[Read part one here!]
I think I say some version of this in every conversation I have about gardening: I’m not a great gardener… yet! It has always bothered me that gardening takes so long to learn – you basically only get one chance a year. But reassuringly, all the old timers at the farmer’s market have told me that they barely knew anything when they started as well. It just takes time, and the willingness to work at it.
Here’s what the garden looked like at the end of winter:
The taller plants on the right are actually curly and russian kale that I planted last fall!
They survived the winter (even under a couple snowfalls!) and when the temperature was right they exploded with growth.
I concentrated on this bed first, beginning with pulling up all the weeds and loosening up the dirt with a shovel and hoe. Good to see some healthy signs of life wrigglin around:
I bought four-packs of spinach, arugula, and spring lettuce at the farmer’s market and planted them at one end, and then trimmed up the kale. My hope is that we can still get some edible leaves off the kale without them going to flower too much, but I eventually plan on replacing them with other stuff.
The second bed got the lettuce
As well as some eggplant and peppers.
I planted carrots in this bed the previous fall and man there were still a bunch left!
These were just the good ones – I probably threw out an equal amount of tiny ones that were unusable. We had some for dinner (still delicious!) and made baby food with the rest.
I planted eight different tomato varieties, most of them heirlooms: Mortgage Lifter, Abraham Lincoln, Red Pisa Date, Granny Cantrell just to name a few. Last year I let the tomato plants go wild but I plan on doing a lot of pruning this year. A neighbor of mine always seems to have these small tomato plants that produce a huge amount of fruit, so I got some tips.
I also added in some marigolds, mostly for aesthetics but also for pest-prevention.
Before and after!
The best advice I have to new gardeners is to not over-extend themselves. I’ve been a victim of this many times – it’s so easy to get excited about gardening at the beginning of the season, but you don’t realize the months of work ahead of you. This garden may look like a lot of space, but if you practice proper plant placement you’ll find that there’s actually not as much space as you think.
I also recommend that people go easy on the fruiting vegetables and concentrate on greens. Greens are SO easy to grow, and produce a huge yield. You’ll really feel like you’re eating your bounty when you have great salads every day. Swiss chard may be the easiest thing ever to grow – you can literally just toss the seeds on top of the soil, lightly rake it around a little, and then water occasionally. I think people get too excited about the idea of having something like unlimited bell peppers for the summer, but they don’t realize that it takes many plants to do this.
A few days after the garden work described above I found some okra sprouts for sale, so I went ahead and removed some of the two kale varieties to make way.
Okra was one of my favorite things I grew last year – just six plants like this produce enough for the two of us to have okra a couple meals a week. Even when they got up to 7’ tall they were still producing great fruit!
One last thing to share – I’ve become a big fan of buying starter plants rather than growing from seed. With things like zucchini, I only need one plant per year, so I might as well pay $2 for the sprout than $2 for the pack of seeds. I don’t want to take up window space in the house to grow seedlings, and I don’t want to spend all my gardening energy early on. So find some good looking plants at your local farmer’s market and save yourself the hassle!
More updates as the garden progresses!