The Inexperienced Gardener

Over the last few years, I have acquired a strong interest in gardening. It started off as a love for flowers but then evolved into a full-blown desire to grow things almost anything. Last year I planted my very first vegetable garden. I started out with an expensive two level pine raised garden, but then when I ran out of space, I moved to a shady space under a fence in my yard.

Raised and Second at old home

The funny thing was that my second garden, in the shady area, consisted of nothing more than the native soil in my yard, but the vegetables grew much better than in the expensive raised garden which consisted of fancy store bought soil. The area was under a fence with bushes on the other side which provided just enough shade for vegetables such as cabbage, zucchini, and cucumbers.

This area also had enough sun for corn which grew lovely! The soil was very rich and had tons and tons of worms which were the first indication of fertility. What I gained from this experience is the notion that sometimes what is readily available to you can be your very best option.

Although I had learned a lot about my soil and gardening in my first year as a vegetable gardener and knew the next year would be even better, I ended up moving to a new home where uncharted gardening and home improvement awaited me.

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As of now, I have been at my new home for 8 months and have tackled many projects in this short time. After trying to figure out where I would put my new garden, my fiancee made the suggestion that we convert the pond (which I was not a huge fan of) into a raised garden! The area had large flowering bushes around it, and also a separate area for flowers. In theory, this area would be suitable for both sun and shade plants.

With this new space, a lot of new challenges came with it. We first had the task of removing over 4 ft of water, filling the pond with about 2.5 feet of fill dirt, plus 2 feet of top soil manure and other amendments.

Pond 1

Ribbet collage
I researched what items grew best in full sun or part shade. I carefully created a draft showing where everything was to be planted. I even made a calendar that kept track of the dates I planted my plants (I did not start from seeds) and a fertilizing and feeding schedule. I had it all figured out… So I thought.

Raised Garden 1 Graph

At the beginning of this spring season I had planted two types of tomatoes, (Roma and big boy) zucchini, cucumbers, bush beans, basil, two types of red swiss chard, okra, broccoli, collards, kale and hot peppers.

By late summer which is as I am writing this, I no longer had okra because they took too long to take off and I felt the space was overcrowded so I gave the plants away, and I learned that collards were the hardest to keep the insects off naturally so eventually I pulled them up. I did get at least three harvesting’s from them which was more than enough for me.

The red cabbage formed heads, but they did not get very big. This was the same problem I had with them last year, so I’m not sure I will try again with the red ones. The green ones tend to do well anywhere I put them. The bush beans did not produce very much so I pulled them up too.

The previous year I did a vine variety of beans which produced a lot, but they were not flavorful so I think I will try vine again next year but a different variety.

My zucchini suffered from powdery mildew all season but still produced some decent sized zucchini but nowhere near the large ones from the previous year. I think they were not getting enough air which caused the mildew and slower growth.

But still, all in all, I consider my new garden to be a huge success and it looks beautiful in my yard! People come by and marvel over its greatness! I am very pleased indeed! šŸ™‚

Begining garden

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Even though it is in full bloom, it is still a lot of work. Over the season, I have had to cut down and prune my tomato plants because they were entirely too tall, and most of the nutrients were going into the height of the plant and not the fruit. Once I learned the art of pruning (kinda) they started to produce more fruit, and much faster. I continuously have had to add support to my tomatoes so I think next year I will use cages.

I also had a very slight case of rot bottom on just a few plants. I also moved one of my cucumber plants from the garden to a pot because it was competing with the zucchini. I originally thought zucchini could be grown on a trellis but was wrong.

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Now we are approaching the end of summer here in Michigan so I have decided to start a whole new vegetable garden! Yes, I am venturing into fall gardening this year. Stay tuned for my next posting which will take you step by step with me, as I challenge myself to dig deeper and become a Top Shelf Gardener!

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