My personality is very much conducive to going through seasons of different passions! For example, I’m currently obsessed with investing, the stock market, retirement accounts, expense ratios, etc. Before that I was researching the different food regions of Mexico! Before that was a detailed interest in the soil food web. I realize upon writing each of these like this that everything I’ve said is probably entirely disinteresting to basically every other human! But one of my forever passions that never really fades away is my passion for gardening! Yeeeek!! (and I think more people can relate to this one! HA!)
My garden this year is a delight and I’d love to show you what we did, but first let me tell you where we started!
Last year I told my dad I’d like some help creating a small garden. I’m pretty sure my exact quote was “I really don’t want to go hog wild here dad, just like a few tomato plants, a jalapeño plant, and we’ll just ease into this thing! But I need a little fence around it so the dogs don’t get into it!” Next thing I know, we’re planning to fence in a garden that’s BIGGER THAN MY WHOLE HOUSE!!! The garden in total is a little over 3,000 square feet! lol What happened to “easing in?!”
So we were off to the races, Spring 2019 with our new MASSIVE GARDEN…and we took some serious missteps!
- TOO BIG If you’ve been interested in gardening for any amount of time then you already know this is a rookie mistake! Now, to be fair, this year, my second year, I’ve already adjusted to how big the garden is, but if you don’t have yourself set up for success than the sheer size of a large garden is too overwhelming! The best way to make up for going too big too soon is to get more help! There were times that I’d literally invite my whole family over and just say “sorry to do this to you but I need everyone in the garden helping me with this relentless Bermuda grass that won’t let me live my life in peace!!”
- NO WEED PLAN Yikes. This one killed us! To be honest, it’s not the weeds in our garden that cause the problem, it’s our Bermuda grass! You just can’t slow it down! (I wish the same could be said of our St. Augustine in the front!) We cleared the plots nicely in the spring and had beautiful rows of plants with a significant amount of mulch on each row, but this minimal plan was absolutely no match for our Bermuda grass. (Although, in fairness, we didn’t have a weed problem! 🙂 So the mulch did great for that!)
- NO WATER PLAN In early Spring, I think I had romantic visions of wandering out in my Hunter boots and sun hat and leisurely watering my beautiful sunflowers as the sun rose! Maybe having a glass of fresh squeezed juice while the birds chirped and the dogs wandered happily around the yard! I clearly had Martha Stewart in mind and this dream sounds lovely! Alas, we don’t live in Connecticut! By the time July rolled around, it was 99 degrees at 8:00 am. Instead of the sunhat and boots, I more likely was out there sweating like a pig in my pajamas just trying to get some dang water on these poor hot plants. Nightmare!
Now for clarity’s sake, I did make more mistakes my first year (no compost, not strong enough supports for my tomatoes, missed the entire boat on growing zucchini in a tomato cage) but these top 3 mistakes were the big ones! Luckily, when it comes to gardening we’re just learning non-stop! I implemented so many changes this year and boy did it help!!
SECOND YEAR SOLUTIONS
- RAISED BEDS This solution killed so many birds with one stone. We handled the Bermuda problem straight away We handled the size problem honestly because everything was so organized and neat that it didn’t feel overwhelming. And we handled a lot of other problems including soil erosion, soil compaction, and the like.
- COMPOST IS QUEEN We saved a years worth of leaves, veggie scraps, yard clippings, coffee grounds, etc. to create the most glorious compost pile you’ve ever seen! It was massive and steaming and beautiful and it lead to the most beautiful plants! I did not fertilize (neither synthetic nor organic) one time all season! The compost alone did it’s job of providing nutrients to the plants. Amen!
- PLANT SUPPORTS Aha! I sent weekly pictures to my family in glee over this new-to-me technique. Growing your zucchini/squash plants in tomato cages and weekly trimming off the lower leaves. AMAZING results! This technique limits disease, increases oxygen flow, encourages visitors from pollinators, and limits pests! That pretty much is every problem solved with a simple tomato cage.