Thursday, July 3, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Jay and I have been planting a garden for several years now, some more successfully than others.  We've learned a lot through trial and error, but there is still so much that we don't know.  Some years we'll get a huge crop of veggies and herbs, but then, just when I start to think I'm a master gardener (ha), we'll have a year where absolutely nothing grows.  I like to chalk a lot of the inconsistency up to mother nature, but, in reality, it's probably more due to user error.

This is our second summer with a garden at this house, and the first year was pretty pitiful.  We had luck with a few plants, but the majority died from the heat, got eaten by something, or just didn't produce any fruits.

We made a few changes this year (and have gotten lucky with better weather), and there has definitely been a big improvement.

Here is our garden when we first planted it back in April.  (Hi, Wendy!)
And here it is now. 
We tried a few cold weather veggies for the first time this year, and they did okay.  The broccoli Jay planted grew into a HUGE plant, but never produced anything that even remotely resembled broccoli.  We need to do some research before we try that one again.  The kale and spinach did much better.  We were able to use our spinach for a while until it started to get eaten by something, but the kale stayed strong for a really long time.  We got several beautiful bunches off of our one plant, and even now it is still alive.  I will definitely be planting lots more kale next year!
We also experimented with planting our warm-weather veggies a little earlier this year to give them a head start.  Jay built a hoop house over our bed that would keep the plants warm enough and protect them in case of a freeze.  Covered, it looked a lot like this.
Unfortunately, we got a REALLY hard late freeze.  Even with the extra protection, a lot of our plants didn't make it.  I'm not sure if we will try that system again next year or not. 

Once the freeze threat had passed, we replanted what had died and added a few more things.  This is what we have growing now. 
We used this organic fertilizer as soon as we planted, and it really seemed to make a difference. 
Now some more info on the plants...
  • Herbs - our dill and oregano came back from last year, and the dill in particular has grown like crazy.  We can't eat it or give it away fast enough.  We also plant basil every year, and it always thrives with no trouble.  In general, herbs are some of the easiest things to keep alive.
  • Green onions - I am never buying these at the store again!  They came back up from last year, and I use them almost every day.  As soon as I cut some off, they just grown right back.  I love them!
  • Peppers - We have always had luck with peppers of all varieties.  Once the weather gets hot, they take off with just a little watering. 
  • Cucumber - Last year, the plant flowered and flowered but never produced.  I don't know what is different this year, but suddenly we are getting tons of cucumbers.  We added a small trellis so that the plant could climb up, rather than taking over the entire garden.  This thing grows a mile a minute!
  • Eggplant - Last year, something started eating our eggplant, and it got sick and died.  This year, as soon as I noticed little holes in the leaves, I sprayed them down with this organic pest control.
     The plant seems to be much healthier, and we have pretty little eggplants starting to grow.
  • Tomatoes - We usually have pretty good luck with tomatoes, and we are starting to get quite a few on our plants this year.  
    We've had trouble with spider mites in the past, so I will be keeping an eye out for those!
  • Squash - Our yellow squash plant has taken off and is producing some fruits, but so far they are really small and bumpy.  I'm not really sure what the problem is.  
  • Strawberries (not pictured) - We had a lot of strawberries come back from last year in the front left corner of the garden.  We were getting some tasty little berries early in the summer, but then the plants kind of got taken over by the exploding squash and cucumber.  Jay says we need to plant a separate strawberry patch so that they can have enough space.  Maybe next year...
  • Marigolds - Not something you can eat, but they (supposedly) help to keep away pests.  Plus, they are quite nice to look at!
So that's our garden!  I am going to try to continue to fertilize, water, and keep and eye out for bugs, and hopefully it will continue to be a successful season.  There's just nothing better than eating food that you grow yourself!

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