What I learned from my spring and summer Garden:
My spring and summer gardens were a success in some ways and failures in other ways. I keep beating myself up for my failures although I know that I shouldn’t. This was my first garden (besides years of just helping out in gardens and on a couple farms) and this was a good learning experience for me. As frustrated as I am with the turnout and my success, I think that’s part of being a gardener and farmer. There is a lot to learn. You cannot go back and re-read information for an exam or practice something over and over again like when learning a new instrument. Instead, you learn with the seasons. Once the window of opportunity is up, you wait until next year to see how things will go that year. I’m also learning how something that should be so natural to us as humans, is a challenge when you have spent most of your days learning with paper and books. But I truly believe it IS a natural way to live, a natural thing to do. Throughout the technicalities of it, it is still in our nature to learn these plants. To learn how to prepare, grow, nurture, harvest, and preserve.
What I learned:
1. Thin as soon as plants are ready. Don’t thin when they’re too big.
I thinned some crops too late and it just made life a lot harder. Even though it is hard to pull up or cut off perfectly lovely plants, it is extremely necessary.
2. Mulch. Mulch both around the plants and if you have a row, mulch on either side of the row.
Mulching just helps keep your weeds away. Weeds can really interrupt what you are trying to grow! Even though there are edible weeds, when you want a certain crop, they become a “pest”. Based on observation, when I did not mulch next to the rows, I think those weeds took out some nutrients that my collards needed.
3. Distribute your compost and manure evenly.
I think another contributing factor to why my collards were puny on one row was because that part of my row did not have enough compost and manure. I think next year I’ll be more attentive to that.
Kale, swiss chard (but only in the big garden), spinach, collards (but only in the kitchen garden) lettuce, pak choi, radishes, onions, beets (however, I think I should have made sure the soil was extra fluffy for the beets)
Collards (in the big garden), leeks, swiss chard (in the kitchen garden)
The collards were thinned too late and there was some sort of nutrient deficiency. I think the leeks would have done well in more light. It’s possible the swiss chard needed more light and more space. I’m still unsure.
Something to consider as well: As you learn, think about what does especially well in your area. You may want to focus on that the following year and continue to experiment smaller scale with other plants. In other words, plant more spinach and onions if they did well (and enjoy!) and plant just a little bit of collards, working through the kinks and figuring out what will make that crop a success. Even though I have not practiced this, it is my hypothesis of a strategy that may work. If I’m on this land next year, I plan on trying this.
- Mulch. Mulching would have saved me a mess of weedin’. And summertime is clearly the time to mulch a lot because weeds love the summer.
- Plant everything on time. I think I planted the sweet peppers and cucumbers at the wrong time. Eventually, I’d like to follow biodynamic principles. Planting with the moon and cycles as well as planting during the right time of month should yield a better crop.
- Research the problems you find on the crop, such as mildews. Then try to solve the problem. The tomatoes and cucumbers had some issues. While working and doing other projects, I didn’t take the time to figure out the issue. It’s also frustrating when you care for a plant and it starts to produce but then has a disease or problem that you aren’t at all familiar with. If you can, call up someone who can help you figure out the problem. Sometimes I get in my head I can do everything by myself, when in reality we all need a little help. Especially beginners!
- Don’t let hornworms ruin your tomatoes. I found as many hornworms as I could and killed them when I found them. But if you aren’t at home to check the tomato plants throughout the day, they can really ruin your tomatoes. I don’t have the answer to hornworms. In fact, I need to do a lot more reading. I’m just saying that I learned a tiny bit about them, it’s miserably sad when they get a hold of your plant, and I must know how to deal with them next year.
- Plant less basil. I planted around 60 basil plants this summer. That was way more than one person can deal with! When starting your basil, it doesn’t seem like that much. Then you put them in the ground and you see that there is A LOT of basil. I think I should have planted them a little farther apart as well. But, it did wonderfully and I made a fair amount of pesto. Stay tuned for a post about more details.
- Plant less pole and bush bean plants. It didn’t look like that many plants. Then, at harvest time I felt that the harvest was very time consuming. I think harvests are time consuming in general anyway. But, I think less bean plants would be a good idea and still provide enough beans for canning and the family. I’d like to spend more time on other crops. However, I can say that the beans did really well. So, there are pros and cons.
- Don’t plant pole beans too close together. It makes it very difficult to harvest them. The pole beans were planted in two rows that were too close together. Once the poles were up, the plants climbed up the poles, and the beans were growing, it was really hard to find the beans. It was like a maze! And it was a hassle because of this.
- Don’t plant any of the beans too close together. It becomes hard to walk around them. Some of the black eyed peas were too close to the pole beans. This made it very hard to get around and harvest. So, give your beans some room!
- Somehow fight the voles! Voles or shrews ate up our sweet potatoes, damaged the sweet peppers, ate their way through most of our fall crop of beets, and in general have disturbed a lot of our garden! I wish I knew exactly what to do about them. Apparently there are things that you can stick and the ground that vibrate and keep them away. My kitty is not doing a good job of eating them though…
Volunteer cantaloupe, red chili peppers, green beans (after re-planted), black eyed peas, basil, prickly cucumbers, sunflowers, volunteer gourds, cherry tomatoes
Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, sweet potatoes
This is briefly what I have learned so far. It may or may not be helpful to you, but it is good journaling for me. I can review it and reflect on it for next year! I still have A LOT of research to do and A LOT of learning to do.
We never stop learning. Every day and at every age, we have something to learn.