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Monday, July 12, 2010

Garden Update

I love summer!  The garden is loving the sunshine and the rain.  I am loving all the green.

You can see why I call this my jungle!

Many of my items are growing beyond their boxes.  This picture above is butternut squash.

I have done a lot of experimenting this year, failed a few times, yet learned a lot.  Here is a summary.

Experiments


This year I switched from container gardening to raised beds.  I expanded from growing cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, peppers, and dill, to growing more items that I can list here.  Scroll down to see a selection.  I also tried Square Foot Gardening to plan my spacing.

Failures


My broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbages were riddled with caterpillars.  I heard that neem oil is a natural insecticide.  I will be trying it in the near future.  I was able to harvest two crowns broccoli, but no cauliflower.  I was able to harvest small heads cauliflower, but I don't know yet if they are good inside.  I will try making sauerkraut with them in the next couple days.



The peas looked pretty, but didn't taste good.  I think I left them too long on the vine.

And our carrots were not a success.  I'm not sure if I left them in the ground too long, but they were bitter.  Plus I realized they didn't have the depth they needed.  You can see in this picture that they grew crooked.



I planted mint, caraway, lavender, parsley, and foxglove twice, each.  I'm unsure about the caraway, but all the others failed to sprout.  I have to guess they don't like my sandy soil.

Successes


The failures are really minor in comparison to the successes.  There is always going to be a learning curve to every new venture.  I am so happy with the garden, overall.

I'm growing cantaloupe on accident.  It sprung up from last year's compost.



Here is a lovely butternut squash.

Our first pumpkin, out of four varieties.  Hopefully we will see many more soon.

A cherry tomato.  We have many green tomatoes.  I'm looking forward to the day they ripen.

This is probably the most prolific producer.  I have picked at least 20 pounds of cucumbers so far.  I am making my second batch of kosher dill pickles right now.Our onions are all done.  I thought they would keep growing until fall, but they haven't.  Oh well, they have tasted great.


These green beans were SO delicious!  I want to plant more this fall and freeze them for winter.

I pickled most of the beets.  I was very happy with how they grew.  I picked the last of them today.


We harvested lots and lots of lettuce.  I will be planting another crop this fall.  My favorite was the Tom Thumb variety.  I at a good many of these salads for lunch.  This is lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and onions, drizzled with olive oil, and vinegar, and seasoned with salt and parmesan cheese.  Tastes just like Olive Garden.

Lessons Learned


1.  Plants prefer to grow in rich humus soil, rather than sandy, clay-like soil.  Where I live, we have this odd, orange, silty sort of soil.  It's such a fine sand, it's almost like cornstarch to me.  It does drain well, but it is compact and doesn't allow for pockets of air and such for root growth.  I bought mushroom compost for my raised beds, but wanted to save as much money as I could.  I didn't buy soil for the flower bed, or the patio-edge herb beds.  Marigolds, sage, sunflowers, and zinnias seem to do very well in that soil, as does basil, mustard, fennel, and hyssop.  But everything else grows very slowly in it.  I may consider enriching the soil next year.

2.  Square Foot Gardening spacing specifications aren't usually correct.  Plants did well at first, but as they grew, they got quite crowded.  I will just take notes on how things did this year and come up with my own spacing for next year.

3.  Gophers are extremely annoying!  The gopher has wreaked havoc in the flower bed.  He has not touched the herb beds that border my patio and he had not reached the main vegetable garden beds, that is, until about a week ago.  I planted three Zucchini Rampicante plants that trail out of the box, into the yard (like pumpkin or butternut squash).  One by one, they have been killed.  Hopefully this critter will not find the other boxes.  I have tried the castor beans, to no avail.  I planted lots of beans and have castor growing up in the flower bed.  This critter seems to be leaving it alone, but goes for marigolds, zinnias, and sunflowers.  I am going to try burying some pots to grow some zinnia and sunflowers in.

4.  I expect a great harvest.  It isn't worth my time to grow a large plant that produces very little fruit.  I wasn't happy with the broccoli and cauliflower for this reason.  They were very slow-growing plants and didn't yield much.  Not sure I will plant them again.  I prefer things like zucchini, it grows very, very fast, and produces plentifully.

5.  I wish I had put cardboard down in my boxes, to kill the grass, before I layered in the grass clippings, leaves, and compost.  I am fighting the grass poking up through.  It's not terrible, but had I known, I would have done differently.

6.  Take notes!  I know all gardeners say to do this and I never did it in the past.  I am glad I have this year.  I couldn't possibly remember everything by next year.

In closing, it is all worth the work!  Even when you find a big worm munching on your tomato plant.



This guy is my nemesis!  He was as fat and long as my middle finger!  I really need to buy that neem oil.

Because you get all this beauty, too.



















Next time I will let you know if my basil drying is a success.  You can see below, it is growing nicely.  I still have pesto in the freezer from last year, so I don't need to make more.  I am going to try drying this in the oven.



Isn't this guy cute?  I need to find one for my garden.  This one lives at the Philbrook Art Museum in Tulsa.

3 comments:

  1. Love the carrot photo! I like funny garden pictures :)

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  2. Neat post. Interesting information and some great looking flowers! I'm doing container gardening for the first time this year. Talk about a learning experience. Enjoyed your post.

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  3. You're doing great!

    I know what you mean about needing to amend soil continuously. It gets better with time and lots and lots of compost. I don't think I can ever make enough compost or vermicompost!

    You probably already know this.. but pick the herbs in the early morning. Light and heat both cause a loss in flavor as essential oils are pretty volatile. You can hang dry them in a well ventilated area (if dust or light is an issue, you can string it up through a paper bag to cover them, just poke some holes in the bag for air flow and don't crowd them). I have an ancient dehydrator that has a no heat setting which works well for me anyways.

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