Hello and greetings to all Grit readers--I'm a relatively new gardener--this is my second year--and I'll be writing each week or so about my experiences, education, and ongoing projects in the gardening field. I've always been a DIY type and I decided to pursue a vegetable garden due to the quality of vegetables available in the supermarket. Additionally, I have no faith in the USDA to protect the food supply, and I wanted organic food.
Last year, I began by buying organic seeds--cucumbers--and using large clay pots to grow them in. I also made a box from wood and grew parsley. Tomatoes were grown in five gallon plastic buckets. My fertilizer was obtained from an ag student I know who has been of considerable help. Considering that this was my first effort, I had some good fortune. The tomatoes, which were of a plum variety, produced relatively well, although I did have some blossom end rot due to a lack of calcium. I learned this later after researching it online. But I had a good enough harvest to can seven quarts.
The cucumbers also had positives and negatives. The harvest was good--I had lots to give away and to eat, but some of the plants died due to the wilt caused by cucumber beetles. I noticed a beetle one day but did not realize what it was. Shortly thereafter, some of the plants became sick and died. Again, I researched the matter online and learned about wilt--most of my help has come from the Ohio State and Penn State extensions, and from Colorado State as well.
Last fall I decided to make a garden using raised beds and terraces. Wood frames formed the boundaries of my 300 square foot garden and I also made a terrace as the ground slopes sharply away from the southern sun. A good deal of excavating, leveling, and filling in was required. The soil was made from store-bought topsoil, sand, peat moss, and clay. Mixing these elements was done by hand and using a rototiller.
One of my last zucchinis
This year after studying both online and in The Vegetable Gardener's Bible, by Edward C. Smith, I planted cucumbers, zucchinis, mizuna, lettuce, pole beans, broccoli, beets, peppers, tomatoes, parsley, basil, and cilantro. My seeds were ordered from High Mowing--the tomatoes and peppers were started for me. Fertilizer was made by mixing lime, potash, and phosphorus, available organically at ag and garden supply stores. I also had some fish emulsion.
The tomatoes, which were of the Rutgers variety, were doing will and had been producing fruit, when at one point I noticed that the individual tomatoes had orange spots in a circular, mosaic-like pattern. The leaves had lost their rich green color, and had numerous small black spots. Research at the Colorado State extension indicated that my plants were infected with spotted leaf wilt, caused by a virus vectored to the plant by the thrip, a tiny insect barely visible to the naked eye. Something else I'd never known about! There is no treatment once infection has taken hold. I had to pull up and discard all eight plants.
On the positive side, I had researched cucumber wilt and learned that radishes, planted with cucumbers, can deter cucumber beetles. Planting numerous radishes resulted in no infestation and a substantial harvest.
My other plants produced well. Above, peppers are still growing at the end of the season. I had a large number of zucchinis, a good number of beets, and my pole beans are still producing as well. My broccoli harvest was quite small--I'll research this. All in all, I believe I had a good season--I've learned how little I know, but I do know that:
Soil and amendments are crucial.
Examine the garden daily, and look for pests and signs of disease. Weed regularly.
Water regularly and carefully, and keep aware of rainfall and weather patterns.
Know each plant's needs.
Use a notebook to keep records of all you do, and use a camera.
Study and ask for advice.