I’m very happy with my gardens so far this year. The fridge is stocked up with wonderful fresh organic veggies from both of my gardens. So far, I’ve harvested squash, peas, wax beans, green beans, purple pod beans, french string beans, fava beans, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, dill, cucumbers, rutabagas, broccoli, and beets.
Meals have been fantastic since the veggies have started producing. We have had ratatouille, grilled zucchini and summer squash, breaded and fried squash, fresh beans, peas, cucumbers, and beets. It’s very satisfying to make a salad with 100% homegrown vegetables. I’m also enjoying delivering some of my extra produce to my friends, relatives, and neighbors.
I can’t wait until my own eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes really begin to ripen up. I won’t even have an excuse to go to the Farmer’s Market anymore. It won’t be long now.
I keep wondering how big my turnips, potatoes, onions, and carrots are getting underground because their tops are much larger than I expected. This is my first year growing these crops now that I finally have the space for it.
This morning, I picked my first cylindrical beets (very interesting, if you have never grown this type of beet) from my raised bed garden and we ate them, with butter and salt, along with a side salad of fresh cucumbers that were marinated for two days in water, vinegar, and dill (also from my garden). We also had home-made blueberry muffins with our own blueberries that were picked just this morning. Wow! What a lunch!
Even though I’ve been doing it for three months already, I’m still amazed that without any fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides, I have grown some really impressive plants both at the Community Garden and here at the house. I haven’t had to spend any money on the gardens since I planted the last of my warm weather plants right after Memorial Day. If I can successfully grow my tomato and pepper plants from seed next year, I’ll save a bundle over what I spent planting the garden this year.
Most of the people I spoke with before the season started, warned me about all of the pests I would have to deal with. Potato bugs, moths, aphids, various beetles and worms, etc. All my research on heirloom plants, companion planting, composting, soil improvements, and square foot gardening really did pay off. Thanks to companion planting and and a lot of pre-planning about where I placed my plants throughout the garden, the pests really haven’t been an issue for me. I’ve plucked plenty of snails and slugs off various plant leaves, but they really haven’t done enough damage to cause me to loose anything yet. My biggest problem has been the weeds at the Community Garden. I think I could spend 40 hours a week in that garden and not be able to keep up with the weeds that grow there.
I have some ideas for next year that will help me do a better job with managing the weeds. The first is to remove a few of my garden mounds. I need to make my pathways wider so I have more space to walk between mounds (I don’t really have rows in my garden), especially when the plants reach full size. The second is to actually put in the time to build boxes to turn my raised mounds into raised beds before I plant next year. My main problem with weeds is that they have taken over the unplanted edges of each of my mounds. I let this happen so that the soil would be held in place when we had some torrential rains this June. It worked, but the tradeoff has been that I have to pull lots of weeds around the outside of each of my raised mounds. Next year, I will be ready before the season with each of my mounds boxed in with either a 4’x4’x12” high box, or a 4’x8’x12” box. I’ll probably add the “official” Square Foot Gardening grids to at least a few of the boxes too.
I also need to improve the drainage in my beds at the Community Garden for next year. I lost most of my cucumber plants this year due to heavy rains and soil that just retained too much moisture. My cucumber plants in the raised bed garden are doing just fine because the soil drains faster.
I’ve read many books about gardening in the last couple of years, but the two that I would recommend to anyone starting out who wants to learn the basics are: “Carrots Love Tomatoes” by Louise Riotte and “All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew. I was able to borrow these from our local library, although I had to wait a couple of months for Mr. Bartholomew’s book to be available, so I got most of the info about his techniques from the web. Once I got my hands on the book, I found that it has a lot of good info about harvesting and replanting that I am starting to use now.
I wish I had a recent photo to add to this update, but I’ve been too busy harvesting to take one. I’ll try to add a few soon. I hope your gardens are flourishing as well as mine this year.
-- No GMO's for me. I'll grow my own.