Learning the Fine Art of Gardening (Again)

| 8/25/2010 4:46:37 PM

Tags: garden, gardening, fall garden, gardening lessons,

A photo of Oz GirlThe subtitle for this post should be: What We WON'T Do in Next Year's Garden.

We decided our first-year garden would be small.  Small space still equals big work.  My husband and I have both gardened in our past lives, but it's been so long ago ... we realized our little garden would be a re-learning experience. The ultimate goal is to enlarge our garden each season so that eventually it will be a garden befitting the 27 acres it sits upon.  Who knows, maybe there are farm markets and CSAs in our future!

I digress with my hopes and dreams, so back to our small garden and our first year results.

Our plot measured only 15 by 16 feet.  We planted corn, cucumbers, green beans, radishes, and several varieties of tomatoes and peppers.  A few renegade marigold plants rounded out the small plot.  We were looking forward to a summertime of grilling and eating our own sweet corn on the cob ... canning every conceivable pickle flavor a person could think of ... fresh green bean salad and extra beans for preserving ... spicy radishes in our salads ... and tomatoes and peppers for our own fresh-from-the-garden spaghetti sauce and salsa.

Our small garden in June

Some of our dreams came true, while others did not.

oz girl
8/27/2010 10:08:59 AM

Hi Dave! I agree with you on the sweet pickles ... I'm not a big fan of them either. I'm a dill pickle fanatic. I grew some dill this year, but I let the black swallowtail caterpillars have at it. Next year, I won't be so wildlife friendly, lol -- had a hard time finding fresh dill when I went to make my dill pickles. Sounds like your cukes went crazy like ours did. And I'm getting plenty of tomatoes, the plants look fine, it's just down by the ground the stems/roots look odd. We watered almost every day during the heat too, so I'm really not sure what it might be! I guess not to worry as long as the plants are doing good, huh? Thanks for coming by, and have a great weekend! :-)

nebraska dave
8/27/2010 8:47:54 AM

Oz Girl, Here in Nebraska it seemed that everything that grew on a vine or a tree produced prolifically. My cucumbers grew huge numbers of cukes and it was difficult to give them away fast enough. I tried to make some Bread and Butter pickles with the Mrs. Bushes pickle mix from the big box store and they turned out OK but I must not be a fan of sweet pickles. Dills rule in my pickle life. Next year I certainly want to grow some dill weed in my garden. It would be for the pickles and just for the smell. Mom plants dill all the time and now it reminds me of life in the garden when I was a young kid. The fruit trees here are bearing so much fruit that the branches have to be supported or they will break. My neighbor’s pear tree had three pears last year but this year it’s loaded with pears. There has to be hundreds of them. My tomatoes were once again great this year when others were struggling with problems. I think the secret to raising good tomatoes is consistency with the watering. I have mine set up on automatic timers mostly because of my travels during the gardening year. Each tomato gets about a gallon of water at the root zone every day during the hot part of the summer. The tomatoes are nice blemish free and juicy when cut open. The race between the tomatoes and the cucumbers to reach the top of the support structure was won by the tomatoes. Have a great garden harvest day.

oz girl
8/27/2010 7:49:39 AM

Hi Cindy, thanks for reading my gardening post, and a big thanks for your suggestion re: our tomato plants. I checked out the link and you could be right... in the beginning, I kept the garden watered. Then, when the mosquitoes were eating me alive, my husband took over watering duties. We tried to water every morning, but missed some mornings. When the heat started climbing into the 100s, we tried to be more diligent about watering... maybe we DID water too much! The one thing different about our tomato plants and the info at the link - our plants aren't withering and dying! On the contrary, they've grown into rather large bushes. Looking back and re-assessing, I guess watering every day doesn't really compensate for 100-degree heat. It is what it is, and the garden can only do the best it can in severe heat. Maybe we can install large fans next year. Haha! At this point, I'm really looking forward to cleaning up the garden and planting a fall harvest. The temps are finally mild and pleasant, 70s and 80s. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping the fall garden does a little better! :-)

