Houzz Logo Print

Story Time and Photo Tour of a First Timer's Veggie Garden;

14 years ago

('scuse any typos, I cant touch type and dont have a spell checker, I'll edit out what I can. ^^;)

After 14 years living in a tiny, cramped little trailer with forty other cramped trailers full of unhappy people that didnt even have a square foot of soil (Just concrete and maybe an occassional flower pot), My three person family took a leap of faith, scraped together the last of our savings and fled the crime-ridden, ecologically and economically unstable hellhole that was the eastern california bay and moved up north as far as our little van could carry us. Imagine my surprise when the same amount of rent and food we'd been paying for that sardine tin got us three times the space and... GASP! LAND TO PLANT ON! EEEE!

For someone who was raised on videogames like Monster Rancher, Harvest Moon and other farm life simulation games, the chance to really put myself to the test and roll around in the soil for real was like a dream come true. My pipedreams of going to some classy college to become some stylish character desginer for a videogame product that no one would remember vanished in a puff of smoke and was promptly replaced with a desire to pick up accounting and book keeping and see how many years of minimum wage people pandering it'd take for me to buy a few acres and grow old tending the land and sharing the bounty of a well tended and loved expanse of blood, sweat, tears and back bending labor.

Now at 26 and having freshly moved to the country, I'm struggling to get my foot in the door and pump the locals for information. I've discovored hwoever this is really hard to do when Im not sure what kind of questions I should be asking and who I should direct them to. The Farmers Market has been my best source of information so far, but its always busy and I only get a few breif minutes with another farmer or gardener if I get any time at all. While the local library is pretty decently stocked, I'm having a hard time actually pinpointing information I think I should know, and even the internet seems chock full of confusing information and acronyms I dont understand.

Then I noticed some of the best information I got while sifting for answers was coming from... These forums! While my dad has been begging me to start a gardening blog (I take pictures of my garden's progress with a digital camera for my own purposes once a month or so), I just cant seem to find the time or the will to maintain a regular blog and website. So, today I present to you a little tour of what I've managed to scrape together, and some hopeful advice for some of the problems that I cant seem to properly identify to look up the causes! Hope you like!

(Pictures will be posted as plain URL's to decrease loading time for slower connections. ^_^)

(Not easily visible; Bellpeppers, Tree Collard and green bunching onions!)

This bed is currently the family's pride and joy, and mom and pop are really happy with how its coming along, save for a few suffering plants here and there. Some of the plants are suffering a little mroe than intended because I go out of town to work on weekends and sometimes the parents plant stuff without waiting for me to get back, so I've been watching some of the plants push and squabble with eachother for space. Still! Pretty nice for a first try!

Speaking of suffering plants;

The Ancho and Serrano were both planted with respect to my boyfriend who loves spicy food. I wasnt planning on growing them origionally, but increasing peer pressure from relitives and close family caused me to pick up two plants from the local nursury that were said to fair well int he local climate. Howvever, whatever Im doing seems to be wrong. Theyr eally havnt grown much fromt heir origional size. True, the Ancho is taller, but it doesnt seem to retain its leaves or new growth for very long. The Serrano seems to be doing better lately sicne we've been a little more careful about how much water we're giving the pot through the drip system, but all the flowers that manage to bloom almsot immediatly dry up and fall off. Additionally, this is the only pot full of dirt we didnt have shipped in and I havnt really had the time to be able to dig in and test the soil for deficiencies with my little 'home testing' kit. These plants puzzle me in general.

Mom loves my decisions on the tomato plants. I must've stood int he nursery reading thier little info pamplets for an hour or two before I finally settled on some plants to take home. They're some of my best decisions out of the whole garden and I feel pretty confident about my picks. In this case however, the Jellybean Tomatos started suffering pretty badly about a month ago. I havnt seen any really healthy new growth in a while and there are considerably less leaves on the plant than when I first brought it home. Im beginning to wonder; Is the pot too small? Is it too late to transfer it to a larger pot?

