Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Garden Tuesday – The good, the bad, and the ugly!

The title of today’s post says it all. Maintaining a pesticide free, chemical free, organic garden means facing challenges along the way. Your efforts will reward you with some magnificent produce, some downright failures, and lots of stuff in-between. It’s an interesting trifecta for sure.

My garden has become my fourth child. I nurture it, I talk to it, I try to keep it from harm, and I let it run its paces. Unlike the picture perfect produce gracing the pages of gardening magazines, my produce is what I refer to as Practically Perfect. Some of the bounty is blemish free, a few have been covertly nibbled upon by creatures, and some unfortunate souls are failing to thrive. All three conditions, however, are welcome in my novice garden.Here’s why. In much the same way as observing your kids to know what’s going on with them, my plants are teaching me what they need. I started off with excellent soil and a willingness to learn. My hands-on education has taught me that different veggies need different things out of the soil. For example, I’ve learned that some veggie varieties like to be planted near other varieties. Native Americans knew this and practiced complementary growing for centuries. With the delightful practice of growing “the three sisters”, they would plant corn, beans, and squash together. Working like a fine tuned team, those three plants compliment each other’s needs as well as the needs of the soil. The beans climb up the corn stalk for support while the squash spreads out lower to the ground suppressing weeds. Isn’t that brilliant? Nutritionally, these items work well together, too, providing essential amino acids, vitamins, fiber and fat. YUM! I’d like to give this growing method a try in the future.In my present day garden, I continue to learn what’s working and what isn’t. It’s really not rocket science, just good sense. In much the same way that certain people just “click” together, some plants do, too.

The reverse of that is true, also. Some plants varieties do not get along. Of course, I learned that too late this year. One small section of my beets are planted right next to my peas. I read about that unfortunate fopaux after the little darlings were well established. Oops. They seem to be okay, but I’ll refrain from planting them together again. Also to consider is crop rotation. Of course, my garden is waaaayyyy toooo smallll to even be considered a “crop”, but I’ll be sure to pay attention to where I plant what next season.

Here’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of It’s All Gouda’s Garden:

The Good.
Thankfully, the majority of the garden is doing swimmingly. Due to the nature of a square foot garden, weeds are pretty rare. I've had more this year than last, but there is very little open space for them to grow.

Some items in the garden are picture pefect.My version of Beanie Babies. Just look at these green beans. Mmm, I can already taste how wonderful these will be on my plate. Grow, babies, grow!How about this baby pea? These are just starting to show up. My youngest is impatient for them to fill her tummy. She likes to pick them, shell them, and pop them right in her mouth. Um, she learned that from her mother. heheThis particular cucumber plant has been a wonderful surprise this year. It is already sporting multiple little cukes, as well as many new flowers. I love how prickly fresh cucumbers are.This is part of what's left of my favorite parsley plant. It was an amazing producer, and survived the winter and being transplanted, but took an almost mortal blow after an unfortunate incident between my hubby and the plant that broke it’s main stem right off. *sigh* It’s still alive, but I let it flower in hopes of replanting a new generation. It’s at the end of its life cycle now, and I want to save its seed. This is what’s left after it flowered. Does anyone know how to save this seed to replant?

The Bad.

My cilantro plants immediately bolted this year. I don’t get it. I mean, seriously, they grew like they were on steroids and then the whole thing burst into flowers. I felt like I was watching a movie in fast-forward. I’m really disappointed.
Bugs are part of nature. I’ve accepted it. *shiver* In a weird way, knowing that a bug will survive after nibbling around in my garden, I get the green light that the produce is safe for me to eat, too. Luckily, I don’t have too, too many pests to deal with. Some bugs are welcome in the garden. The lady bugs will always find the welcome mat rolled out for them. Thankfully, I had way more bees and bumblebees this year than last year. I hope to see more next year. I’ve also had some yellow jackets hanging around, but mercifully they haven’t been bothersome at all. The butterflies have been a hoot to watch. They mostly just flit around. I’ve got some daddy long legs that are keeping the other bugs at bay.This little winged-bugger is unknown to me. What is this thing? A week or so ago there were lots of them around, but not so much anymore. Any idea what this is?

One pest that I really, really, REALLY detest is slugs. I’ve seen their slimy slug trails, but thankfully they actually haven’t been too bad. Their activity really declined when I put down the coffee grounds. Coincidence? I think not.

The Ugly.
One thing that just baffles me is “disease”. Some plants just seem to tank overnight. Of course, that’s most likely not the case here. It was probably weakened to begin with. Still, every plant in a small garden is important.One of my cucumber plants is really stuggling. Now for those of you with enormous gardens, you may not sweat the loss of a plant. For me, though, with only two cucumber mounds, I’m concerned. Bless its proverbial heart, the little guy just keeps hanging on despite some serious damage to it’s leaves.It is now sporting healthy, large leaves on top, several of them actually, but I don’t know what this is or what caused it to begin with. Is it an irreparable condition? Will these good leaves go bad, too? Is this something it “caught” in the garden? Is it common to this type of plant? All questions that I don’t know the answer to. Thankfully, the other plant is the picture of health. I’ll be saving seeds from the healthy one.

To summarize, overall, the garden is just doing fantastic. The garbage can potatoes are almost ready to harvest. I snuck a sneak peak into the soil, and it’s just loaded with gorgeous, healthy potatoes. I think I found my calling in growing lettuce. I’m soooo spoiled picking fresh lettuce EVERY day for sandwiches and salads.

