Friday, July 31, 2009

A Garden Update...Of Sorts

It's been a while since I gave a garden update or even mentioned the garden in a post, so I thought I'd do that today.

While there is plenty to write about, there isn't much to photograph right now. In fact, the garden is kind of ugly these days. Therefore, no pictures.

From the beginning I admitted that Shane and I don't know beans about gardening, and with that in mind, I think we've done fairly well. To date, we've harvested 92 pounds of food from our modest 120 square feet of beds. Right now, we are bringing in tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers, along with a few banana peppers and the occasional zucchini.

While the zucchinis are almost finished because of some problems with rot at the base of the plants, other plants have flourished. The cucumbers have been prolific, but are starting to slow down now. The green beans actually seem to be on the increase, and there are lots of green tomatoes on the vines waiting to ripen.

I've made many pints of refrigerator pickles, frozen a good deal of zucchini in slices and shreds, frozen a few pints of green beans, made three pints of pickled peppers, made dried zucchini chips in our dehydrator and later today I'll be water-bath canning some more pickles. Soon I'll probably be canning tomatoes. I will probably just can them all as chopped or diced tomatoes, then use them later as the starting point for pasta sauce, salsa, tomato sauce, etc. I won't really have enough to make batches of each of those things to can.

The volunteers from our compost pile - potatoes and what we thought was baby watermelon -- haven't fared as well. The potatoes seem to be a hybrid of pretty foliage but no blooms or potatoes, and the baby watermelon turned out to be a miniature pumpkin instead. The first one rotted at the stem before it had a chance to mature. There are two more on the vine, but I'm not sure if they will mature or not.

BTW, for those of you who were wondering about our upside-down tomato planters, our opinion isn't good. The tomatoes in the planters have struggled all summer long, despite daily watering and feeding of tomato food. The tomato plants in our raised beds are towering above my head with only water and no plant food. We believe that the hanging planters just don't have enough soil in them to properly feed the plant and allow root growth. We may try peppers in them next year, or maybe flowering plants, or maybe we won't use them at all.

We've been lucky and haven't noticed many insect pests at all. Our main problems have been overcrowding of plants (which we suspected we'd done from the beginning) and an animal pest of some kind. We think it's an opossum, judging by footprints in the soil and bite patterns in some of the tomatoes. We also found a dead 'possum under our storage shed recently. Whatever the culprit, it's been hitting our low hanging ripe tomatoes pretty hard. It has also completely destroyed our green peppers, eating the plant but not the peppers. It hasn't eaten our green beans, but appears to have slept or rolled around in them. So far we've tried sprinkling cayenne pepper around the plants, which didn't work. We haven't decided yet whether we'll try to find a commercial repellent of some kind, or just give in and share our bounty. I don't mind sharing a little with bugs and "varmints", just as long as they don't take it all.

Anyway, we're still learning as we go and hope to do some things differently next year. However, we've had some successes we hope to duplicate next year, too.

Next on the agenda is to plant lettuce, chard, spinach and collards again for a fall harvest. I should have already researched these, but I don't think it's too late to plant them for fall. However, with our weather as cool as it has been here in Missouri, I wonder if I could have already sewn those seeds. I need to get off my butt and look these things up.

Overall, we've been happy with the turnout of our first real gardening effort and plan to build more beds as summer turns into fall. We're going to give "lasagna gardening" a try. The new beds should be ready to go by the time Spring '10 rolls around.


Cathy said...

I am so impressed. Every year I think I am going to do a garden but haven't yet. Knowing you have done so well with limited gardening knowledge gives me hope for myself. :)

Frances said...

I wish I had a garden! Yours sounds wonderful!

Lisa B. said...

Those upside down hanging bags/pots didnt do well for me either. I tried them a couple years ago for two years in a row and ended up throwing mine away. They were more trouble than they were worth in my opinion.

Annie Jones said...

Cathy: I think ours was just right for beginners. It's been fulfilling without being overwhelming.

Frances: Thanks!

Lisa: I'm not sure if we'll throw them out or not, but I'm sure we won't grow tomatoes in them again.