I’ve referenced our garden a couple times in different posts, and today I decided to show it off. I mean, now that it’s starting to turn into a successful attempt, I actually have something to show! As soon as we found out we were getting a house, we decided that we were going to try our hand at gardening. The green thumb is very present in both sides of our family through many generations, (I mean, what do you expect? We’re from Iowa!) so if it’s a genetic thing, we’re bound to be agricultural experts. However, green thumbs don’t seem to come naturally without any experience, so we’ve been learning and experimenting a lot. With that, I present to you the Chronicles of Our First Year in Gardening: Humble Beginnings. Enjoy. 🙂
When we first arrived at the end of December, we had highs in the 80’s and very high humidity. When we moved in to the house, the AC was on, and we left it that way! Normally, the end of December through January is the “colder season” in AZ – when it drops to the 60’s-70’s – so we assumed that it was going to be nice like that all winter. We got our little garden plans approved, then got to work setting up cheap boards into a little rectangle and filling our raised-bed garden. We planted carrots, onions, lettuce, and broccoli in the bed to start off, and then planted peppers and tomatoes in pots, watered it all at least once a day, and waited. About a week later, itty bitty little sprouts started to pop up. This was easy! We were really doing it!
But then…it FROZE. This was the biggest disappointment EVER. It actually does get cold down here – like highs in the 40’s-50’s, and lows in the 20’s-30’s. One morning, it even FLURRIED. We had the heat on, and I wore sweaters almost every day through…well, April, but that isn’t saying much (I’m always cold). And now, we’re starting to deal with heat and ridiculous humidity! If you ask me, this is completely unfair. At least Arizona has the decency to be very pleasant from October to April when it wasn’t 100º+. And when it’s hot, it’s the dry heat, which makes ALL the difference. Here, you get it all – cold winters (without snow) and hot, humid summers… anyway, I digress. #WestCoastBestCoast
The garden toyed with our hearts every day. We would go out and water it around lunch time together, then stand there and mourn over how we were failing as plant parents. Some days were warmer and we saw a little progress, other days were cold and the tiny little sprouts died. Then other days we had Hurricane Charlotte come through and dig up our progress. But we didn’t give up…we kept replanting new seeds to see if something else would grow. And yet, it kept on freezing! We wondered if this was just a waste of time and money.
Finally, on the second weekend of March, the sun finally came out and the temps rose up to the 70’s. (I later read that the last frost date for our region is supposedly March 9 – now if only we had known that sooner!) A few things started growing more and looking healthier. But it wasn’t until March 26 that we walked outside and noticed SIGNIFICANT change. Why that day? Because it rained buckets and buckets! Maybe we hadn’t been watering enough all along – we thought that what we were doing was enough, but given the progress after this one rain, we decided to give watering it more a try. And it kept working! On March 28, we feasted on the first produce from our garden: lettuce leaves on our sandwiches. It was a miracle. Our miracle lettuce.
Today, we’re still learning little things and figuring out new strategies. This is in no way the end to our gardening story – we have a long ways to go to become self-sufficient homesteaders. But thankfully, we can’t retire to that life for quite a while, so we still have time to practice. A few weeks back, we were plagued with cabbage worms on our broccoli, and after a few days of continuously checking and killing worms and watching the leaves wither, we finally invested in an organic spray to keep them away, and so far that’s worked. We also started a few more pots, containing different types of squash, beans, cantaloupe, and watermelon. We’ve seen sprouts rise up almost instantly – yay for produce that shows progress quickly! The garden itself has been interesting – We have 2 huge broccoli plants (one that we just harvested recently!) and several much smaller ones. We had what looked like maybe a dozen carrots with healthy leaves, but when we pulled the “bigger ones” out only to discover they were nothing but nubs underneath. (We still ate them and enjoyed every. Bite. Which was an average of 2 bites a carrot.) We had spinach that was looking great but wilted completely one afternoon for no apparent reason. We have 3 cucumber plants that sprung up and looked great, then blossomed, but have done nothing since. The squash has been doing pretty well so far, and has added some pretty flowers to the otherwise boring color scheme. (Green and brown!) Curtis built a makeshift trellis last night to help the beans to have support – let’s see how much they appreciate that!
The one thing that has thrived enough to make it seem worth it is the lettuce. I love being able to walk outside and pick some whenever I need it. We never feel like we can use up green leafy vegetables that we buy fast enough before they go bad, so it’s so nice to just have that option and not have to waste anything. I go out and pick a little every day, and it always grows back. Thanks miracle lettuce, we love you.
And that’s where we are today; hopefully in the future I’ll write more posts about our garden that will be feature more success than failure. And just wait – someday, maybe 20 years from now, I’ll be telling you all about our acres and acres of fresh produce that we’re harvesting from our homestead in the Midwest/Great Plains/Wild West/Anywhere but Nebraska. For now, we’re just practicing for those days, and celebrating anytime we are able to eat and enjoy things we grew, regardless of how small a bite that might be. 😉