Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What I Learned While Gardening in 2011

I wanted to write down some things we've learned this year while gardening. Also, you'll see a few pictures sprinkled along the road.

1. The numbers on the back of the seed packet that say you should have produce around 33 days, 90 days, etc. They're never accurate. Today I finally picked  our"30 day" radishes after 120 days. They're marble sized. 

2. Dirt makes all the difference. I use the cheap dirt usually because, well, it's cheap. But I ran out of the cheap dirt on one part of the garden and used the miracle grow expensive stuff. Well, what do you know? The side of the garden with the better dirt is growing faster, healthier, and even showing less yellowing due to over watering (yes, my bad. Water before it rains much?). I'm also seeing fewer bug attacks on the plants with the better dirt, but I'm not sure if that's related.

Can you see the difference? Just one plant over is healthier and larger than the other.

3. Broccoli really does like soil that drains well. You'd think I'd know that because I read it in a book somewhere, but then I just had to plant the broccoli in soil that did not drain well to prove something. The book was correct. I am gingerly watering my broccoli now this season. Oh, also, did you know broccoli doesn't like its leaves to be wet? Only water around the stalks, and never on the leaves. You learn so much when you read!

4. Peas are awesome! Yes they are.  They are easy to maintain, they put nitrogen into the soil as they grow (thus nourishing the soil for next year's crop), and they taste great. Every spring and every fall from here on out, peas will be planted in my garden.

5. Don't get distracted by your children while planting peas and forget the seed packet out in the yard. It will inevitably get rained on, and, two weeks later, you may find the dilapidated packet full of sprouting peas and have more peas than you know what to do with! This did not happen to me. I'm just saying that it could happen. To someone. Not me.

6. Peas need something to hold onto before they will produce their peas. The trellised peas in our garden are producing. The non trellised peas? They have not yet produced and have been sentenced to creative trellising through the end of their growing season. Today I dug some holes next to our frostbitten tomato plant and its trellis and put a few more large seedlings alongside the dying plant, hoping it will vine.

We're also using a plant stand as a trellis and some gone to seed lettuce stalks, hoping they will vine up them.
This is what you call desperation, people. Clearly, I need to invest in some more items for the peas to climb.

7. Lettuce really won't do well for very long in a pot outside. I need to plant it in the ground if I want to get any decent use out of it. We probably should mulch over it next year as well, for the same reason.

The warm fall days caused our lettuce to shoot up and grow bitter quicker than I had hoped! 

8. Cilantro doesn't like hot heat! Our cilantro went to seed at the beginning of the summer. I was so disappointed because I was hoping to use it all summer long. I managed to salvage some of the seeds, and I refrigerated them for a few weeks (to imitate a winter chill), then I stuck them in some dirt and watered them occasionally. Nothing happened all summer long! Just now, in the first week of November, I am finally seeing some cilantro shoot up from that dirt.

Lesson learned: cilantro does not like heat. I'll likely grow cilantro inside during the summer from now on.

9. Grow more parsley. It can go in anything.

10. Grow more basil. It goes in every Italian dish and we use it a ton (because I love Italian)!

11. Grow more sage and learn to read. Our "basil" was actually sage this year. Still tasty but in an ignorant sort of way.

11. Grow more tomatoes. We never had enough!

12. Ants will eat your vegetables too! Get rid of them!

13. Prune those plants! If you get in there and clean the dead leaves off your plants, you will be thanked every time with heaps of new buds less than a week later, which means more produce! Early mornings, pulling out dry, dead limbs always brought sweet spiritual truths to mind about the work our Father is doing in us, pruning out useless limbs so we can generously produce fruit.

14. Do this again next year. It was a ton of fun! Well, it still is fun. We're not done until the whole thing freezes over!