Our first year with a full-fledged garden has been a lot of fun. Before we bought our house, we would always have patio gardens full of as many veggies as we could handle – things like tomatoes, green beans, peppers, lettuces, etc. The biggest issue we faced in patio gardening was that we really never had enough sun on our deck – so some years the garden would yield quite a bit, and other years, almost nothing at all.
This year, we were lucky enough that the previous owners of our home had already built and used a garden bed for many years. This made getting started relatively easy: we bought some fresh soil, manure, and seaweed, and mixed it all into the existing soil. The bed is fairly large, so once the soil was turned we formed several rows to grow the veggies in – one long one lengthwise at the back of the bed, and then several smaller ones running across (this created paths between all the rows so we can easily walk in the garden for watering, weeding, and so on).
Gardening is always about trial and error – we learn new things every time we plant something, whether it be from seed or from seedling. This year, we plunged right into a whole bunch of veggies, eager to see what would happen with each.
From seed, we’re growing:
- Green beans – blue lake pole
- Corn – honey & cream
- Swiss chard – the regular red variety as well as bright lights
- Cucumbers – wisconsin (pickling)
- Carrots – nantes scarlet
- Lettuces – simpson and prizehead
- Pumpkins – sugar and Howard Dill’s jack o’lantern
From seedling, we’re growing:
- Corn – I forget which variety!
- Peppers – hot and sweet
- Melons – cantaloupe and honey dew
- Tomatoes – scotia
We obviously jumped the gun and were way too excited about planting our veggie garden, so despite the very late start to spring we had here in Nova Scotia, we still planted the majority of our seeds around the May long weekend. This mostly worked out okay, actually, though we were still covering plants with plastic to protect them from frost until early June, believe it or not.
Here are a few photos to show the progress of the garden, to date. From the time we bought the seeds on April 18 (again – eager beavers over here), to now (July 9), there have been lots of changes!
Hover over the photos for captions – and click on the gallery for (some) larger images.
It’s hard to believe the difference between the July 9th photos and May 27th – wow!
Some key learnings & observations, so far:
- Reseeding is part of the process. If something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to start over (we did this with our beans, lettuce, and a few others)
- Thinning out is important. We initially had way too many radishes planted way too close together. We ended up weeding out a few of the plants to make room for others to grow bigger. We picked our first crop late June and reseeded for another haul in July
- Weeds are inevitable, if you’re trying to have a low or chemical-free garden. Our soil is covered in little weeds, as seen in the July 9 photos vs. June 5
- There will be some things you won’t understand, but don’t give up! Our watermelons look awful, haven’t grown at all, and it looks like the stalks have split. Josh was really looking forward to growing melons, so we’ve added in some honeydew and cantaloupe to make up for the watermelon
- Some things don’t work as expected. In the past, I’ve found green beans to be one of the easiest things to grow. Josh built this great trellis for them to grow along, but for some reason the plants are barely off the ground. They’ve been very slow, and many of them haven’t broken soil yet, despite having been reseeded. Maybe there’s something wrong with our seeds?
- Pests can be a problem.
- We’ve laid down tiny pieces of copper pipe alongside some of the lettuces and plants the slugs were getting into – it seems to be helping; we’ve read they don’t like copper!
- We’ve also tossed citrus peelings around to deter cats
- This week we’re dealing with the dreaded aphid – or so we think (pictured below). Josh found tons of little baby aphids inhabiting our cha rd, which we’re currently fighting with a soap solution & water – fingers crossed this works
- Supports are essential – we’re using a lot of sticks, twine, trellises, and cages to keep plants in place and support them as they grow
- The corn will soon need to be (manually) pollenated. We’re reading up on how to do this now, but have discovered that since we have only a single row of corn, it will be difficult for the natural pollination process to happen on its own (we’ll need to collect the pollen and add it to the silk ourselves)
Needless to say, we’re learning lots and the trials and errors have all been part of a very interesting and rewarding experience. There’s something incredibly relaxing and freeing in gardening, and we are so looking forward to seeing what happens next!