Gardening is a Learning Experience

healthy plants from a previous year

When we moved here six years ago, one of our goals was to raise our own organic food. However, full disclosure here–gardening has always been a challenging learning experience for us.  The more we do it, the more we learn every year. This year is no exception. We have a small greenhouse and typically start our seeds in there a few weeks before there is no danger of frost.  However, this year, the sun was much stronger than usual, and because of this, the plants started to fry in the greenhouse. We decided to plant them in our raised beds a week early, as we didn’t think they would survive in the greenhouse much longer. Although it had been unusually warm the week before, this proved to be a mistake. After planting all but the tomatoes, we had several nights of below freezing temperatures and lost many of the plants, despite covering them overnight. We had to start more plants from seed in the greenhouse to make up for the plants we lost.

The cold weather vegetables were direct-sown in the garden a few weeks ago.  These included carrots, onions, celery, beets, kale, spinach and broccoli.

On May 15, we continued planting all the plants that were in the greenhouse, including the tomatoes.  In addition to the tomatoes, we planted zucchini, crooked neck (summer) squash, cucumbers, peppers, and eggplant. In a few beds, we are growing cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, and rhubarb. We also direct-sowed green beans, which are growing rapidly. Since we also lost all of our Waltham (winter) squash plants with the frost, we decided to direct sow more seeds in the garden in two of the raised beds. The plants are already sprouting up through the soil.

The plants taken from the greenhouse are happy now that they are in the raised beds. They have room to spread and are really growing quickly. Before the vine plants get any larger, trellises must be installed in each bed. We found some Panacea A-Frame Plant Supports in a pack of 10 on Amazon. They should work well in the raised beds.  
Last year was also a learning experience for us, as we decided to switch from a conventional garden to raised beds.  Our decision to do this was based on our experience with gardens from previous years. It taught us that clay soil is not the best environment for healthy organic plants.  When we began the process, we purchased some raised garden bed kits online.  We dug down, put some pea stone in the bottom of each bed, along with a layer of burlap for drainage and weed control.  We then added a mixture of organic soil and compost to the beds before planting.   The plants appeared healthy for a time but did not produce well.  We quickly figured out it was because the beds were simply not deep enough.  We have remedied the situation this planting season, doubling and in some cases, even tripling the depth of each bed.  
When completed, this long bed will be a pumpkin patch.
We are continuing to install a few more raised beds, which will be home to pumpkins and  corn. 
Although gardening can be challenging at times, there is nothing more gratifying than plucking an array of fresh veggies from the garden to enjoy with dinner.  And, with some canning, freezing and dehydrating, home grown vegetables and fruit can be enjoyed throughout the year.