Our little garden has come a long way since my last update, so it’s about time I share a little more about our experience as first-time vegetable gardeners. This will probably be the last update for this year, as it seems like the plants are beginning to wither away in the summer heat. We’ve learned a lot through this experience – like not to plant before the last frost date no matter how nice it is! Some day when we’re experts, we can look back on our 4′ x 8′ raised bed garden and remember our humble beginnings.
I think the main takeaway for us as beginners is to just plant stuff. Have space in the garden? Put something there, water it, and if nothing happens, plant something else. Eventually something is bound to grow. We have to learn how this works somehow, so might as well try a wide variety of plants and take advantage of whatever space we have! Someday maybe we’ll have a system, but it’ll take us a while to work up to that.
Also, in the future we may consider growing flowers as well. We had some trouble getting bees to do their job with pollinating, so someone suggested that we grow flowers to bring more bees to our garden.
Besides having our raised bed garden, we also had several plants in pots. Generally, things did better inside the garden, but we liked having extra space to experiment.
Here’s a complete list of everything we planted, and how it did:
CARROTS: One of the first things planted, and some of the originals even made it through the frost and ended up being harvested. Given, they were only like 3 inches long, but hey, they tried. Overall I think we got around 8-10, and there’s still a couple more out there. (Though we’re uncertain that there is much growing underground.)
ONIONS: Duds. Never grew more than a small sprout.
BROCCOLI: We had 2 massive broccoli plants that fed us for a couple meals. We still have some growing – one looks like it’s even trying to grow a flower – but the leaves are possibly being eaten by something and have seen better days.
LETTUCE: From March to June, our lettuce was very successful and provided leaves enough for sandwiches most days a week and a few salads here or there. I loved having a plant that continually provided us with leafy greens because I have trouble with using up things I buy from the store before they go bad.
TOMATOES: We tried and tried, but we could never get any tomato plants past the flowering stage. We planted so many and tried different strategies but nothing really worked. I think this would work better on Iowa soil. 😉 My grandparents always have an abundance of tomatoes so I definitely need to learn their secrets!
PEPPERS: Never got any bigger than like 3 inches. Fail.
ACORN SQUASH: Curtis’ pride and joy. We used seeds from an acorn squash that we bought early in the year, and after a long time of just being little seedlings, they finally grew and a few plants started producing. Now, these plants have incredibly long vines that stretch across the yard and back porch (which I’m sure the landscapers love). For a while, they would only flower and not actually grow fruit. We decided that the bees weren’t doing their part, so Curtis starting pollinating them using q-tips. It worked! I think we ended up with 6 acorn squash, each of which I made into yummy, creamy soup. I’d say a plant that provides us with at least 4 dinners is worth having!
GREEN ONIONS: We saw tiny little sprouts popping up, and they grew about 2 inches, and that was it. Bummer.
SPINACH: It started growing in late March/early April and looked to be very healthy…but then when the leaves were about the size of a nickel, they just wilted one day for no particular reason. Sad face. At least the lettuce picked up where this left off.
WATERMELON: We had one little melon that grew to the size of a golf ball, but then ceased to make any more progress. Probably my biggest disappointment because I so wanted to enjoy a homegrown watermelon on a hot day!!
CANTALOUPE: Grew a long vine, but never produced any fruit.
GREEN BEANS/WAX BEANS: To be honest, I don’t remember which beans produced a few pods, but one of them did and we enjoyed nibbling on like 6 pods. haha.
PEAS: Pretty much the same as the beans. We nibbled on a couple pods and then they decided that was enough producing. Thanks a lot.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH: This was one of several plants we adopted from a friend who was moving. When he brought it over, it had 2 small squashes growing on it, but not many leaves to support the plant. It wasn’t doing too well from the start, and sadly both squash fell off and it didn’t ever recover.
EGGPLANT: Another plant adopted from our friend, and while it looks very healthy, it never produced any fruit.
BASIL: The one plant that we adopted that continued to thrive once under our supervision! Not only does it have many leaves and smell wonderful, it also is beautiful with its purple blossoms. However, I confess that I am SO bad at using herbs. I have to specifically plan a meal around them in order to use them, otherwise I forget and they just go bad. I’m working on that…
CUCUMBERS: I saved the best for last! By far the most successful thing that continues to produce even now without any effort on our part. We were meant to be cucumber farmers! No seriously, we have them growing out our ears. Every time Curtis goes out to look at them, he finds more growing. For a while he was helping them by pollinating them like with the acorn squash, but we no longer have to do anything! So what are we doing with all these cucumbers?? Eating them plain or with meals, giving them away, and pickling them. I think Curtis has pickled like 7 or 8 jars by now. It’s completely his project and he is so good at it! But we keep falling behind and don’t have enough jars. I guess after so many failures, this isn’t a bad problem to have, and hopefully someday everything will grow as well as our cucumber plants. 🙂