Spring in the Garden | Recap 2017

A season has come and gone. Looking back, spring feels unexpectedly long now to me, though sitting here and realizing that it's summer makes me wonder where the time went. Did I accomplish every single thing that I wanted in the garden this past season? Of course not! Remember, this is our first garden ever, and we had no idea what to expect when we planted. Am I happy? Uh, YES! I am ecstatic. Never could I have imagined that growing our own food would be this successful for us. Successful enough that we're considering heading out the farmer's market next year, planting a little bit extra, and seeing what happens. Growing organic has not been as terrifying as I thought. In fact, I have been seeing some great results from the few organic fertilizers I've used (I only used worm castings at the very beginning of the season and added extra worms as well) as well as the DIY plant sprays I've made to keep pests away. I will have to share some of those soon! 

Today, I wanted to share my gardening posts from the past season with you in a collected space so that they're easier to find, for you and for myself. I've been trying really hard this year to make this blog an experience and not a place of advice or lists. Because I'm not ready to give advice that I am one hundred percent sure of. It's my first year, next year I'll be a certified master gardener, and then maybe we can start thinking about advice. For now, this is our experience of "Spring in the Garden," and it's been absolutely magical.

10 Things I Learned

  • Don't plant an entire packet of seeds in one row. I grew most of the garden from seeds in started trays early in the season, at the end of February. There were some seeds, however, that I either forgot to plant in starters, or just didn't grow well indoors. Those I saved to be planted when the garden was cut out. Some of those seeds were lettuce and carrots. Because those types of seeds are so tiny and difficult to keep track of, I just decided to sprinkle the seed packet amongst the rows. Ugh. What a mistake! The lettuce and carrots just sprung up like weeds and were extremely difficult to thin out. It was as if every single seed germinated and sprouted. It took me several weeks to eventually thin out the lettuce, making the harvest become that much longer. I am still waiting on them to be ready to chop! I just planted more romaine, and I only sowed two or three seeds per every few inches. I am hoping I learned my lesson!!
  • Know which insects are pests and which are not. Gardening is difficult when you have no clue which insects are worth keeping around and which are not. So far, I have found green and red aphids, cabbage worms, and potato beetles in my garden. My friends keep warning me about some silver beetles that eat squash plants and other worms that eat apples and broccoli. So far, I have not encountered these, but I wouldn't doubt that they'll eventually show up. Every time I am out in the garden, I am checking the undersides of leaves for the insects that are eating my plants. I often find lots of yellow and black striped spiders or large predatory insects. This always makes me pause, because though my cabbages look horrendously devoured, I have to remind myself that those worms are obviously providing a meal for the spider or other insect that lives there. I have to be careful not to completely wipe out their food supply. If one plant is being favored more over another, there are some days where I just leave it. 
  • Don't plant so many squash plants!!! I knew that this would happen, but I couldn't help myself! This year, I planted zucchinis, cucumbers, butternut squash, pie pumpkins, and mini pumpkins. I was told over and over again that I don't need to plant so many because they'll eventually take over. Even as I bent over pulling out cucumber plants today, I couldn't help but smile. I planted waaaay too many squash seedlings because they were thriving so well in their container, and I couldn't bear just toss them in the compost pile. Next year, not planting so many seeds so that I don't tempt myself. I ended up spending the past two weeks thinning out squash and leaving only 3-6 plants of each type in their designated beds. I absolutely love seeing the pumpkin vines climbing the fence!
  • Don't cut more than 1/3 of each plant when harvesting. Early in the spring we planted ranunculus. I was so excited that I clipped them all up happily, placing them in a mason jar to enjoy on my counter. While this was really fun, I ended up killing them. I had read that you need to harvest the flowers as they start to look ragged, which all of ours were, so I am not sure if it was my fault or if perhaps the plants were just past their season. Either way, I clipped, and they died, and then there were no more ranunculus flowers. Learn how and where to clip your plants while harvesting! This will ensure that they continue to live and also produce even more for you.
