Today we’re taking a break from recipes to talk gardening. Planting a garden for a novice gardener (like me!) can be daunting. But the reward of harvesting your own fresh vegetables, fruits or herbs makes it well worth it. Before you read this post, and think that I’m some sort of gardening genius, you should know that I am not. But I like the idea of having my own garden, and I don’t mind putting in the work to make it happen. So here’s what I’ve learned so far.
This was the first time I’ve planted anything other than tomatoes and herbs. I didn’t need to do any building, since the 2 large raised garden beds were already in place when we moved in. Each of these beds measures 7’x8′. There are also a couple of smaller beds around the sides of the yard. If I had to start from scratch, I would do more narrow “row” type beds, or smaller squares so that I didn’t have to climb into the beds to do planting, weeding and harvesting.
Since I was gone almost all of May, I ended up having to plant almost everything as plants that were already started by a nursery vs. planting from seed. This meant that I missed out on planting some things that I really wanted, like beets, because it was too late. Hopefully my CSA stocks me up. Planting bedding plants also costs more than planting from seed. The carrots, of course, were planted from seeds. The tops started coming up only a week or so after planting. The garlic was planted in the fall (mid-October). I really didn’t expect it to survive since I didn’t bother covering it over with mulch, as was recommended and our winter was apparently really cold (seemed pretty normal for my Central Alberta blood). In the past week or so, the scapes have started growing. The scapes are basically the stalk that the flower would grow on. It is recommended that you cut them off, so the energy from the plant goes to growing the bulb (the part you cook with). The scapes are edible – they taste like garlic (surprise surprise). I like them raw, served with ranch dip.
I can’t believe how fast everything is growing! I guess our alternating hot weather and rain are making things grow really well. I bet I’ll be able to use these peppers soon! Tomatoes are growing too, but still mostly green except for my one potted tomato which is pretty much dead and all the tomatoes on it are turning red.
The only major gardening problem I’ve come across so far was cutworms. They are basically big, fat caterpillars that eat off the leaves, right at the base of the plant. The kohlrabi in the picture above almost didn’t survive – it only had one leave left after the cutworm had it’s fill. After doing some internet research, I made these nifty little collars out of toilet paper rolls to protect the base of the plants. Good thing the bathroom garbage cans hadn’t been emptied recently. I also sprinkled cornmeal around the garden, since that is supposed to kill them. But my friendly backyard chipmunk pretty much devoured that. In any case, I haven’t seen any other evidence of cutworm damage since.
My herb garden is my pride and joy. I absolutely love cooking with fresh herbs, and I love having them on hand in the garden whenever I need them. The chives came back from last year, and they’re definitely growing the best. I planted 3 healthy basil plants, then got another one from my CSA. Hopefully it grows well, because when I cook with basil, I usually use a lot at once. I also planted a couple of Thai basil plants, but they’re not looking so good. I don’t know if they’re getting too much rain, not enough sun, too much sun or what. Hopefully they revive themselves. The cilantro also came back from last year. I wasn’t going to plant it if it hadn’t randomly shown up in the bed, since I haven’t had much luck with it in the past. But it’s there, so I’ll keep it.
When we moved in, the whole herb bed, as well as the surrounding 2-5′ were overgrown with some kind of mint. It wasn’t even good, strong mint that I’d want to make mojitos out of. It was a sort of bland boring mint that was threatening to take over my yard. I pulled it all up (though it still keeps growing and growing). After seeing that, I will only ever plant mint in a pot. This one is semi-buried so it could stay with the rest of the herbs.
Last but not least, I planted 2 red rhubarb plants. They didn’t look very good for awhile, but I think they’ll make it. Apparently I’ve been neglecting this corner of the yard. Look at those weeds! YIKES!And I can’t forget about my pear tree. This was already here when we moved in. Except it was WAY bigger than this. Last year we got what seemed like thousands of tiny little pears. They needed to be thinned to get nice big, juicy pears, but it was already too late by the time we had moved in. Back in February I pulled out my pruners and cut back 1/3 of the branches, because it was way overgrown. It seems to be growing well since then, so I guess I didn’t hurt it.
I did most of the planting in one (extended) morning about 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve done the occasional weeding, and watering when needed. In general I do MAYBE 10 minutes per day. Not so bad, right?
I’ll keep you posted on how the garden turns out, and what I get out of it.