I didn’t think I’d like to garden. Two of my neighbors asked what I would plant in the 8×8 raised bed that was sitting on the property when we took possession last fall. I thought I had my hands full enough with my boys.
Turns out, I really do love plants.
Currently–Mid September I eventually had to tie my tomato vines to our clothesline, when my tiny tomato stakes failed me!
So far I’ve harvested about 60 tomatoes, 12 bell peppers, 2 yellow squash (I planted a bit too late in the season), 3 strawberries, a couple salads worth of lettuce, and several young onions were harvested early, due to my two year old entertaining himself by stomping on them. I’ve planted spinach in their place now, so he’s started stomping on those young plants instead.
I’m still waiting on the remaining, unstomped spinach and a little patch of radishes. Those two crops were started from seed, and something about actually seeing food happen from tiny seeds feels even more magical than an Apple Watch. (Which would be crazy magical, right?)
Early in the season, I walked out to the garden and counted 21 green tomatoes on my vines. I couldn’t believe, 21! I would have laughed if I’d known that by mid September I would have picked 60 and used most of them in pots of Sunday chili. I haven’t counted yet, but it looks like I have at least 60 more that are still waiting to ripen. The first frost is usually in October. I don’t know how many tomatoes will make it by then, but a very knowledgeable gardener told me to go ahead and take the green ones inside, tucked in cardboard boxes to ripen. She claims to have enjoyed her own garden tomatoes through January that way. I can’t wait to see if that will work for us! I’ve given some of our produce away, but I’d also like to try preserving some more… hopefully with more success than last time.
Can you count all 14 tomatoes in this picture?
Speaking of preserving, right now I’m in the business of dehydrating herbs. I preserved a little bit of my basil this way earlier, but what really excites me is dried lavender, lemon balm, stevia, and peppermint. I’m loving loose leaf tea, and I can’t wait to play around with some home grown infusions this winter!
Then there’s this volunteer taking over my deck. Seriously, this thing must have 100 cherry tomatoes on it, but not a single one has ripened! I wonder if it has to do with its shady location or the fact that I haven’t really pruned it the way I pruned the ones in my “real” garden. No matter. Give it time. We have ways of making things ripen!
So, what have I learned from this first garden? It really doesn’t feel like I know a ton more! I just put plants in the ground, followed the instructions that my mom gave me, took the advice of my neighbors (things like, “Hey, that thing you think is a strawberry plant is actually a weed!”), and maybe read a couple seed packets… It blows my mind how really, God just makes things grow with so little effort. I thought this little garden would take blood sweat and tears, but it’s really like a gift. I put in a little weeding and watering, and nature gives back tremendous amounts of food and enjoyment for an 8×8 square!
Pinterest, though. Searching Pinterest for different plants made it clear how to prune the “suckers” on my tomatoes, and how to do the things (I never actually got around to doing), that would have offered me a much more fruitful pepper harvest, (oops!) and where to put my peppermint so it wouldn’t take over uninvited.
Next year, I want to till up a larger plot in the back yard. The 8×8 bed was difficult to maneuver, even with my stepping stone in the middle. I never felt like I was able to reach all the plants that needed weeded or pruned, and I still didn’t come close to maximizing the space the way you usually would with square foot gardening. Our yard is big, so I think it will make more sense for us to do traditional garden rows, but I still want to keep things small enough to be manageable. There’s still time to plan, I guess.
I also bought a bunch of seeds on clearance this year. Lots of flowers, which I think will be key. I didn’t feel like I saw many bees in my backyard, so it’s time to lure them in! (And make pretty bouquets for my dining table!)
Oh, and tomato cages. Apparently, they exist for a reason. Next year I’m getting some of those.
Hope you enjoyed the tour!