  • Research the plants that you chose to plant. I often find myself getting lost in thought about all types of plants, even ones that I've never planted. It's easy to fall into the hole of watching what others are growing. I love Instagram for inspiration, but sometimes I see others on there who are really good at foraging and find myself becoming involved with wanting to learn that same skill, forgetting that my own plants need their own research. The ones that I put so much effort and energy into growing are begging me to learn everything I can about them. So if you only planted tomatoes and peppers this year, don't worry about my broccoli. You don't need to know how to grow that today! Today, I learned that I can harvest the male squash blossoms when I want them, without harming too much of my zucchinis. It's those little tidbits of information along the journey that make gardening so fun every day.
  • Worry less about how much your plant will produce. In the first year of gardening, I think it's important to remember that your plants are not going to produce the absolute best fruit you'll ever taste. They're just not. It's the first time! I keep getting myself all worked up over if I should continue to hill my potatoes to get a larger and better crop. I could do that, but I also don't know what to expect from a crop that wasn't hilled. What if I end up producing too many potatoes? Also, I don't really want to haul in a bunch of dirt. So, I'm just going to go with it and see what happens with small hills this year. My pumpkins? I'm leaving those alone, too. I've read that you should only have four pumpkins on a vine to produce bigger and better ones, but I want to see what happens if I do nothing first.
  • Let it be. This one kind of goes hand in hand with my lesson above. Sometimes you just have to let things be and not worry so much about how your plants are doing. That's probably the number two way of getting them killed, number one being absolutely neglect. Vegetable plants need some attention, like extra waterings when its been dry and some pest control. Other than that, I don't feed my plants anything special or weird, nor do I prune excessively and all too often. I harvest when they look ready; I prune if something looks overgrown or is growing into another vegetable's space.
  • Weeding is a great way to check up on individual plants. We have a large garden! It's over 1300 square feet of filled vegetable space and that often leaves us wondering how we'll weed the entire thing. In all honesty, it hasn't been that bad. I am actually not sure why people get so upset over weeding, but I also wonder that about washing dishes. I don't love washing dishes, but it's such a mindless task that I am able to think about other things. That is prime daydreaming time, if you ask me!! So is weeding. It's also a great time to give every plant a once over as you weed around it. This is the way that I always find new pests or notice that leaves are looking a bit wilted and yellow. It's even the time that I discover that a plant could use a harvest! 
  • Get yourself the proper tools and clothing. There's nothing worse than walking into the garden and forgetting my hat or my gloves or my weeding tools. I recently purchased this cape cod weeder, and it has made a world of difference. I am able to weed in half the time that I was just by hand! I don't think that you need every single gadget on the market for the garden, but finding some well made and useful tools is really important. I cannot garden without my hat, to keep the sun off my face and also hold my hair back from my eyes. It's a good idea to find some nice gloves, too, as my cheap ones are already making holes in the fingers.
  • Remember that there are no mistakes, only experiments. I love that quote and have used it often, on here and in my mind while I am out. When I am questioning if something is planted right, or if I should pull out a plant, I tell myself that it is an experiment. That next year, I can try again if I fail, that it's just a plant. I ended up pulling out half of my nasturtiums because the wind blew most of them away, and one side of my garden had only one plant left. I pulled them out, unhappily, and planted zinnia seeds instead. I feel much better about it now, but pulling them out felt like a huge fail. I had spent all of this time nurturing them and growing them, only to kill them with one swift blow. Now I know that I don't really love them, and I probably won't plant them again next year.

Spring's Garden 2017

Here are blog posts on the garden over the past season. I decided to group them up here so that they are easier to find and read, in case you missed anything, or want some information on starting your first garden. 

Now we look forward to a happy summer season. Squash, tomatoes, greens, and broccoli will be harvest. Flowers will start to bloom even bigger and brighter, and we will wait for the welcoming autumn with various winter greens, root vegetables, and hardy winter squash. It's so fun watching plants grow and realizing that there's still so much I do not know. A friend stopped by our garden the other day and said, "I just realized that I didn't even know what broccoli leaves looked like!" and I had to admit that I was the same way. There are many things you don't realize about plants from shopping at a grocery store. Our house now smells like aromatic herbs and dirt, and the feeling of sunshine on our shoulders follows us everywhere we go. Can't wait to see what we recap for the season of summer! Until then, happy gardening (:

xoxo Kayla