Summer in the Garden | Recap 2017
What a season! I feel like I learned so much since we did our last season recap! That is so awe-inducing and inspiring to me. Imagine how the seasons will be in the years to come! Lately, I've been a feeling a little uninspired as our garden slowly dies. That came out a little more depressing than I had intended, but it's just the truth. Our plants are beginning to die back as they reach the end of their little plant lives; our pumpkin vines are turning brown and brittle, and the squash is ready to harvest. We have a few plants that are still green and fresh, but most have gone. The tomatoes finished producing a couple of weeks ago, so we cut them out and made room for new veggies. We do have some fresh growth happening with our autumn crops! Not all of them have been successful, but we do have lots of radishes, turnips, carrots, arugula, lettuces, spinach, and beets. I am excited for those!
I liked how last season I shared some lessons I learned, and I'd like to do that again!
10 Things I Learned
- DON'T PLANT AN ENTIRE PACKET OF SEEDS IN ONE ROW! Yep. I did this - again! I don't really know how to correct myself on it either. I mean, I don't plant an entire packet in one row, but I do plant more than recommended. It's too time consuming for me to only plant three tiny seeds every eight inches. Does that make me lazy?! Either way, it actually ends up working better to plant a few more seeds in each spot because you're more likely to have the seeds germinate. I was very careful with my carrot seed plantings in August, and I hardly had any germinate, which stinks. So I had to plant them somewhere else, too, which I didn't want to do. I have random carrots sprinkled throughout the entire garden! Either way, the best way to avoid a plant pile up in your rows is to start seeds in trays. Like that's the only way in my opinion!
- Learn succession planting, AKA crop rotation. Hearing the word "succession planting" can seem scary, but I am glad I looked it up before planting my autumn crops! From what I've read, succession can mean planting the same crop all throughout the season, but within 2 weeks or so of each other. For example, you plant lettuce on Week One. Then on Week Three, you plant more lettuce somewhere else. Once Week One's lettuce is ready to harvest, you'll have some lettuce still growing that will be ready to harvest in two weeks... this helps so your harvest isn't overwhelming. BUT succession also means rotating your crops and planting more food all throughout the growing season so you never run out of radishes or carrots or lettuce. You just keep planting it and rotating where the crops grow. For instance, I harvested my potatoes already (they were ready really early for some reason) and root crops take a lot of nutrients out of the soil - they also breed maggots. If I had planted radishes there, they might have been affected by maggots or not grown at all. In a crop rotation, you'd plant a bean or legume crop after a root crop! I planted some cool weather green beans there, and they're doing beautifully. Here's a rhyme to help you remember: greens, roots, beans, fruits.
- Try to tackle any pest issues early in the season. I began to notice that my zucchini plants and other squash were looking sad with squash bug damage a little too late in the game. Honestly, by the time you see crumbling leaves and an entire population of squash bugs working on your plants, there's not much you can do other than try to deter them from wanting to live there, or by hand picking. As a mother to a young toddler and a business-owner, I decided that I just didn't have a whole lot of time to handpick squash bugs everyday. And it really didn't affect my garden too badly. My squash plants are looking a little ugly right now, but they're still producing. Every time I go out, I'll squish some bugs, but I try not to worry about it. However, I could have probably saved them earlier in the season by trampling out the population before it got out of hand! Next year, I'll be on the lookout earlier.
- Plant just what you need. I planted way too many eggplants this year! We had never really used eggplant too often before gardening, but I decided to plant four eggplant seedlings anyway. Well, we've had to throw out a lot of eggplants, I'll just say that!! There are so many things I could have done with them or figured out something new, but I just didn't. Life got in the way, and I somehow regret the tossing of our many eggplants. I did make some really yummy eggplant mashed potatoes! I'll try those again. This winter I'll be planning the garden a little more carefully with the amount we'll eat as a family. We're also planning on selling at the farmer's market next year, though, too!
- Eating seasonally is awesome! This is probably my favorite lesson! It's one I didn't realize had been implemented in our daily rhythm. But since growing our own vegetables, we haven't been craving anything else from the store; it's almost like it created a much less complicated way to figure out what to cook. I somehow find that backwards: if you had too many of one type of vegetable, surely you would become sick of it and never use it, right? Just the opposite happened! For instance, we've had so many zucchinis, so I've had to create many new recipes each week to try and use them up without wasting them. It's actually been really fun!
- Plant flowers in the spring... lots more flowers! Okay, so I was starting to feel like I hated flowers up until about a month ago. Like, flowers stink and I can't grow them so good riddance!! It wasn't until the beginning of September that any of my flowers I planted started to showcase their most beautiful blooms. I planted zinnias at the end of June, some in mid August, and I am currently regretting not planting them in May. What was I thinking?! They are my favorite flower, and I didn't leave any room for them. Now they are blooming like crazy everywhere in town, and I am missing out! thankfully, a few of my June plants are blooming. Hopefully the August ones can catch up! My nasturtiums look amazing now, and my dahlias that didn't bloom all summer, now have over 20 blooms each and look great. Ugh! If only I had known. Next year, we plan to have flowers outlining the entire outside of the fence!!
- Let Tad plant some seeds and harvest some crops, but mostly just play. As a perfectionist, being a parent to a rambunctious and independent toddler can mean that I have to learn to just let some things go. There were many times where Tad picked a crop too early and we lost some produce or even just plucked the heads off of flowers that I wanted to leave. We learned how to navigate each other around the garden; I let him pick all the heads off of the marigolds that he wants because we have so many. He's not always interested in learning which plants are which and how to harvest them, but when he is, I try to take advantage of it. I have to remember that he's still at toddler, and a little boy; he mostly wants to throw dirt clumps and chase chickens. And that's okay!
- Don't let the chickens in the garden when there are new seedlings. I thought my chickens were, like, really well behaved before I planted our autumn crops. Oops! They've been munching on my kale and Swiss chard plants for the past few months because we really don't use them as often as we should. We've frozen over 20 bags of kale, so I just let them eat it as they please because it'd just sit there otherwise. I'm not a huge fan of fresh kale! And they mostly kept to those plants, until I planted more radishes. Now they try to eat them as quickly as possible before I notice. My plan is to plant them their own garden inside the run next year!
- Start preserving the garden early! I wish I had started this even earlier and figure out more ways that I could have done this, but I think I did okay for my first year! Preserving the garden is so important because there's just no way you can eat absolutely every single thing that you grow. I tried! Figure out how much to plant so that you may save it for the winter and preserve it multiple ways. I froze, canned, dried, and pickled so many things. Hoping to triple my practice next year!
- Plant more green things, always... I did plant my lettuce in succession during the spring, so that left me with a big lettuce harvest in June and pretty much nothing until September. Yikes! I wish I had continue to plant lettuce throughout spring's cooler days so that we had more greens to eat. I also lost my spinach, so that left us without as well. And we've been craving salad ever since! So thankful to have a second chance.
Summer's Garden 2017
All in all, it was a great first summer of gardening, and I am excited to see what autumn brings and the new year as well. Next year, I will be a Master Gardener, and I am excited to see what that will mean. I hope to gain a lot more knowledge to share with you and teach you how you can grow your own food to sustain yourself and your family. I just think it's absolutely incredible that we are capable of something so beautiful, something that my generation was never taught. We need to be taught sustainability! I will be sure to see you for another recap in autumn. Can't wait! (: