When deciding between buying a house out of the city versus in the city, one of the major draws for out of the city for me was GARDEN space. Wow! This is the second summer in our house, and this July we finally built and planted our first vegetable garden! Squeak!
This is my first full garden since moving away from home. Mom, I now appreciate how much work it is! Here are some things I've been learning...
Gardening is more about keeping pests down and yield up, than encouraging things to grow. At least that’s my sense so far... I keep reading the mantra “Things want to grow.” (Some pumpkin seeds we threw into the bushes are sprouting all by themselves. The basil is growing so well it keeps trying to go to seed.) However, the weeds like to grow too! And the bugs are having lots of fun.
I'm learning a lot about pests. I really like entomology, but gosh, separate from my botany. Thanks to my Aunt's book and the Internet I know we have two kinds of flea beetles and cabbage worms. I'm not so worried about the aphids and the ants. Don't tell Sean but there was a GIANT white spider with a body the size of a pea hiding in the lettuce.
I'm also learning how to identify weeds. Ragweed, my nemesis, is the first to shoot up its filigree leaves anywhere. Yoink!
I'm experimenting with companion planting. Companion planting for vegetable gardens (GardenSimply.com) I'm not sure if it's doing anything yet since we still have lots of bugs. Though the radishes with the lettuce have fewer bugs.
You can eat radish sprouts. Besides the basil, radish sprouts were the first thing I ate out of our new garden! Thin the seedlings when they are small and still only have two leaves. They taste lightly of radish and you can use them like watercress. When they get the second pair of fuzzy, prickly leaves, they seem to lose their fresh taste and turn bitter.
Apparently you can also eat pea sprouts - and still have your pea plants keep growing and produce pea pods. DigginFood has details with photos.
Prune your tomato plants if they are determinate (“vine” tomatoes like beefsteak and cherry). Otherwise, and especially if you buy seedlings that have been partying for a while at the garden centre without supervision, you get short bushy tomato plants and not many tomatoes.
Bonus: you can put the larger suckers in water and they will sprout roots. I have a few of these; they are a bit small to go outside but I’m wondering if they’d produce tomatoes indoors once it gets cold.
The temperature and soil dryness can change the taste of your vegetables. We’ve had two or so very hot weeks. Lettuce can turn bitter, and radishes can become very spicy with high temperatures. Ours certainly seem to be doing so. I’m kind of sad our lettuce is a bitter, but our radishes are cute little punches of flavour.
I need a better pea trellis, or place the trellis before sowing the peas. Beans or peas on teepee trellises tend to hang down inside the trellis, so they are hard to pick. A lot of people have trellises fully upright, or in a box shape, so the pods are easier to access. I made a wonky box with bamboo sticks and string. I'm not sure how easy the peas will be to access, but it's entertaining the neighbours.