 

     My broccoli did come up but never turned into anything that looks like broccoli and then was eaten by some type of creature. I probably won't waste my space trying to grow it again next season since even organic broccoli is pretty cheap. 

     The zucchini plant looked good all year, grew one huge perfect zucchini and then died. I always remember zucchini being super easy to grow and having more than we knew what to do with. I'm not sure what happened here. 

     The two rows of corn yielded about four full sized stalks and these were the only ones that gave cobs. I think it has something to do with the sun falling differently on the plot but I'm not sure. I have to research this and figure out how to fix it because the corn that we harvested and ate was delicious. 

     A few weeks ago I found a packet of cucumber seeds and lamented never planting them so I planted a small patch and had Jeff make a little wooden apparatus to hang strings on so they would grow up and not all over the ground. I know I had a slim chance of actually eating cucumbers this year (my real intention was to can them which would be another first), and thanks to the short growing season up here and a sudden drop in night time temps, I have a 3' square patch of dead 1" long mini cukes. 

 My Plan for the Coming Season

     Even with the learning curve I managed to pull out a pretty good little crop. The basket in the picture above was just one harvest. I also got about six more ears of corn and carrots and tomatoes every few days through out the summer.
     This winter I plan on educating myself more about vegetable gardening in general so that I can get a higher yield on my small plots of space. I probably won't plant the broccoli or rhubarb next year and use that space for something else. I hope the garlic and onions decide to come up because we use a lot of those cooking. So next year the plan is:

  • Plant only the things we grew successfully and eat regularly: tomatoes, corn, butternut squash and carrots. 
  • Figure out what was up with the corn rows and how to get more to grow to full size. 
  • Plant the cucumbers early and grow enough to can, which leads me to
  • Learn how to can (lol)
  • I also really want strawberries since the kids love them, they're cheap and easy to grow and buying organic berries is expensive. Maybe buying already started plants and keeping them in planters? 
  • I also was thinking about planting a patch of pumpkins, but it's possibly just because it's fall now and I'm seeing them around because I have no idea where I would put them. 
     After looking at my list I think my big problem was that I just tried to plant too many different things in a too small place. I also think we have a few branches to take down so that more sunlight can get to the plants. 

     SO I'll be doing some light reading all winter on general gardening with the goal of a larger crop. Maybe adding pumpkins next year and selling them in the fall for a little pocket change.  Then I'll be able to hopefully adjust my shopping list and buy only minimal amounts of produce at the store and that will be organic especially if it is on the list of the Dirty Dozen, which is a list of the produce that is the most contaminated with pesticides EVEN after it's been washed and peeled!

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