What I learned from my garden this year

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Beginning of summer

So this was my first year to have a raised bed garden.

Some backstory: I worked for years as a florist. I took cut flowers and arranged them into pleasing shapes. I have always been unfortunately adept at killing houseplants, so I liked to think of myself as a plant mortician–not much good at keeping them alive, but I can make them look nice once they’re dead.

My sister-in-law, who lived across the street until just recently, on the other hand, had four raised beds and had more tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers than she knew what to do with.  We received some of the overflow, and when they moved this spring, they offered us one of the raised beds. We’ll take it, we said, but I admit I was doubtful at my ability to keep the plants alive.

Well, keep them alive I did, and here are some things I learned and reminders to myself for next year:

  1. Start your seeds earlier. Read the packets and note how long it takes stuff to grow to harvest. You’ll want that information later.
  2. Do get your children to help you germinate the seeds and plant the seedlings. They love it and it turns out at least one of them will eat a vegetable raw, if he helped grow
    bee

    My new best friends, the bees

    it.

  3. When the packet says to thin the carrots to two inches apart, do it. Your carrots came out all weird and stumpy this year in part because you didn’t and they were pressed up against each other.
  4. Next year, plant with an eye toward the sun. The cucumbers and tomatoes grew so fast, they shaded the poor peppers into stuntedness. Moving the pepper to a pot was a success (now we have bell peppers!) but next year, put the fast growers in the middle and the peppers toward the edge.
  5. Garden bugs are a nuisance and squash bugs are the very devil. They killed your cucumbers, and you blame them for the butternut squash, too. Next year, squish to kill as soon as you see them. You know what they look like now. And maybe plant the curcurbits with some distance between them to make it harder for the little bastards.
  6. cukeIt’s okay for you and the child who eats vegetables to mourn the cucumber plant. He grew it from a seed, after all, and learned that he could eat a whole cucumber. You were both sad when you pulled up the desiccated remains (damn you, squash bugs), but he was the one who cried.
  7. Maybe more marigolds between the plants next year?
  8. There is no flavor like the flavor of a cucumber you just picked. You sliced one for the first time and the whole kitchen smelled like summer.
  9. Next year: plant less basil. This sounds like heresy, but hear me out. You could make a mountain of pesto right now and still have basil left over. Plant more dill. You never had enough for cucumber and tomato salad.
  10. The cantaloupe didn’t produce many melons, and they weren’t very big, but the boys adored them. A++, do plant again.
  11. The summer crop is coming to an end, and you’re already eyeing lettuces and radishes and more carrots (thin them this time!) Let’s do it.
  12. Next year, more eggplants.
  13. Also, sweet potatoes.
  14. Maybe onions?
  15. We’re going to need another bed.

 

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