Lessons from Year II of our Vegetable Garden
It’s April 2020, and this blog is about what we learned in the growing season 2019 – so yes, I should have done this recap earlier. Better late than never?
Our first year was incredible, fun, and a massive learning curve.
Last year, we made a few changes up-front:
- We expanded the size of the garden and the number of beds
- Three of the beds were turned into raised beds by lining them with old ceramic roof tiles
- What used to be the tomato bed got converted into an asparagus bed (I found where to order crowns! *happy dance*)
- I combined starting plants from seed with buying seedlings from the market, win.
I also made some significant mistakes right off the bat:
- I trusted our fencing and forgot to factor in gourmet ninja goats #fail (more about that later)
- Numerous flower bulbs that I had received late 2018 as a birthday present got planted early Spring which was WAY too late. The daffodils seem to have partly recovered.
- I still didn’t mulch, and while rationally I know it’s smart and efficient and a no-brainer, there’s something about having straw “in the way” when I plant/weed/everything that prevents me from embracing the technique
A Tally of 2019 in Vegetable Garden Terms
I grew a lot more things than before: chickpeas, rainbow chard, lettuce, cabbage of various types, tomatoes of 5 or so different varieties, basil of two varieties, eggplants, sweet peppers, zucchini, raspberries, rhubarb, artichokes, sunflowers, mustard flowers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, red beets and golden beets, turnip flowers, peanuts, butternut squash, peas, and climbing beans of various types.
However, my focus was solely on getting things to grow, so I was not very good at keeping track of how long things had been growing or when the optimal time to harvest them was. Oops.
Lessons from the Vegetable Garden in 2019
First, some plant-specific lessons.
Chickpeas require a LOT more plants than expected to get anything near a reasonable harvest. I think I started with 8 plants, one or two died (the batch got attacked by something that ate all the leaves of a few of the plants), and the ones that survived produced maybe 4-8 chickpeas each! Granted, healthy happy plants probably produce more, but still. Never take a jar of supermarket-bought chickpeas (or hummus) for granted again!
Raspberries are finnicky. We got ours from Vinha da Manta, and at first, they seemed to love their new home. A few raspberries were produced (they were delicious!), but then the plants mutinied. I thought I was overwatering them, so I slowed down. They kept turning more yellow. In the end, all the plants dried up – no idea why.
Potatoes are fun to harvest because it feels like digging for treasure, but I think our plants shrivelled up not because they were ripe for harvesting but because of a mold or fungus or mystery ailment. As a result, the potatoes we got were delicious but the quantity was a little disappointing.
Peanuts might look happy above ground, but they require more than I was able to give them to produce fruit. Drats. I was so very full of hope when we dug them up! Better luck next time.
Our butternut squash looked very zucchini-esque, so I assumed some cross-fertilization. Wrong. Apparently, it just wasn’t ripe (but still decently tasty, ha).
More broadly speaking, there were other, bigger-picture take-aways:
Goats are sneaky. Your vegetable garden best be Fort Knox if you don’t want to get regular urges to roast your goats (I am only half joking). They can jump higher than you think, and squeeze through deceptively small spaces. They know they aren’t supposed to be in the vegetable garden, but at some point they will give you two thumbs up for your efforts by tapdancing across garden beds and taking bites of everything, including tomatoes that they don’t even like to eat (no joke, they spat out the bits they tried – I could have puzzled tomatoes whole again, much to my frustration… if goats annihilate harvests, I wish they’d just eat the fruit and enjoy it!).
Getting things to grow is great, and challenging, but so is remembering to harvest things at the right time. This is because the timing indicated on packs of seed or via Google may be correct, but they are rarely specific enough to your reality. If it’s too hot, too dry, there’s a sudden cold spell – all these things will affect your timeline and results.
Weeds are badass, but still the enemy. The best approach I have found is to weed a little bit every day, rather than wait until a bed is being taken over. That might sound obvious, I am learning not to assume or take anything for granted.
That’s all I remember right now, because I waited too long to write this up – there’s yet another learning for me for the 2020 season: write down lessons learned and publish the blog about it by end of year.
And, because it’s April 2020 and this year’s vegetable garden is already coming back to life, I can already promise more fun learnings, challenges, and anecdotes throughout the growing season (most likely on Instagram*) – so stay tuned!
What kind of insights have you learned over the years of growing things, whether in your garden, on a balcony, or in your kitchen? I am always curious to find out what works for others, so I can learn not only from my mistakes and experience, but from yours, too!
*Our Instagram account is public, so if you click on the link you can view our posts – albeit not like or comment – even if you don’t have a profile, haven’t downloaded the app, or are doing it from your computer. Just sayin 🙂