The Basil pictured here has been something of my mum's pride and joy. Being a Hoodoo worker, she insisted I let her lay a spell in the bottom of the pot before planting it, and I got distracted with my work shifts, so she ended up doing all the planting and tending herself. She's since nicknamed it 'Obama' and has been trying to stifle the growth by snipping off the new growth so it doesnt strangle itself in its own pot. The little blue item in the base is a peanut butter lid filled with soy sauce and veggie oil. Its been working wonders at keeping the earwigs at bay, but I've noticed the deeper traps we put out stifle the earwig population better than the shallow dish does. I gotta remind her to change the trap soon, the hot weather has caused msot the trap to evaporate.

Mom has a thing for bellpeppers. Im not sure if its in her blood or if its that crazy Mark Bittmen and his 'How To Cook Everything' cook book she's been raving about lately. We ended up gettning mroe than I thought we had room for and Ims till worried they're too close between the Cucumbers and the bigger tomato plants. I was actually worried they wouldnt produce anything at all this year due to their size, but now they seem to be fruiting up a storm! ... Except theres something wrong with them. ;_;

Im noticing patches of rot on about half the crop. They get to be about two or three inches long before they start developing some discoloration and start rotting through the flesh. Im not detecting any pests on these particular plants, so I'm wondering, am I overwatering these or is there some chemical they need more of? Since I hadnt planned on growing these in the first place, I didnt really have a lot of time to plan for their care, and what little info I can find in books isnt particularly helpful (I can only seem to find info on how to plant them or start them from seed, not seasonal care).

I must say I was super excited when I found a tiny little table in the Farmers Market selling Tree Collard starts. I was about ready to buy the entire crop but my parents cautioned me that I was down to my last few quarters and should try tending jsut one plant lest my greenthumb fail and I end up with a lot of dry twig. I'd tended a small Earth Day celebration a few weeks before where they'd been selling two foot stalks that could be shvoed right intot he ground and grown with a good supply of water, but the supply was limited and expensive and they'd sold out before I could finally find the vendor. Unfortunatly, this one also got planted while I wasnt at home and before the sqush plants really started to explode, so Im hoping the shading from the now much larger plant doesnt stunt its growth too much. To my surprise,t he nursaries arent selling these but the starts are instead coming out of the local community run garden system. Which I still have as of yet to see. Gosh, I'm just so darned busy!

Now these were all from seed and I'm really happy with them, even though they took longer to grow than I was expecting. Unfortunatly I've misplaced the little notebook I was keeping on how long it took them to germinate, sprout and strengthen enough for me to plant them into the bed. They are absloutly DELICIOUS though, and about 75% of the seeds I put down developed into very healthy onions. They were pretty small at first but now that we have the drip installed, ot seems like they've been lifting weights and overnight they beefed up considerably and have been striving harder to reach for the sky. Additionally we pull a few up from time to time and have discovored the ground buried portion has turned a deep rich purple, and are absolutely delicious when lightly boiled or added to stews. Its a shame I didnt have more seeds and space, its hard to resist pulling them up and devouring them by the row.

This picture may be a little slap and dash but I was trying to show some concerns I have with my squash and zuccini. Funny story with these plants, actually, My parents love the vegatable but I'm actually fairly allergic to them. As soon as any squash matter enters my digestive system, I may as well be living in the bathroom for the next 24 hours. I was told years later after discovoring the allergy that there's a particular protine chain to Zuccini, msot squashes and Eggplant that only shwos up in the flesh of the plants. Sucks pretty bad, my grandma made a killer Zuccini bread. Bwaaaaahhhh... Oh well. My parents tell me they're the best, cremiest veggies they've ever had from the family and that I'm doing a good job. I've been gettign concerned with the increasing rotting int he younger fruits though. About half the crop is stillg rowing strong, but what could be causing this problem? I'd like to reduce the rotting rate if possible since the pillbug population is pretty high in my little area and I'd rather nto have them nesting in my bed if I can avoid it (an observation I made while looking over someone elses garden last month).

