Tales of a Perfectionist

Life is more than a quest for perfection, a lesson I'm learning day by day.

Reflections on My Garden November 3, 2009

Filed under: My Garden 2009 — Becky Marie @ 8:01 pm
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Stephanie at Keeper of the Home is hosting an Organic Gardening Carnival and has asked for reflections on gardening from this past season.  This year was my first real garden.  Last year we had two tomatoes in pots, some herbs, and a few flowers.  The year before that we lived in the desert.

 

 

When I started planning for this year, I used the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  His garden approach is designed to grow plants efficiently with little waste or excess work.  My husband and I built two raised bed that measure 4×4 feet, as Mel recommends, so that plants are accessible on all sides.  We also inherited a bed from some neighbors when they moved out.   The three beds gave us about 48 square feet of garden space and the various pots provided another 10 to 15 square feet.  Mel’s system is to plant only the amount you need instead of planting a whole packet of seeds.  I think I focused a little too much on not over planting, and instead I didn’t plant enough!  I focused almost entirely on vegetables and herbs with too few flowers, which left our garden void of color amidst the rainbow of colors in my neighbors yards.  There were several bare spots left from my conservative planting that we filled in with plants a little too late in the season, resulting in a garden full of  plants that did not produce any vegetables.  My plan for next year will still be based on the square foot system for the vegetable plants, but I will fill in the empty spaces with companion plants, herbs and flowers, in an intensive system (more posts on this to come!) 

 

As I started to plant for this year, I didn’t want to set my expectations too high and then become frustrated.  Instead I set a goal of making at least one salad entirely from the garden.  I met the goal and beyond, enjoying my harvest at many meals.  When measured against my modest goal, this year was a huge success.  However, I made many mistakes.  Here’s what I learned:

 

  • Starting plants from seed indoors is very easy.  Killing them when you try to harden them off is also very easy.  When you set your seedlings outside to harden off, set a timer so they don’t bake in the sun.
  • The frost-free date is MUCH later than the garden can be worked.  I waited until all risk of frost was over to do anything in the garden and started everything late.  I didn’t know that some plants (like peas) actually like to be planted before the frosts are over.  Next year I will plant early and have  back up seedlings just in case.
  • Squirrels are corn devouring pests, preventing any from growing in my garden.  One mischievous squirrel must have buried his corn in the back and forgotten about it because we had a corn stock start growing up one day.  It didn’t survive very long before the squirrels ate it too.  I’m going to have to figure out some deterrent methods for next year.
  • Cucumbers really like my garden.  They grow like weeds.  I planted slicing cucumbers, not pickling, and my attempts at preserving them didn’t really work.  There is a finite number of cucumbers that our family can eat and give away to the neighbors in a week.  My garden produced much more, and I had to toss cucumbers on a few occasions.  Next year I will plant varieties that I can preserve.
  • I picked a wonderful spot to grow my tomatoes.  I had more than I knew what to do with.  I had three cherry tomato bushes and while they’re great to eat off the bush or in a salad, we did start to get sick of them.  I had three Roma tomato bushes that produced quite a bit of fruit, but not a kind that made a good sauce.  I had three golden girl tomato bushes, they didn’t do so well and I’m not sure why.  I will try different varieties of tomatoes next year.
  • Lettuce!  This is my biggest lesson learned.  I planted seeds in three or four spots within a square, according to the square foot method.  I got nice big lettuce plants and we were able to pick leaves off the bottom for several weeks before the plants bolted.  When they did start to bolt the leaves got very bitter, but I hadn’t planted a succession crop so we only had bitter lettuce.  Next year plant lots of lettuce and harvest it young.
  • I planted banana peppers early, and they did very well.  I planted bell pepper a little late and never got much of a harvest.  Next year I’m going to try to start them from seed.
  • I had several plants just not produce: squash, cantaloupe, strawberries (first year).  I think most is due to being planted too late in the season.  My lesson here is to just try again!
  • Saving seeds is a whole lot easier than I though.  I plan to write more in this as well, particularly the lettuce.  I’d never seen lettuce go to seed before, it was beautiful!

Plants grow fast, and the garden changes quite a bit week to week.  I fell behind on documenting my garden and never managed to recover.  My goal next year is to at minimum take and post a picture on a weekly basis.  In planning for next year I have read at least a hundred gardening books (no really, I’ve checked out every one my library carries relating to vegetable gardens).  I’m starting to develop a pretty ambitious plan that I hope will supply our produce needs through summer and fall and provide at least a few meals through the winter.  I will be posting reviews of my favorite books as well as my plan step by step.  I hope you come back and follow my adventure.

 

 

This Week’s Harvest July 19, 2009

Filed under: My Garden 2009 — Becky Marie @ 4:16 pm
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We have had family visiting this week, so we let all the vegetables ripen over the last week.  On Wednesday we picked a cucumber, tomatoes (Roma and cherry), lettuce, basil and oregano for dinner.  I made pizza (homemade sauce) and a salad.  Yum!

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On Friday morning we picked 12 HUGE cucumbers to eat and share.

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On Sunday we picked our first golden girl tomato and our first sugar peas.  We also had a nice bunch of ripe Roma and cherry tomatoes.

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My Garden June 30, 2009

Filed under: My Garden 2009 — Becky Marie @ 3:10 pm
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In order to give you an idea of how far the garden has come this year let me take you back to last year.
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I really wish I had a picture of the “garden” when we moved in.  It was half the size it is now and had a tree growing (well dying actually) in the middle.  There were two ornamental grass bushes under the weeds.  I’m not sure of their proper name, you can see them in the picture.  We moved them to the back yard where they are growing nicely.  There was also a varigated hosta that I thought I had killed but it came back nicely.  I moved it to the side of the house.  The Potatoes - Last Year

The big green bush in the front right corner is potatos.  Take a good look at it.    On a whim, my husband planted some potatos that had sprouted in the pantry.  They grew very quickly and had beautiful flowers when they bloomed.  I dug down at least a foot to pull up all the potatoes when we put in the raised bed.  Apparently I didn’t get the all out because I keep finding the potatoes trying to come up right under my strawberries!

The Garden Today

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We inherited the wood to construct the long skinny bed (in the back) from some neighbors when they moved.  It is roughly 2 ft by 8 ft.  This bed contains my tomato (3 varieties), oregano, basil, garlic, summer squash, and zucchini.  Each of the two front beds were made from wood we bought at the hardware store, they measure roughly 4 ft square.  The right bed is home to flowers, strawberries, lettuce, and carrots.  The left bed  is home to basil, oregano, cucumbers, peas (snap and sugar), parsley, garlic, and a few flowers.

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My “vine wall” is home to some ivy, morning glory, and hopefully some sweet pea.
I had planned to show close ups of all my plants but I have way too many pictures.  I will try to post about the plants one at a time this week.  Also shots of the back are to come soon!