I’m in the process of finishing up my first summer of vegetable gardening and I’m looking back on quite a few successes. I started in April with seeds and I grew and harvested tomatoes, peppers and zucchini in July through September. I stopped an outbreak of blossom end rot.
Other things I tried were pure learning experiences. I didn’t get any acorn squash or pumpkins because of a powdery mildew problem. My onions didn’t germinate. My peppers were largely crowded out by tomatoes. And my corn grew tiny little ears but not many kernels. I’m going to learn from these challenges.
This summer has been about eating tomatoes, bell peppers and zucchini, but also about patience and observation. And about learning from things that go wrong. Mainly this:
— ElenaWill (@ElenaWill) July 19, 2016
Now I’m onto planning for next year and thinking about what I need to research and learn. Here are the top five things that I’ll do differently in my vegetable garden 2.0 next year, most mission critical first.
1. Drip irrigation. The overhead sprinkler I used this year got the job done, with some unwanted side effects — that powdery mildew problem. There was just too much moisture on the leaves. This method also wasted a lot of water. Next year, drip irrigation. I’m starting my research with this article on DIY irrigation systems from Home For The Harvest. We used soaker hoses once before and I think they became clogged, so I’ll be studying this a lot more.
2. Attract pollinators to the garden. Now I get what everybody is talking about. The reason I didn’t have more zucchini this year is because they weren’t getting pollinated. And I probably also had a pollination problem with my corn. Bees, get thee to my vegetable garden.
I have no in-ground garden beds near the raised bed vegetable garden, so this is going to take some planning. I might have some room in the raised beds for some low-growing flowers, but that space is limited. I’d rather have strong, tough perennials in the ground for pollinators to enjoy year after year.
3. Better staking. Tomatoes and bell peppers could have used sturdier supports this year. And I bet cucumbers and zucchini would have had fewer disease problems if they were raised up away from the soil and supported better. In my square foot garden setup, I think everything would have been a little happier with good staking. Traditional tomato cages are probably out. They just didn’t give tall or sturdy enough support. I added plastic stakes to those plants by late summer.
Traditional tomato cages are probably out. They just didn’t give tall or sturdy enough support. I added plastic stakes to those plants by late summer. These square cages look good, but require a little DIY and elbow grease.
In my square foot garden setup, I think everything would have been a little happier with good staking. Traditional tomato cages are probably out. They just didn’t give tall or sturdy enough support. I added plastic stakes to those plants by late summer. These square cages look good but require a little DIY and elbow grease.
4. Composting. I have all these banana peels and egg shells that I’m just throwing away. How about doing something productive with them? There are quite a few types out there. It seems that a few features I want are a tumbling-type composter with insulation (but not too much insulation) and no metal internal parts to rust. I want to get this in place this fall so I can take advantage of fallen leaves. Any recommendations, internet? Here’s a fun video I watched to get some tips.
5. Learn about preservation and canning. I was pleasantly surprised by a big tomato harvest this summer. I wasn’t sure I’d harvest any. I grew a middle-of-the-road amount: we weren’t able to use them all in salads and BLTs, but we didn’t have enough to make a big batch of sauce for canning. And it’s a good thing, because I don’t know how to can yet.
Let’s put it this way: I’d like to grow some fruit next year, but not until I learn how to make jam.
Do you have advice for me on any of these topics?
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