For future consideration.
One thing that I want to do is start keeping a garden notebook/log book. I first heard about this from Nita at Throwback at Trapper Creek, and I’ve read about doing so on other blogs, too. Nothing fancy, just a method of keeping track what was planted when and where, as well as problems and triumphs. Especially with a little garden, it will help me figure out crop rotation as well as soil amendments. Who would have thought that a city girl like myself, with a major spider phobia, would take to gardening! My hubbyman, who pretty much leaves the gardening to me, sure likes showing off the garden and is saying stuff like, “Next year you should plant this or that.” Sure babe (eyeroll), bring it on.

Sooo, do you have any good, bad, and ugly garden stories to share? :-)

NOTE: The Gouda crew is going on vacation! I’ll be out of commission until the last week in July. Remember to come back and visit me! (Yep, I have someone taking care of the garden, cats, and house.) See you in about 2 weeks!


Mediterranean kiwi said...

i lvoe your garden. you have to accept that not all plants will make it. our garden is not completely organic, but that's the way it goes these days with small vegetable gardens...

Lynda said...

Your garden looks beautiful...wish I could say the same for mine. My squash are not going to survivr much longer. :( But my tomatoes look really great, but they are not ripening as fast as some years.
Have a wonderful vacation!

Lisa said...

I didn't know that about beets and peas. Of course I've never grown beets before. I am only just learning to like them. And my cilantro always bolts too, to the point where I've given up on that herb. It's inexpensive at the grocery anyway and I just can't grow enough for the recipes aI like. The greatest success so far this year is that I actually do have basil growing, enough to use. We put out lots of plants from seed in a new, sunnier, bed and the plants look gorgeous! Thanks for the peak at your garden.

Cathy said...

Thanks for the tour through your garden, Paula. Hope you have a wonderful vacation.

Marjie said...

We have 4 pea pods on our 3 plants. I think that means everyone can eat half a pod. I'm sure the bigger boys will sacrifice their share so the little boys can each have a whole pea pod.

I've read in my paper, in articles written by no less than the Penn State Cooperative Extension that coffee grounds keep slugs away. I think they said the caffeine kills them. They also suggested letting the slimy little so and sos have a bowl of beer, in which they will drown, but I'm not down with that (as the kids these days say). We have pestie holes in our lettuce and I let it just roll.

Have fun on vacation, and I look forward to seeing your garden in 2 weeks!

Cheryl said...

Baby enjoy your trip! hopefully they are taking care of the garden too!

Grace said...

not the cilantro!! it's without a doubt by favorite herb and i consider this a tragedy indeed.

Bridgett said...

Looks beautiful to me. The bugs just adore my basil. Ugh!

The Blonde Duck said...

Have a wonderful vacation!

I'm lucky to keep our jalepenos shriveled, let alone alive...105 here and we're in Stage 3 water restrictions!

noble pig said...

You are doing so great in the garden and I applaud your organic ways. It's hard but so worth it.

Lo said...

Oh, you! You're the absolute best garden mommy! LOVE your beanie babies :)... too bad they grow up so very fast!

Am weeping a bit for your suffering cuc. I only have one hill of bush cucs myself, and I'm hoping they all survive!

Right now, I've got one tomato plant (my favorite: heirloom peach) that's suffering from some sort of wilt. Gotta figure out what to do with him. We're organic too, and so far I'm yanking stems off left and right to prevent it from spreading. Of course, that will only work for so long before I'm down a tomato plant :)

Have a great vacation!

Pam said...

Happy Vacation!

Robynn's Ravings said...

I just loved this trip down your garden lane. VERY interesting about the things that should be planted together. I did not know ANY of that.

I do know I planted cucumbers one year and they got huge and beautiful. Then one day a little black aphid came and nuked them. I ripped them out and burned them in a pile to kill the aphid. I wasn't mad or anything......! :)

Jan said...

A lovely garden you have Paula!
Have a great holiday!
Ps: There is an award over at my blog for you!

Manggy said...

Yikes! I hope my gardening abilities are not reflective of my parenting :P And while I'm all for nurturing, I'm not sure what benefit talking does... Hee hee :)
Have a great vacation!

Alisa said...

Your garden is beautiful and I'd love to guide our readers to your site if you won't mind.Just add your choice of foodista widget to this post and it's all set to go, Thanks!

Nirmala said...

What a wonderful blog and garden. And I love your eggsalad sandwhich. Thanks for sharing.

Pam said...

I wish I would have grown a garden but we are away too much in the summer to do it. I love the baby peas and beans - too cute.

Mickle in NZ said...

Hope you've all had a happy, happy Summer holiday.

Writing to express my thanks once again for your scrambled egg "egg salad". I've been scrambling eggs to have just with fresh baby spinach leaves as egg sandwiches - never mind making the egg salad.

For my Sunday food I'm planning eggy sammies along with with your oh so scrummy waldorf salad (ingredients once more lurking in my fridge and cupboards).

Zebbycat is not impressed!

care and foodie huggles, Michelle in Wellington, NZ

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Anonymous said...

Robynn's Rantings told me to check out your blog. I'm SO glad I did! We have a lot in common and this is my third time trying to leave a comment so I'm going to keep it much shorter! :)

Chemical free Soap for bugs

Cilantro works better from seed not plants they go straight to seed like you experience. Unless those were from seeds. :)

Okay already too long :)

Jessie at Blog Schmog