Friday, October 31, 2008

How Did the Garden Grow?

Gardens are a lot like relationships.  They both have their joys and difficulties, labors and fruits.  Even as I planted my garden last spring, it occurred to me that it was the honeymoon stage of gardening;  all was fresh, new, budding, beautiful.  I blogged about that sweet beginning in "New Old Green".  Ah, youth!  Ah, Springtime!  For then comes summer... and heat, and insects, and blights, and weeds, and drought; and then we must really work.  
But, don't abandon the garden at this point; and neither should relationships be abandoned or ignored simply because the work is hard, for there's fruit to be won.  And the fruit is sweet!

From the outset, I considered my garden to be one big experiment, knowing that I knew but little!  Indeed, it has been an interesting laboratory, and there will be some things I will do the same, some I will do differently, and some I won't do at all! 
1.  Soil - that all important element.  The composted manure I bought for the raised beds wasn't composted nearly enough, and the young plants struggled through the summer to establish themselves because of the high level of nitrogen.  So, this fall I will be composting leaves and other dead plant matter into these beds to balance them out.  Interestingly, the one bed that had soil made up of an assortment of old dirt and manure that I had on hand did stunningly.  And it didn't cost a thing!  (Older, composted wisdom will bear much fruit.)
2.  Sunshine - My beds are in shadow during the very first part of the morning, therefore the squash, peppers, and tomatoes were late in season to bear.  Next spring, I'll put them in the parts of the beds where the sun appears earliest.  (Early meditation on the Light of God's Word is helpful to your growth.)
3.  Water - Rainbarrels are a great idea, but you have to have rain in order for them to work!  Since we had drought for much of the season, I had to use the diabolical sprinklers.  When will they EVER make a sprinkler that actually works for more than two weeks?  Next season, I will invest in soaker hoses for the beds - it's better for the plants anyway, and less wasteful.  (You cannot do without the washing of God's Word, so get it any way that you can.)
Veggie Conclusions:
1.  Pumpkins and melons take up way too much space.  I think I'l just buy those from now on.
2.  Lettuces are so easy to grow!  I've actually bought very little lettuce since the spring.  Buttercrunch was the best.
3.  Tomatoes - there is nothing more delicious than a garden fresh tomato!  The little yellow kind was so fun and sweet.
4.  Carrots - the little Nantes were good, and they grew all summer long.  The onions in my same root-bed didn't do much of anything.  Maybe the high nitrogen?
5.  Broccoli - easy to grow, but have BT on hand for those ruthless caterpillars.
6.  Spinach - almost as easy as the lettuce, but don't let it dry out at all.
7.  Peas - so much fun, but be ready for the aphids.  I went away for less than a week last May, and left the peas full of blooms and young pods, and came back to peas full of aphids.  I went after them with pepper-oil spray and burned most of the peas!  Lesson learned - don't overdo.
8.  Herbs - plant them anywhere and everywhere.  Don't be afraid to keep up a continual harvest of them.
9.  Berries - Blackberry bushes are much easier than Raspberry bushes.

I replanted broccoli, peas, spinach, and lettuce in September, but will do it in August next year.  The temperature wasn't the only thing to take into account, but the waning hours of sunlight were a factor I didn't anticipate.  So, though we've been enjoying lettuce for a few weeks, I'm wondering if the peas and broccoli - though doing nicely - will have enough time to bear before winter truly hits.  Hmm..... maybe a hoop-house?