When we were house shopping last year, we compromised on a short list of requirements. High up on this list, we needed a good area to have a garden, and we certainly found that in our new home. The gardening area was already in place, just needing some fence repair, total weeding, and general TLC. We jumped in full force, and when May hit, planted seeds of every vegetable we could want. Tremendous dreams of filling our bellies, freezer and even canning the excess or sharing with our neighbors. Ha! There were some major learning curves, environmental factors and plain old bad luck that stood in our way. In the end, we ate from our garden. Rarely. Very rarely. But learned some valuable lessons to take into next year and try it all again.
1. Don't let perfection be the enemy of good (which seems to be my mantra more often than not these days. Especially with a toddler running/tornado-ing around). There are lots of things I wish I'd done differently. But there simply wasn't enough time and if I had waited for those, I wouldn't have plants in the ground right now. Work with what you have. Do the best you can. See what happens. We coudln't this year, but next year we'd like create some raised beds which will be a lot of work up front, but may save on some weeding and hopefully increase production.
2. Guidelines are just that. Guides. Some plants that probably weren't meant to thrive are doing ok. You'll never know until you try it in your garden. Read the book, do some research, then throw it away and experiment! I had no idea if my kale would come up from seed. I though I planted it a little too late. But I tried it because, why not? And it grew! (...but then something ate it which leads me to #3...)
3. Up the ante on pest control. We almost got through the whole summer without pests. Until something ate all the brussel sprouts. And when we didn't figure out how to keep him out quick enough, he ate all the kale and collard greens. We have to secure the fence just a little better next year.
4. Gardening is a lot of work up front. Planning where each crop will go and potentially companion planting. Prepping the soil. Planting some of those tiny seeds is tedious. Weeding is even more tedious. Be ready to work.
5. Not everything should be started indoors. I tried starting most of my seedlings indoors and many of them didn't make it or transfer well. In fact, zucchini, carrots and many others just prefer to be started from seed in the ground.
6. Don't be intimidated. Every plant is a learning experience. If it didn't work out this year, try again next year. While the tomatoes grew great, I've learned that they need much sturdier cages next year. Almost all of them fell over.
7. I'm guessing fertilizer would have been a good idea.
8. Learn some organic disease control. I seem to have an issue with white mildew on the squash leaves. I checked into this book and it suggested using a baking soda solution. Safe, cheap and effective!
9. Its never too late. There are crops that like summer, there are crops that like spring or fall. If you missed the summer window, plant some fall crops. I'm getting ready to plant some more kale and lettuce soon.
10. Make it a family affair. My daughter really loved being a part of the garden. Her attention span was definitely shorter than I wanted many days (which may be a lesson in doing just a little bit each day). But watching her harvest and break open pea pods was so fulfilling.
11. It's incredibly rewarding. It's already insanely amazing to watch what has popped up, observe how it acts once its sprouted, and finally watch it bear fruit. A gift from above for sure.
Are you gardening this year?