Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mistakes of a first time gardener

As mentioned previously, I planted my very first garden this year. Being a utilitarian at heart, I planted only things that are edible. Zero interest in decorative flowers over here. Now that things have started to come up, I can kick back, relax and indulge in my second favorite passtime: criticizing my work. From left to right, I planted: lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, swiss chard & spinach (one row) and pumpkin.
Most problematic is that fact that I probably planted three times the number of things this bed can realistically hold. Exhibit A: the cucumbers plotting their vegetable bed dominance. The cucumbers successfully shaded out the eggplant, which were planted from seed, as not a single one of them made even a token appearance. You cannot really see it but over by the fence there is a bell pepper being slowed pulled down by cucumber tendrils, here is a close up of the action:

Actually the cucumbers are the primary problem. I did not realize how much they would spread out or want to climb. Sometimes when I am weeding I swear I can almost watch their tendrils extending. I am leery of leaving Squeaker alone with them. Can I cut them back? Pick off some of their leaves? Should I give them something to climb on so they leave everyone else alone?

Meanwhile on the other side of the bed, we have the lettuce problem. Lettuce needs sun but dislikes heat. I planted them on the end which gets early morning sun but is in the shade by about 11 am. I guess it's just not enough because the lettuce is not happy and is looking like it is ready to bolt:

Hard to see, but there are in fact two sorry rows of lettuce to the left of the thriving tomatoes. They are shaded on one side by a bush and on the other by the tomatoes. Not the best of planting decisions. I also am never sure how to harvest leafy vegetables like lettuce, chard and spinach. Does one just take the whole plant and it is game over for the season or just a few leaves so that the plant regenerates itself? And once the plant starts bolting, which my spinach always does, what's a gardener supposed to do?

Finally I have a problem lurking in the wings, a pumpkin problem. I wanted to put in a pumpkin because I thought it would be fun for la cocotte to watch it grow. I even had fantasies of growing a milk-fed pumpkin like in Little House in the Prairie. Actually, I had fantasies of being the granola-i-est granola in our granola neighbourhood and growing a breast milk fed pumpkin (because really how mother-of-the-earth would I be then???) until hubby pointed out that no one would eat it. Anyhow... my in-laws, who are avid gardeners, warned me that pumpkins are very aggressive (side note: I had no such warning about the cucumbers) and that I should keep them separate from the rest of the bed or they would take over. However I was so doubtful that ANYTHING would actually grow that I paid them no heed and put them right into the bed (skepticism about my gardening skills also explains why I planted way too much). So the pumpkin did sprout and now looks poised to duke it out to the death with the cucumbers, do I just keep cutting it back or will that stop is from producing??

So tons of mistakes, tons of dumb questions but whatever, it's not like I have a masters in botany.*

*Um, oh yeah, except I do.


  1. Do not worry, next year when you have more experience will be better:) How large is your garden? Maybe you should make it little bigger and each vegetable could a separate small lot so they do not mix together.

  2. you are must braver than I am! Actually, this year, with so many other things to do in our new home, I had the excuse the garden was not our priority, but next year.. On one hand, it would be great to have vegetables which are truly organic, and which Malo and go and get from the garden (instead of being at risk that he thinks they grow in the supermarket, or worse, at the supermarket's drive-in collecting point). On the other hand, I am not sure I want to spend whatever little free time we have left gardening... That being said, if you are invading by cucumbers and pumpkins AND are thinking or starting a veggie mail order business, maybe we can be your first overseas clients!

  3. i thought i was the only first time gardener who just jumped right in without realizing things like i shouldn't plant eight tomato plants in three square feet. and you are right on about the cucumbers- they have attached to anything and everything in their immediate area! my other issue was waaaayyy overestimating how much spinach i needed to grow vs how much we could actually consume. fun read!