Learned this growing season

Confession: Moving to a homestead-in-making has made me feel like such a city kid, despite the fact that I grew up in the wilds of Minnesota and come from a long, proud line of bumpkins.

Most of the time I don’t know what I’m doing. Here are a few things we learned, mostly the hard way, our first year—

  • We’re not in the suburbs anymore. We lost both Little Sal and Mr. Cinnamon to predators. I know—I never wrote about it when it happened. That’s because I was upset and angry for a long time. Mostly I still am.
  • Hill your corn. Before it falls. We still got some, and oooh. Fresh sweet corn is heaven.
  • Stake tomatoes and tie plants to stakes with soft cloth strips. This worked well!
  • Plant “Jade” beans—the five plants that survived the slugs were incredible: hardy bushes loaded with long, straight fruit. We’re talking 7 inches and upward. I bet they gave me twice the yield of the variety I planted in their place (and sprayed liberally with Seven).
  • Plant slow-growing perennials right away. We planted a long row of asparagus, and started four rhubarb plants—generous gift of my SIL Renita. We also gathered a few herbs from friends, to start our own patch.
  • Peas are so not worth it. Not to me. All work and no fruit. My parents came to this conclusion long ago, but of course I had to try it for myself…
  • Plant pumpkins far, far away–preferably on your neighbor’s land. They’re so lovely. They make super decorations and mouth-watering pies. But they spread tendrils literally all over the garden. And out of it.
  • Plant marigolds about your garden. Probably everyone in the United States does this, but it helps reduce bugs and makes your garden pretty.
  • Hang in there. Enjoy the fruit of your labor. Remember you win some, you lose some. It doesn’t all have to happen in one year.

What’s your best garden success or failure story of 2012?

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11 years ago

Aww. You guys lost Little Sal & Mr. Cinnamon? That’s terrible. I bet your kids were very sad to lose them. Sorry!

LaDonna Nice
11 years ago

Pumpkins in the neighbors yard good idea!

11 years ago

No way! You lost the animals? What predators? Roving bands of wild dogs?I am sorry!
Gardening I am learning is a gift people are blessed with.Haven’t been blessed in that category yet!

Cathy M
11 years ago

I keep thinking my children are going to miss out on the whole peas factor if I don’t plant them. Your post convinced me and now I know why my mother quit, along with lima beans!
Plant plenty of tomatoes to get just enough. Maybe it’s just my garden, but some years they can be so skimpy. I planted 50 this year. Yup, 50!
If the garden isn’t close to the house or the dog, forget planting corn and cover all beans and melons with deer netting. We couldn’t keep corn if our lives depended on it.
My mom told me about those beans. I will need to plant those next year. Do they carry them in Meadville or did you order them?

11 years ago
Reply to  Cathy M

I ordered them from the Berlin Seed Co. in Ohio. Thanks for the other advice!

Suzanna Weaver
11 years ago

So finally someone else agrees with my “pea theory”! They are not worth the time for a busy mom and you can buy good frozen peas in the store. But I’m always told that I’m just lazy and not a very good industrious Mennonite woman…:)

11 years ago

I really enjoyed my first vegetable garden this year, since i moved from home, even though it mostly grew up in weeds which didn’t all get pulled before Amish church was held here today. of the weeds i like to say that God is growing mulch for me, the longer i let them go (some ended up taller than me) the more mulch it makes 🙂 and i pull them and lay them down between the plants i planted. i discovered that lamb’s quarter will not die very easily especially if there is a large clunk of soil around the roots – and so i had to pull some of them twice. Arugala was one of my favorite crops, nice to have my own onions, beets and carrots too. the tomatoes didn’t fair so well due to blight and that a big, bad beautiful bird that does as he pleases (aka peacock) happens to consider tomatoes a delicacy. i agree Peas are a lot of work and so i didn’t plant any. snap and sugar peas give more reward for your labor. Jade was one of my families favorites for resiliency, taste and production. my greenbeans didn’t grow so i bought fresh Green beans from my Amish neighbors, so i don’t have to eat store bought all winter. and another neighbor who has practically adopted me as a sister, gave me 1/2 a bushel of okra. i discovered its easiest to put up and easiest to use if i chop and freeze without blanching.
i love reading your “confessions” Shari.
Blessings, Rosanna

11 years ago

Marigolds– yes. And they make their own seeds for next year so easily! Another flower that is SO easily grown, multiplied, and reseeded is the zinnia! My all-time fav for spicing up the garden, picking for vases and decorating little girls’ hair! They possibly will reseed themselves in the garden, or if you make sure the old heads dry– save them for next year and plant after frost!

11 years ago

My sister taught me an amazing trick with tomatoes that is making me very happy this year. Pick them green and put them in cool, dark spot (I’m using my root cellar). They ripen beautifully (in greater lots than 2 or 3 at a time) and they are spared of the bugs and blight that love to attack the ripening fruit. Like I said, this tip is making me a very happy tomato farmer this year. 🙂

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