How does your garden grow (part 1)?

Happy Wednesday everyone!!

This year was the first year we were able to do a full scale garden- I’ve done container gardens before, but we now have 0.6 acres and I was itching to grow some stuff in the ground!!  Lucky for us, the prior owners had made a small-ish (16ft x 16ft) fenced in area in the back yard- they kept their dogs in there during the work day.  With a little work, we figured it would be perfect for a garden spot.  Last fall we rented a tiller (about $30 per day from True Value- a cheaper option than buying one) and tilled up the space.  We also tilled a spot next to the fence because I wanted to make the garden a little wider than what it was already.  Then we purchased 2 yards of soil (gardeners choice- a blend of soil and compost) from our local landscaping supply store to amend the area with, mixed that in, covered it with leaves and let it sit all winter.

Around the end of February (the planting season starts early here in Georgia- I had seeds started inside mid February and things sprouting all over the place in April!) we tilled things up again and extended the height of the fence- we have 5 million (no exaggeration) squirrels in our neighborhood and I needed a way to keep them out- so we made the fencing 6ft tall on all sides and wrapped everything in a fine plastic mesh to keep squirrels, birds, dogs and deer out.  Here’s where we stood at the end of February:

The garden as seen from the deck- we added on to the side with some 6ft kennel panels that we already owned, and extended the wood fencing with some 1×4’s that we had laying around.  We made a frame for the roof with some 3/4″ PVC pipe and used plastic mesh to wrap everything to keep squirrels and birds out.

I decided to start all my plants from seed inside, figuring this would be the cheapest way to do things- this year is the 2nd time I’ve grown anything in Georgia, and the 1st time I’ve done anything of this scale, so I didn’t want to buy a bunch of plants, only to have them die because I didn’t do something right.  I think I was overly ambitious this year- I planted zucchini, cucumber, watermelon, onions, broccoli, sweet potatoes, corn, beans, green and hot peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, chard, carrots, peas, basil, oregano and cilantro- whew!

Here’s where the garden stands today (September):

Do you see all the vines on top of the garden??  That is ALL sweet potato.  I planted 8 and they have just gone bananas, taking over the whole garden.   I’m excited about this, but it’s also a little bit of a problem- do you notice how shady the garden is? (FYI- This picture was taken around 5:30pm, but see all the trees in the background?)  Yeah- unfortunately most of our yard gets very little sun during the day- we are blessed with a lot of oak trees in our yard (and it’s AWESOME to clean up after them in the fall.  Awesome.  Insert sarcasm here.)  The sweet potato vines don’t help that problem- and as a result, I’ve had a very pokey garden.

What has done well:

  • Sweet potatoes (duh)- they are just starting to poke up out of the dirt.  I’m guessing another week or so and I’ll be harvesting some! 
  • Cucumbers– also went bananas.  And added to the shading problem.  But they were great for pickling- I made several jars of pickles this summer which was exciting- the first time I’ve done that.  They’re just about done now.
  • Beans– these don’t seem to care whether they get sun or not, and produced about a pound of beans per week all summer.  Yum.  Can’t get enough green beans!  I just re-planted some for the fall- fingers crossed they do as well as the spring/summer crop.
  • Jalapenos– these plants grew about waist high.  At first they weren’t doing much, but all of a sudden they’ve decided to take off, and I have more jalapenos on the plants than I can count- at least 30 if not more.  I’m planning on pickling these.
  • Chard– this is actually doing decent, especially now that the weather has cooled off.  It slowed down during the heat, but has picked back up again.  
  • Lettuce–  we got a bunch for sandwiches.  It doesn’t like the heat, so died off mid-summer.  I don’t have any more seeds so I don’t plan on planting more for the fall.
  • Basil, oregano, cilantro– these I did in a hanging basket.  The cilantro did great, I often have a problem with it bolting before I can pick it, but I got a slow bolt variety this year and it was awesome.  Once it looked like it was thinking about bolting, I picked it, chopped it up and froze it (an awesome trick for preserving the flavor- just chop and freeze into ice cube trays!).  The basil has also done well and I made a batch of pesto with a bunch of it.  It’s still going strong.  And the oregano is just too pretty to cut, so I’m just letting in vine all over the basket and smell nice!

What has not done well:

  • Zucchini– the plants did great- I could barely walk through the garden for all the vines.  The fruit did not- they would get about the size of my pinky and then rot.  I attributed this to blossom end rot (calcium deficiency and high humidity) and supplemented with lots of bone meal, but I think it was too late.  A few weeks ago I ripped out all the plants.
  • Watermelon– these took FOREVER to produce a vine, and then they were kind of wimpy and the flowers never produced any fruit.  I’m blaming the lack of sun for this one- watermelons love hot and sun.  I did these in containers the first year we lived in Georgia and did get some watermelon, so if I do them again next year, I’ll have to try something different- maybe a container in a sunny spot of the yard, if I can find one.
  • Onions– no luck there.  They produced a sprout and then died.  I left the bulbs in the ground, hoping for volunteers next year?
  • Corn– I think I planted too early- they grew but then produced ears really early on.  The saying is “knee high by the 4th of July” which they were, but with ears already which isn’t right.  We had some weird weather in April/early May and I think this did them in.  
  • Carrots– these have taken FOREVER to do anything, and all they have are tops.  No roots.  Boo.  I think I need to dig up the soil a bunch next time I plant them, so they have less resistance to producing roots.  These might need more light too- so maybe another container plant?
  • Peas– these did great at first and then rotted from the root up.  I’m thinking root rot- too much water, and it got too hot too quickly.  Next year I’m starting them earlier since they are a cool weather crop.
  • Broccoli– I’ve got one plant hanging on, but something ate all the rest.  boo.  Ironically, the shading has probably helped the one straggler since it’s stayed alive all summer.  No broccoli heads though.
  • Tomatoes– these have grown and grown and grown.  And grown.  Seriously, I’ve got one plant that’s at least 8ft tall- no joke!!  But very little fruit- again, not enough light.  And then- attack of the tomato horn-worm!!  I squished 15-20 of these guys in a week!  They are big and hungry eaters.  And unfortunately, because my garden is completely fenced off, the birds can’t get to them!!  Wanna see?

The biggest one I found- probably 4 inches stretched out.  Uggh.  He got squished not long after posing for this photo!

I *think* the horn-worm problem is solved- I haven’t found any more in the last couple of weeks.  Luckily they didn’t completely defoliate my tomatoes (good thing those plants have grown like crazy!) and I hope I can still get a few tomatoes from them before the weather gets too cold.

Phew- that’s the latest from the outdoors at my house!  Stay tuned for another post about the non-edibles in our yard- I’ll try and make it more picture friendly and less wordy!

Do you have a garden?  What did you plant?  How did it do over the summer?

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