7 Lessons From My Veggie Garden
I live in the wonderful city of Cleveland, Ohio – where we are blessed with 65 days of sunshine a year. Though the farmer’s market is full of yum-licious homegrown tubers and other root vegetables throughout the winter, you can imagine that the summer grow season here is fairly short. I have only been growing veggies in earnest for two years – but this has been my first year to see them through from baby seeds to full grown plants.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot.
This year (as I’m sure many of you can attest to) we had a ridiculously wet spring, a quick, HOT middle of the summer, and now that we are rounding August’s mid-section, we are seeing more rain and clouds and cooler weather again. All-in-all, it’s been a tough year for farming – but here are some of the lessons I’m going to take out of this year and into next year as we prep for our 2012 garden:
- Beware of BlossomEndRot on tomatoes. It’s a “disease” caused my calcium deficient soil. Calcium deficient soil, I have read, is caused by inconsistent moisture (soil being too wet then too dry a.k.a. our spring and summer). You just have to make sure you water thoroughly when it’s dry. This happened to one (of our fifteen-thank goodness!) tomato plants. For the most part we were able to cut the “rotted” part off and our tomatoes were still usable. We did lose some, but were able to compost them.
- Cabbage worms can be thwarted with cayenne. If you have little green worms eating holes into your cabbage, brussels sprouts, or broccoli (all of the above for me), then you probably pretty much hate these little critters. I’m not into spraying any chemicals in my garden because we like to pick everything right off the vine and eat it! Our fix to the cabbage worm problem? We picked all the gross little greenies off and sprayed the plants with a cayenne and water mixture. Problem solved. Apparently cayenne is too hot for the wormies. Just make sure your spray bottle can handle the cayenne/water mix – ours bit the dust because it had some kind of filter at the bottom of the straw, so we ended up just pouring it all over the brussels sprouts.
- Pot! We have one in-ground garden and two raised beds, but throughout all of April and May, it was too wet to put any plants in the ground. All of our little saplings were quickly dying in the small plastic containers that they came in! Our quick fix until the soil was dry enough to plant was to put all of the plants into pots and place them where they would be out in the garden. That way they could get used to the amount of sun/shade they would be getting.
- Broccoli has a heat aversion. I haven’t had good luck with broccoli at all. Twice now, my broccoli has turned out looking somethign like this:
Do you seen any hearty broccoli in there? Yeah, neither do I. Apparently we were planting our broc too late in the season. Not much we could do about it this year because it was too wet to put anything in the ground until early June, and by then it was hot. Unless you get the heat-resistant type of broccoli, only plant it in the spring or late summer so they mature in the fall when it’s cooler.
- Garlic = easy. Onions = hard. If garlic were a person, green garlic would be a toddler, the scapes would be the teenage garlic and those cloves are the fully mature garlic. During that awkward time between teenager and full person-hood, the garlic comes of reproductive age and grows a seed bulb:
Don’t mistake them for the actual garlic, that you eat though. That part is still underground. The beauty of these seed pods is that they will burst (or you can pick and drop them) and bang! Next year’s crop is sown.
Onions, on the other hand, are finicky. We have them planted in all three of our gardens and only in ONE of the raised beds have been gotten any harvest out of them. They need a lot of water and can quickly be overwhelmed by weeds. In the past, we’ve put them around the perimeter of our gardens to keep critters away from the other tasty veggies (critters are not fans of onions) but this technique hasn’t been working for us. Next year, I’m planning on doing a whole section of onions in one garden instead of around the perimeter of all the gardens. Quality of quantity, right?
- Don’t move squash vines! Once the vines have established their growing pattern, they put down little root systems away from the main root and latch onto the ground. Yeah, learned that one the hard way after I moved some of the squash vine and killed half my plant. I am not so sure how much butternut squash I’ll be seeing this fall.
- Keep a garden journal. This is probably the single most important part of your garden, if you plan on continuing to grow year after year. In my journal I drew a diagram of our three gardens, including all the plants and where they are located. Then, I continue to take notes on how things are doing like what is flourishing where, what plants are not doing well. I also keep note of anything I’ve looked up on the internet (where, as you know, there is a whole host of knowledge to glean).
- Sharing is caring! My favorite part about the harvest, by far, is sharing with friends, family and colleagues. It’s so much fun to share the fruits of your labor. I’ll take a fresh, local tomato or pepper any day of the week over something from the grocery store. I always appreciate it when I know the work (and the person) that went into growing what I’m eating. So, share away my little farmers!
Do you have any good gardening tips? Help a gal out…because I’ve got nothing (this is Holly speaking)!