In the Garden

7 Lessons Learned My First Year of Gardening

Last year was my first official gardening season. As I journeyed through my first planting and harvests, I took some mental notes on lessons learned for this season. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. It really is so much fresher
It seems like a given, but I was amazed at just how fresh everything tasted. Not to mention the fact that the produce (including tender arugula leaves) would last three times as long in my fridge, since they had not been sitting on a grocery store shelf for a week before getting to me.

to the left, lots of arugula. Lots and lots.

2. I don’t need to plant so much arugula
And speaking of long lasting arugula, I really didn’t need a whole row of it. It was so prolific, I had more arugula than any family could need or want. But we ate it, by golly. This year, I planted half as much. I’ll probably still have too much.

3. Tomatoes do not work in a Grow Camp
Specifically, indeterminate tomatoes. I planted two cherry tomato plants and as I did, I thought to myself, “Self, you know these are going to get too big.” And sure enough, they took over the Grow Camp and turned it into a tomato laden jungle. Never again!

4. I don’t need so many hot peppers
Don’t get me wrong, we like the spice over here. My son, at the tender age of 11, is already the jalapeno king in our family. But even with all the spice loving taste buds in our home, three hot pepper plants were too many for us. They were big producers! I’m going for just one jalapeno plant this year.

5. Buying onion sets isn’t cheating
When my dad handed me a brown paper bag last year with a big smile on his face, declaring that I would LOVE this onion set and to take good care of them, I admit I was a little underwhelmed. I was a bit of a seed snob last year, and figured it was too much of a short cut to just plop some onion bulbs in the ground. But oh, the happy, instant gratification these little guys brought! Within no time, we were enjoying them and I was thanking Dad.

6. Plant more green beans!
Perhaps it was the jungle shade of the tomato plants. Maybe it was the hot pepper plants that were taking up valuable space. Whatever it was, we did not plant enough bush beans last year, and what we planted were not very good producers. It may be delightful to see that one long, tender bean ready for picking on your plant, but one long, tender bean does not a side dish make. This year, I’m devoting a whole section of my raised bed to nothing but bush beans.

7. Gardening draws attention
Our backyard is up on a hill, with no fence to speak of, so we’re kind of on display. As such, any time I walk out to the garden, someone is inevitably watching me. This results in a lot of well meaning questions regarding what I’m planting, how much I’m harvesting, and occasional jokes, like, “What, do you keep your kids in that little green house you open up every morning?” Ha ha. Ahh, No. But really, I don’t mind. Though sometimes I find that song from the 80’s running through my mind…I always feel like…somebody’s watching meeeee…and I got no privacy…woahwoah…

So that’s my list! And with this growing season well underway, I’m already compiling a new list for this season. It would seem with gardening, the lessons just keep on coming. Here’s to trial, error, and hands in the soil!

What are some of your gardening lessons learned?

In the Garden

Great Growth Under Gray Skies

This past weekend brought copious amounts of much needed rain to our area. So much so, in fact, that we closed up the Grow Camp so it wouldn’t get water logged with the rapid rainfall. Sadly, I didn’t catch it in time for my microgreen trays. They were swamped. The rest of the garden looked lush and happy this morning, though.

The broccoli rabe is in the foreground above. He’s doing great! I’m glad I squeezed one in.

The lettuce blend I planted from seed has taken off! We’re having a big ol’ salad tomorrow for lunch!

Swiss chard is on the top left above.

Time for beer traps! These slugs are doing a number on my lettuce.

That’s me making faces at the slugs. In the foreground is the oregano from last year. It’s huge! And yes, I’m digging around in my garden in a white cardigan. Because I’m intelligent and practical like that. Ha.

I love all the lush green! Makes me happy on a cloudy day.

In the Garden, Photos and Galleries

Gallery: My Rookie Mistake

My mom and dad needed to pick up some hanging flower baskets and impatiens for their backyard and invited us to meet them at a farm and nursery not far from our home. The place was in full bloom with beautiful hanging baskets, petunias, and geraniums as far as the eye could see. What caught my eye, however, was a shelf of young vegetable flats just outside the nursery door. Dad picked up a four-pack of broccoli rabe, and before long I had a four-pack in my hands, too. Then Hubberman spotted brussels sprouts. Pretty soon I was toting a four-pack of those around as well. “I’ll fit them in somewhere,” I reasoned.

Of course, after coming home to research space requirements for brussels sprouts and broccoli rabe, I realized I have absolutely no room for either in my little raised bed. Those guys require a lot of space! Lesson learned – always research first! O well. Looks like my dad will do some surrogate gardening for me this season!

Here’s a gallery of the beautiful farm where we shopped. Photos by my Hubberman.