This picture is a seintiment towards no longer allowing my mother to name the plants, as good as her intentions may be. Arnold is a Stupice tomato plant, something I selected precicely for havign a fast fruiting and ripening rate. While they arent particularly good for puttign in sandwiches and dotn seem all that great for dicing or stews, theyr'e absloutly delicious for salads and just picking off the plant and popping into ones mouth. The Stupice didnt even take a full month before it started to produce and since adding the drip system to water it, the whole gosh darned thing exploded. Shwarzen-whatever was antoher careful selection, going with Parks Whopper. They're taking much, much longer to mature (The info flyer mentioned the average fruting and ripening time was 72 days) but they're also much larger. While the Stupice are a tart and delicious mouthful, the Whoppers are easly as large as my feminine fist and still getting larger. I havnt seen any of them starting to 'blush' yet so I suspect they'll keep growing larger and larger as weather and pests permit. I was hoping these would be suitable for our ravenous tomato sandwich lusts but from the size they're getting and the quantity not to mention how much both palnts are trying to take over the Bellpepper's space, I'm thinking I better get my rear in gear and find out some information on canning and jarring before I end up with an excess of delicious tomatoes.

Picking just ONE picture to present of these sweet delicious babies was really difficult. While its true I have 5 cucumber plants (2 Burpless, 2 Armenian, 1 Lemon), The Armenians are by far my favorite and most exquisitly and carefully tended... And scolded when I find them wrapping around the green onions or threatening to climb up my neighbor's rose bushes. Ever since tasting the first freshly picked one from the Farmers Market, I'd been ranting and raving against all advice about not being in the proper climate to grow a good crop. LOOK WHOS LAUGHING NOW! BUAHAHAH! I've fondly come to think of my Armenians as partners in crime, Godzilla and Mothra. They're flowring like mad and have started fruiting so much and so often my parents have revoked a previous rule about me not eating them like potato chips and are now pleading with me to devour the excess. Mmmmmmmmm, if I thought I could survive on nothing but cucumbers, I'd never go food shopping again. Throw in the fact that we've come to notice that every cucumber, squash and zuccini we're pulling off the plants is at LEAST a pound and a half. At the moment I'm trying to staunch my parent's picking habits and let the Armenians grow fatter. ("Nooooo, Moooomm! Stop picking them when they're skinny! Let them get fat, fat, fatty fat fat! PLEEEEEASE?!")

The Backyard has been sortof dubbed "The Experiment Zone". Back here I have my Broccoli experiment, my Strawberry Experiment (Not pictured since I was getting the low battery warning from my camera by this point), and the Kale experiment. The strawberries are getting alternatly chewed on by some pests I havnt been able to find yet or beign completely left alone. I suspect since we only planted them perhaps as early as may that they wont really net us a good harvest until next year. The Broccoli was a greatly fun experiment in watching hwo the plants grew and the joyful introduction to being able to eat the leaves when steamed to an easily chewable texture. Unfortunatly for me, I didnt find out until much later after they'd propsered in their growth that the Kale and the Broccoli could cross breed. Much hilarity ensued as I screamed at the top of my lungs and tore out of the house to studiously rip every blossom off the broccoli and continue doing so for the remainder of the kale flowering period. Unfortunatly, the heads were very small and the plants in general were whispy at best. Not makign the miracoulus giant heads of supermatkets bioengineered crops has left my mother nonplussed and I'm under instruction tot ear them up and plant something else.

With this, I shall bring my tour to a close, but I must add I was quite surprised by the Kale this morning while I was taking pictures. All my Kale plants have been heavy with seed for several weeks now and whenever I get the opportunity I go out with a shopping bag and shears and cut down stalk after stalk after stalk. I came to notice while they were still green that all the leaves were falling off the plants, denying my scrumptious greens for my dinner plate, so I'd made plas to cut down all the kale once Iw as done strippignt he plants of seeds, working in some compost and planting something else. Now however, Im re-thinking this manuver. While the Kale that was grown from starts in planters have made almsot no recovory whatsoever, imagine my surprise to come back from my work weekend and find the plants I'd trimmed before left were sprouting leaves again! The other gardeners told me I'd have to start from scratch if I wanted kale again! I'm definatly pulling up the planters, but I've decided Im going to continue to observe the plants I started from seed and see if they still taste as good as when they were younger.

And seeing as I've spent the past 5 hours writing to various forums, newspapers and gaming clubs, I think I deserve a break with my favorite goofy game; Katamari Damancy!

(Oh shucks I forgot to document the potatoes. Oh well, Im tired of sitting in this chair, maybe some other time.)

Comments (9)