July 24, 2006

Lessons of a newbie

Here are a few things I've learned this summer:

1) California Poppies grow well in crappy soil. That means they grow well in my sink where the dirt is compacted and has a tendency to dry out AND flood. The only question I have to ask myself is: should I try to improve the soil or just grow the poppies there and not worry about it?

2) As plants grow, they really do take up more space than you think. I planted everything in my garden with plenty of room (I thought) but, for most of June I was feeling like my garden was very sparse and boring. Now that it's late July and I can hardly get throught the paths I created I feel better about the space I left. My plot is still lopsided in terms of tall things and short things but, I think I have some ideas for next year.

3) Eggplant and Basil go really well, Red Peppers are a struggle. For two years in a row now my basil and eggplants looked pretty bad in June but look damn good by the end of July. I've already got a few eggplants on the way and a bunch of flowers that should bring even more. Red Peppers are not my forte. Last year it was blossom end rot and this year its some mysterious wilting disease that may or my not be Southern Blight. I still have one plant that I'm hanging onto. Maybe a different type of pepper will go better.

4) Tomato plants are big and demanding and even the "small" ones need to be caged or staked. I feel really good about the staking I did for 5 of my larger tomato plants but, the other 3 really could have used something (they're sprawling around on the ground and spreading over to neighboring plots.) I underestimated how much pruning is needed and how early you have to start doing it.

5)"Bush" Beans do grow easily but they need more space than you think. I planted a row of lima beans next to a row of green beans and basically created a thicket of plants. I'm not even sure I'll be able to find all the beans to harvest them. Next year they either need more room or something to grab onto as they grow. I've yet to build anything in my garden (like a trellis) but, perhaps next year will be the year.

6) Carrots may "love tomatoes" but, if you plant them too close together, the carrots will never see the sun. The jury is still out on my success at companion planting. The tomatoes may be benefiting but, I think the carrots are probably a little annoyed living in the shadows.

Photos below are May 27th, June 27th and July 23rd. AMAZING! (I need more flowers though.)


snappy said...

Spectacular growth if you look objectively at the pictures.You look good to me.Keep up the good work.Next year much more food type plants for me.I will look to you for inspiration.Is a community garden like an allotment here?A small marked out area for growing whatever fruit/veg/herbs you want?they are popular here for people with no garden of their own.

Black Eyed Susan said...

Thanks for the encouragement Snappy. What you can't quite see are the empty spaces where the cutworms killed things or the tomato plants sprawled out on the ground because I neglected to cage them!

Sounds like an allotment is the same thing. My community garden has about 45 plots for gardeners with water and hoses and a big communal compost pile plus a few tools. We have hopes of getting a shed in the near future. I live in an apartment without any access to a yard or green space so I couldn't really garden without it. To get a plot you pay a small fee and then you need to put in time to keep up the garden as a whole. There are some rules to follow - like no pets near the garden plots and no chemicals. You can see three other plots in the photos as well.

Its a great community of people and usually folks are very encouraging and generous with advice or extra mint, basil, onions, tomatoes etc. I love the kids too, they leave funny toys around and seem to have a great time.

carletongardener said...

Great pictures. Your garden is beautiful! I love the poppies and the old sink.

snappy said...

Before i met Sallyanne (and got married)I lived in a second floor flat with no garden.I watched Alan Titchmarsh on TV and started to grow seeds in pots in the windowsill.I bought houseplants and grew nemesia, morning glories up a trellis in the hallway, coleus, and busy lizzies.I gave lots to mum.When we moved here i was in awe from the garden, and set about renovating it.Its like the pics now, different from the grass/rubbish/coal/ashes/glass etc that was left by previous tenants.
When things grow well put photos into a happy folder.When you are stressed about bugs and wilting plants look at the happy folder.
I like your blog so we can support one another, across the water.hope you get that shed soon.
The only thing i dont have is communal support like at an allotment.im a little island in a big sea..but the blog helps.

kate said...

It looks awesome! Only you see the empty spaces, i think.

I have the same 'problem', i always underestimate the amount of space that things take. And time -- my vegetable garden is a complete wreck right about now but i do not even have a few hours to get out there and tidy it up. Oh well, next year i will budget my time better. Ha!

lisa said...

I absolutely LOVE your sink! That kind of planter is right up my alley!

lisa said...

Oh...and about your sink question-I would just grow whatever's happy in there and not worry about it. I have several shallow containers, and seems no matter what I do to the soil, only sedums and moss rose (portulaca) will do well in them...so that's what I plant. Sometimes, the plants will even winter over and survive in the smaller containers, despite my harsh z4 winters! I have a japanese painted fern that has wintered over beutifully for 3 years in an aluminum cooking pot with no special mulching.

Randi said...

those before and after shots are amazing. good job! i'll be up visiting folks soon, notably ajayi and ellen, but i would love to come by and hang out if you'll be around. i'll let you know for sure what weekend i'll be up.