This post includes the successes; (there are a few) the failures; (there are many) and most importantly the lessons learned in my first season of true gardening.
To say that I have never gardened is not quite true. I have planted strawberries, tomatoes, herbs, flowers and a variety of other plants for the past several years. But this year was different. This is the first year was the first time I planted a garden in the ground! This is the first year I have committed to beginning the process on a particular bit of ground that I intend to come back to year after year. After a decade of moving every six to eighteen months, I cannot even begin to express how good this feels. I am home. Finally.
I planted: Onions, Potatoes, Carrots, Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, Pumpkins, Zucchini, Peas, Beans, Lettuce, Kale, and Calendula. In a separate smaller bed I planted Strawberries and potted herbs. The place already had Plums, Apples, and Raspberries. Almost everything came up strong and looked great early on.
Lesson #1: I should have begun last fall. If I could do it over I would have designated a garden spot, researched seeds, plants and planting time, begun taking steps to improve my soil quality right away. As it was, last fall I was focused on remodeling a house and keeping my family alive while living in a travel trailer. You win some, you lose some.
Lesson #2: Fences are important. I expected to have some trouble keeping our chickens out of the garden. I did not fully anticipate the mayhem my goats would cause on my garden.
Lesson #3: Keep going. I was pretty discouraged after the goats broke in. I gave up for a few days. The weeds began to take over, and things looked really, really bad. But I gathered myself up, and got back to work. As I pulled the weeds, I was amazed how much more was left than I realized and how what was there came right back once it did not have the weeds to contend with.
My Report Card: My pumpkins and most of my squash never came up at all. Of all the squash, only one very small zucchini came up at all. I felt discouraged, but I learned when talking to my neighbors they also experienced fewer squash plants. My late season Kale never sprouted. My beans were re-planted late due to the goat setback, sprouted, but did not really did produce. Overall, my tomatoes were very successful for my particular climate and short growing season. My potatoes were also shockingly successful given that they were a goat favorite and were eaten all the way to the ground midseason. My carrots… well, they gave new meaning to the term ‘baby carrot’ but we got a handful. My lettuce was, well there was some!
Homework: I have given myself some homework over the winter. This winter, weeks before spring, I will be pouring over the seed catalog and really looking into what will work best in my area. I plan to start my seeds indoors this year. I am also going to read Building Soils Naturally; Innovative Methods for Organic Gardening and really work on improving my garden spot for next year. I am very interested in establishing some areas of permaculture on our property and plan on planting more fruit trees this fall.
The Most Important Lesson: I love gardening. I love the peace and grace I find while picking weeds and getting my hands dirty.