My Most Awesome Gardening Experience This Summer – Wow, I learned a lot

Wow, I’ve learned so much about gardening this summer.  When I started my gardening project this summer for the first time in a very long time I was extremely excited.  Being the planner I am, I researched, read books, talked to other gardeners and still came away with several “what was I thinking?”

Here are some of my learning curve experiences and thoughts:

  • Start lettuce with transplants instead of seeds. Unless you really do want 50+ lettuce plants. Instead of planting in the raised beds I think next year I’ll use several long narrow planter boxes like the ones below. Lettuce doesn’t have a big root system and my over flow plants did very well in these planted boxes. Plus, this will allow more room for other plants in the raised beds.Option for Lettuce Lettuce2
  • Plant radish seeds in the long narrow planter boxes as well. Mainly for the same reason as the lettuce – shallow roots and more room in the raised beds.  See pictures above.
  • Don’t always believe the seed packets when it says “no need to stake the bush peas and beans”.  Do more research on the type you want to plant. Only reading what was on the package was a mistake. I wound up staking the peas and they immediately started making pods albeit late. The beans are a stringy mess right now and I think it might be too late to string them up so I may or may not get beans this year, which will be disappointing.
  • Don’t plant extra lettuce and onions here and there in the raised beds unless they’ll get enough sun.   I had so many I thought I’d plant them wherever I could find room. However, with the shade provided by the very large zucchini, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli leaves, the onions and some of the lettuce just didn’t get the sun they needed.  After harvesting some of them just rotted out.
  • For my peppers, I used 4 big pots and kept them covered with a white plant and seed cloth. This method has actually worked just fine even though it’s a little bit of work to cover and uncover for watering and feeding. I’ve already harvested several peppers that were delicious, with many more on the way.  I believe the cloth did help keep the bugs away and the heat in which contributed to a great crop.
  • I planted strawberries in large planters and I don’t think this was the best method. I’ve found they like to “hang” so possibly a shallower pot would have given me more fruit. So far I’ve only a harvested a few strawberries. Perhaps too I’m not being patient enough. I guess time will tell.
  • Plant more carrots! When I thinned the carrots I ate the smaller ones. They were very tasty. So with the extra space in the beds without the lettuce and radishes I’ll have plenty of room.
  • Should I plant Brussels sprouts next year, or not? I harvested some Brussels this year on July 25th. Many people on the Mat-Su Gardeners blog on Facebook said this is a very early. I planted the Jade Cross variety on 5-16 and had fruit on 7-25 even though the packet said 85-90 days. Based on comments by other Master Gardeners, I should wait to harvest until after the first frost for sweeter fruit. So, I’ll experiment and not harvest the remaining fruit until then. These plants take up quite a bit of room so even though I really like to eat them I’m not sure I’m willing to give up so much space.
  • I have an 8×8 greenhouse and currently have four cucumber and seven tomato plants. It’s a little crowded. Five of the seven tomatoes are indeterminate and are very tall and require a lot of work to maintain. Next year I’ll limit myself to four determinate plants and four cucumbers. This will give me enough room to add things like basil and a few other herbs I’d like to try.

    Looking Forward To Next Year

    A few things I’ll keep consider for next year to have an even better gardening experience:

  • Review and revise my garden layout based on the compatible planting charts to make sure that as crops are rotated, I’m still planting crops that are compatible and discourage insects and diseases.  I used this chart in my planting this year and everything turned out okay however, I need to make a few adjustments.  Here’s the link to the chart I found helpful.  http://www.ufseeds.com/Vegetable-Companion-Planting-Chart.html.  
  • This years planting was the first in the new raised beds.  Therefore, the rotation of crops will be an important factor for next year.  Here’s a great article I liked that you might also think is helpful.  http://www.todayshomeowner.com/vegetable-garden-crop-rotation-made-easy/
  • I would recommend reading up on how to prune tomatoes and cucumbers ahead of time. I was behind the curve and had a serious mess before I knew it and even though the plants produced enough fruit, I think I could have gotten more.  Here’s a few articles I found helpful.  Tomatoes: http://www.wikihow.com/Prune-Tomatoeshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekvuwwneUxs.  Cucumbers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGkFJh5bKGg
  • I’m already designing my pepper house.  I have found a spot that will get sun and heat from the building all day and should produce a bigger crop.

Considering I learned so much this year I really did have a spectacular summer. The weather has been awesome and I have harvested so far enough tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, radishes, lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli to donate over 150 pounds of food to the local food pantry and provide myself, friends, family and neighbors with home grown veggies.

Is it time to plan for next year yet? Looking forward to it.  HAPPY GARDENING.

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