Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vegetable Garden

If you've ever been to our house in the Spring, Summer, or Fall, you know that I love vegetable gardening. And you would know because I dragged you outside to look at my garden. Now I will drag all my virtual friends. :-) I'm not particularly good at it. This is only my fourth year of gardening. But I do love it and I try really really hard to be good at it.

When we lived in Colorado Dave built an above ground garden for me and I bought a bunch of starter plants to put inside. Colorado has LOTS of sun and our automatic sprinkler system watered the garden almost every day. Plus, all the dirt in the garden was purchased and poured right in. The garden did great and I was hooked.

Then we moved to Ohio. While house hunting we had two requirements for the yard. 1. It had to be big (or at least big enough for a vegetable garden). 2. It had to have lots of trees (Dave and I love trees!). We were thrilled with our house. The yard is HUGE with tons of trees and there was already a vegetable garden tucked away in the back of the property. SOLD!

Being a novice gardener I didn't bother to look up and notice that the area immediately surrounding the garden is forest. I think it gets about 5 hours of sunlight a day. Last year the garden didn't do too well and I was sorely disappointed. I battled cabbage worms and, I believe, insufficient nutrition for the plants. Not to mention the whole sunlight issue. But I decided to give it another go this year.

I borrowed Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholemew, from the library. He believes that many gardens fail because people are overly excited at the beginning of the season planting tons of stuff and overestimating what they'll actually need and also because they give up trying to tend the gardens halfway through the season. Solution: Only plant the amount you want to harvest and put plants close together using his square foot method. I liked it.

I bought tons of seeds this year and started indoors early in the Spring. Being my first year starting seeds I was moderately successful. I was able to set out some good cabbages, lettuce, peppers, and flowers. I killed all but one tomato plant and incorrectly labeled broccoli and cauliflower so they never made it into the garden. Dave made two 4x4 grids for me and I filled them with Mel's mix (equal parts vermiculite, compost [my homemade], and peat moss) and started planting. Seeds planted directly outdoors included: Snap Peas (first round got eaten by maggots), onions (all died), cilantro, sunflowers (eaten), catnip (didn't make it), and spinach (never flourished). I had a difficult Spring and was feeling pretty down in the dumps after all the effort I'd put into the garden already.

Then we went on vacation. We came back and everything had grown like crazy! Maybe the garden just wanted me to stop fussing over it... Here's a picture from the outside of the garden. The flowers are nasturtiums and are supposed to attract helpful insects. You can see my tomato and cucumber trellised in the background.

This is the view as you enter the garden. Nasturtiums on the right. Two rows of purple potatoes straight up the center. Pumpkin plant along the left. Funny story about the pumpkin. It's a volunteer. That means I didn't plant it. It just popped up on its own and I decided to keep it. I thought it was a zucchini at first and then when we saw the first fruit we thought it was a watermelon. On this particular day I realized it's actually a pumpkin. The seed must have come from last year's jack-o-lantern that I tossed into the compost! When I decided to let it grow I had no idea how huge it would get. This is only a third of it.

Garden 1: Cabbage on the left. I was surprised to see how huge those got! Parsley and serrano up front. Carrots and sage in the back left. More carrots right center. Cucumber growing up the trellis back right. I've already harvested three squares of cabbage. The four wet-looking squares are newly planted for fall harvest: broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Plus, I just started some new carrots and spinach in the top left squares.

Garden 2: On the left you can see the tomato plant climbing up my trellis. The white box is protecting my newly planted carrot seeds (the soil can't dry out while they're germinating), cabbage next to the box, and the huge leaves are part of that pumpkin plant. There are also two pepper plants and basil amongst the pumpkin leaves but they're difficult to see. There's also one fall cauliflower square next to the box.

Sweet Potatoes and more of that pumpkin :-)

Purple potatoes won't really be ready until Fall but I just had to dig some up to make sure they were actually there. I think a vole has been visiting our garden so I'm a little nervous about how much he's eaten. The cool thing about purple potatoes is that the flesh is actually purple. I rubbed off some of the dirt to show their color. Isn't that cool?


Tomatoes. We've only eaten one so far. One of these is starting to turn red. Yay!

I didn't plant the cucumbers until right before we left for Mexico and we've already eaten three. it's doing really well. See this one hiding?

The infamous pumpkin volunteer.

I definitely don't think this is the best garden we'll ever see. I'm still learning for sure. And the lack of sun doesn't help matters much. But unless I convince Dave to dig up a section right in the middle of our yard where there aren't any trees (unlikely) this is the best I get. If there was more sun we'd have had a better Spring and probably more tomatoes by now. Otherwise I think we're doing ok.

Harvested thus far: 2 large bowl-fulls of lettuce, cilantro, basil, parsley, 3 serranos, 1 tomato, 3 cucumbers, handful of spinach, 2 carrots, 3 heads of cabbage, 4 small onions, several handfuls of sugar snap peas (most didn't make it across the yard before crossing Solana's lips).

Here's hoping for a productive rest of Summer and Fall!


Grammy said...

Wow,Cynthia! That's some garden! I am very impressed,and I know Papo would have been,too.

carol anne said...

Looks like you know what you are doing to me!
I love gardening --
We have gophers here.

Any tips in growing things in the fog?
I have killed tomatoes 3 years in a row...
AND I even bought special Fog Tomatoes...
so sad.

Killing plants might be my Special Powers.

Mike calls me The Withering Witch :(

Kim said...

Looks awesome!!! I cut out an article in Mother Earth News about the square foot garden that I'm going to try next year in our small plot. I'm going to give it a good prep this fall so it'll be ready for the spring.

The Hillbergs said...

ooh!!!! I love it!!! I want a veggetable garden more than anything!!!! we don't have room here in Korea -- but when i get a house with a backyard - just wait!!!!

my favorite homemade veggies are tomatos and cucumbers! I wish I could have some of yours! we don't have good veggies over here. everything is cabbage, cabbage, cabbage. blech.

Holbergs said...

Wow! It looks even better than you described on the phone. What's a vole? Is it similar to a mole? Ha! :o)

I've never eaten a purple potato and I'm going to have to insist that you send me one when they're just right!

Mommy stole my comment about Papo, so I'm just going to have to say "ditto". You put my herb garden to shame. I'm so excited for you!!!!

Cyndi Hendrickson said...

Moles are carnivores. They like worms and such. Voles are little rodents that are vegetarians and nibble on bulbs and potatoes. I think we have voles because they holes are around the potatoes :-(

Emily and Troy Williams said...

I am very impressed. I am not a green-thumb kinda person (much to my mother's dismay). I can't even keep weeds out of my "very simple" flower garden in front!