cindy murphy
8/26/2010 11:17:14 PM

Hi, Oz Girl. Great post! I love reading about other people's gardens, and what they've learned; sharing it makes us all better gardeners. I totally agree with your comment to Mountain Woman - sometimes what our gardens produce is completely out of our hands. Stuff we've grown for years that has always been bountiful, will one year barely yield a couple servings. Other things the same year will thrive. This year the bountiful in our garden was green beans; the big disappointment was gourds and squash. I think I can help with your nematode problem on your tomatoes. Actually, I'm almost positive it has nothing to do with nematodes at all. Nematodes are worms - most are microscopic and live in your soil. There are beneficial nematodes, and those that are harmful. The node looking things on the stems of your tomatoes are not harmful to the plant, but may be a sign of excessive water or humidity (which can be harmful to the plant). The plant's response to the excess water is to push out roots - even above ground. Here's a link that explains it way better than I can: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/tompests/msg061348577548.html

oz girl
8/26/2010 3:11:33 PM

Shannon, the Christmas pickles, or red pickles as I call them, aren't really pickles at all! This is the first time I've made them and tasted them, and they are absolutely delicious. My husband wanted me to make them, as he had good memories of his mom making them when he was young. I found his mom's recipe, and then did a search online through Allrecipes (search for Christmas Red Pickles), and found the exact same recipe there. It's a 3 day process -- you peel and deseed the cukes, cutting them into half-moon shapes the first day and get them soaking in lime and ice overnight. The second day is the labor intensive day of making the red sauce which has red hots and cinnamon sticks. The 3rd day you hot-water process them. When you taste the final product, you would swear you are eating a crispy, cinnamon flavored apple! Delightful, and perfect as a gift for family members.

s.m.r. saia
8/26/2010 2:44:19 PM

Ah, Oz Girl, perhaps it's just been a bad year for corn. We didn't really get any decent ears either. Your pickles and relishes look awesome. You know, I've made relish out of green tomatoes and peppers for a few years now but it never occurred to me to do that with cucumbers! What is a Christmas pickle? Whatever it is, it's pretty! Thanks for sharing what you've learned!

oz girl
8/26/2010 1:13:24 PM

Hi Mountain Woman, thanks for popping by! :-) I have a feeling that even when one becomes an experienced gardener, there will still be seasons when one plant will explode with a huge harvest, while another won't fare as well, due to factors beyond our control, e.g. weather. But it is definitely a learning experience, and a rather enjoyable one I think. I have heard of diluting the horse poo with water and letting it steep... I may have to try that, since we have lots of horse poo, lol. Since my husband's daughter will be moving from WY to TX in autumn, we'll be inheriting her chickens and ducks, so I will soon have chicken droppings to add to the compost! Thinning is definitely difficult to do. I've always had trouble with it, even with houseplants! I discovered that many of our radishes were pencil thin where we did not thin them. The thinned areas did well and produced hearty radishes. I've been to Gardener's Supply website before - I'll have to check it out further for the pest identifier. Your own tomato cages, hmm? We'll have to investigate that option and see if we can do it too. And it will be fun to have a virtual partner in the lavender growing experience!

mountain woman
8/26/2010 12:23:33 PM

Hi Susan, Great article. Like you, I had misses and hits this season and learned a lot. I gardened with beneficial insects this year which was lots of fun and once again made my own compost. I used straight horse poop and added water and then let it steep for days and I kept stirring it up until it became sludge like. That was my only fertilizer. Next year, I'll have the chicken droppings. With the animals you are adding, you'll have great compost for your garden. I had trouble thinning although Mountain Man kept at me to do so. I just can't bear sacrificing any living plant for the good of another and so nothing got thinned. Oh, well. One site I found very helpful was Gardener's Supply because they have a garden pest identifier. I was headed over there every day to see what I was dealing with because my tomatoes gave me problems in the beginning. We made our own tomato cages. Easy to do and saves a fortune. I'm growing lavender too next year and thinking about doing it for commercial purposes. Your adventures sound so similar to mine and I really enjoyed reading about your garden. I know next year it will be even better and it looked great this year.

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