With summer coming to a glorious close here in Northwest Ohio, I wanted to share my gardening wins and losses this year. Maybe you don’t have a garden, but you’re interested in starting one next year. Feel free to learn a few things vicariously through me first!
Gardening Reality Check
Before I start listing out my gardening wins and losses, I want to acknowledge first that gardening is an imperfect science. There are lots of “unknowns” to contend with, like weather, planting, soil amendments, critters, and even the variety of vegetable or fruit you chose to plant. It’s easy to get disgruntled when things don’t go your way. The vegetable that was in surplus last year may have languished this year. That being said, gardening is not unlike the facts of life. There’s good and bad, you go through some of both. You may get your hands dirty, but you hopefully learn from your mistakes and move on.
My Gardening Wins
- Year after year, my first gardening win is being able to grow my own fruits and vegetables. Right now, I’m harvesting tomatoes. In fact, later today I’m actually making homemade pasta sauce. I’ll be sharing that recipe with you next week. I can attest that there is no better-tasting tomato than those you grow yourself. The ultimate in freshness will be at your fingertips, though, regardless of what you grow!
- We conquered the weeds. Last summer, it rained almost every day until the 4th of July weekend. By the time we could get out to the garden, the weeds were well past our knees in height. Finding the vegetable plants was like trying to spot Waldo. This year, we made a concerted effort to plan time solely for weed pulling, even if that meant early morning and evenings right after dinner. Since we are growing organically and we have honey bees, we do not use any kind of weed-killing spray on our plants. We also invested in a pull-behind tiller. We didn’t have luck with a small version to push. Our soil is sandy so the tiller would just sink into the ground. Even though I’m sure there are people who will tell us it’s not good for our soil quality to till like we do. However, we are doing what works best for us within our constraints and limitations.
- My GreenStalk vertical planter has been a blessing. It’s a great place to get seedlings started to eventually move out to the garden. It worked like a charm and next year, I’ll be doing even more of this. I also decided to grow my Ovation greens in it and it’s been the best thing ever. I can literally walk twenty feet outside and snip off salad greens to pack in my lunch. Because they continually grow back, I have an endless supply. My salad greens are so much greener and tastier than what I would find at the grocery store. This planter has been my best gardening purchase this year and I’m planning to purchase another one next year. Check out my first post about it here.
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Our Gardening Losses
- Onions. This year, I tried growing them from seed and it wasn’t successful. I should have stuck with the sets I’ve been planting for a few years. Those are practically foolproof, so next year, I’ll be going back to those.
- Last year, I lost most of my potatoes to the weeds, and this year, I didn’t get any due to delays in shipping from Covid. I missed them this year and want to make sure I plan to purchase earlier for next season.
- Apples. We have 4 apple trees and this is the first year they’ve really produced apples. Unfortunately, one of them has some type of disease. I’m hoping we can nurse it back to health but we may lose it. Most people in our area don’t grow apples organically but I do not want to spray them, so I guess I need to research the issues a bit more.
What We’ve Learned
- Read, but also research. The good news is there are a lot of gardening resources out there. The bad news is there are also a lot of hacks and shortcuts that provide bad advice. If I want to learn and be a successful, long-term gardener, I have to put in the time to do it right.
- Place seed orders early. I’m not typically a procrastinator but this year, I wanted to enjoy browsing through all those amazing catalogs. Then Covid hit and by the time I placed my order, the shipment delays started. many of my plants got a later start than I wanted. Although this isn’t really the end of the world, those seed packets tell you when to plant for a reason, which is to have the best harvest. I’m vowing to order right after the new year next year.
- Take good notes. Planning a garden takes time but I’ve found that keeping a garden binder to track gardening wins and losses has been a great time investment. In this binder, I keep track of planting dates, things like how much compost I’m adding to the soil, and the like. The binder also holds how much I have canned in storage and thoughts about the types of vegetables I’ve planted. For example, two plants of cherry tomatoes are plenty, but if the homemade sauce is a hit, I’ll want to plant more San Marzanos. I have 8 jars of grape jam from last year and grapes are almost ready to harvest so this year, I’ll make pies and juice instead.
- When in doubt, mulch, mulch some more. Adding untreated cedar mulch to my smaller garden was a great change from last year’s plan. This year, the cedar kept the bugs and weeds at bay and held the moisture in my soil. Last year, that wasn’t the case. Next year, I’ll be adding it to my berry gardens, too.
Watch My Video
I know so many people who started gardening this year when Covid hit. I hope all the newbies stick with it, despite your own gardening wins and losses. It’s such a rewarding hobby and a miracle of nature to see such small seeds produce such a large and bountiful plant. There’s always a lot to learn, and it’s been well worth my time this year. The feeling of satisfaction you get from growing what you eat is amazing. No matter the size of your garden space, even if it’s just a few tomatoes and herbs, I hope you give it a try.