I took on way too much

autumninbloomAugust 14, 2013

In the beginning of spring, me and my grandmother, who has taught me all I know about gardening, started me up a garden. It is huge. I mean, for me being so new to gardening and doing it all on my own other than planting... it was just wayyyy too much. I got very sick right after planting, and it has gotten worse and worse ever since which keeps me from weeding for extended periods of time. Coons got into my corn. I got root rot in all my zucchini and spaghetti squash. I just sort of feel like I should have never started gardening. It made me really happy to do it and I find it relaxing, but should I downsize or just stick to potted plants? Has anyone else ever hit a gardening rut? If so, what did you do to get out of it?

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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

Frankly, everyone has good years and bad, be that due to health or weather.

Now that you've had a year of experience, you know that you need to plant less next time.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 12:35AM
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Take the time to do some reading over the winter and figure out some plants that don't need a lot of attention and make sure that you have some of them to balance out the prima donnas. We've all had bad years, as jean001a said, and all we can do is chalk it up to experience and start again next year. I hope that you feel better soon.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 10:06AM
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Downsize, don't give up! For a new gardener, a 100 square foot garden should give adequate growing space yet be manageable.

Start thinking about next year. Fall is the best time to prepare your garden for the next growing season. Be sure to do a thorough clean-up of this year's weeds and any spent plants.

You could start a cover crop to turn in as green manure, or start some late-season crops. Find out your first frost date and see what might still have time to mature this year. Radishes definitely, most likely lettuce, maybe even some beans. In the fall, plant a row of garlic (let me know if you need specific instructions, but it's so easy ... in good soil it grows itself.)

Mulch, mulch, mulch to keep weeds down, stabilize soil temperature and conserve water. Start putting it down in spring as soon as the soil has warmed. Straw, salt hay, even shredded newspaper (black & white sections only).

As for what to grow, choose things that will do well in your area - what are neighbors having success with? - and, of course, things that you like. Your state's Agricultural Extension Office might have a listing of easy plants for the home veggie garden. In January & February, study the seed catalogs and narrow down your choices so you can order your seeds in plenty of time.

Don't forget to include some herbs (most are pretty easy and are quite pest and disease resistant) ... and some flowers for the pollinators.

Focus on growing good soil. Make sure it is draining properly - very few veggies like "wet feet". If you're not doing so already, start making compost, known to gardeners as "black gold."

It sounds like your grandmother is an experienced gardener, so she may have taken all appropriate steps, but if you've not had the soil tested, this is a good time to do that so you can add any recommended amendments in fall and they'll have time to work into the soil by next spring. Again, your cooperative extension can help with that. Here in NJ, the Rutgers Master Gardeners at the extension office will do a pH test free of charge; a soil test from the Rutgers Soil Lab is $25.00. pH is important because if the soil is too acid or alkaline, the plants' ability to uptake nutrients will be impaired. Most veggies like a nearly neutral pH of about 6.8.

The first year I had my veggie garden was perfect ... perfect enough that I was hooked ... THEN the pests, diseases and critters gradually discovered my garden. I made it through The Year of the Whitefly (ok, so I was out in the garden with the shop vac trying to eliminate as many as possible ... but I knew any I missed would be killed by the first frost). However, this year and last I've been in a bit of a gardening rut because of [insert Jaws sound] the groundhog. I would happily plant enough to share, but this creature clearly has a scorched earth policy. It is really hard to plant seeds and seedlings only to see them heartlessly mowed down. Nothing we have tried has discouraged or dispatched the pest. But I'm not giving up ... there is nothing like walking a few steps out to the garden to harvest most of the ingredients needed for a lunch or dinner, or tasting summer in a winter's meal graced with produce "put by" for later use.

Keep it simple, start out small, expand, if you wish, as you gain confidence, knowledge and experience.

Good luck, have fun ... feel better ... and please keep us posted!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 8:47PM
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jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

I like the idea of garlic. You can feel successful without doing much. Same with planting some lettuce this fall, it will come up in the spring and you will feel so good about what happened.

However, you also need to work on the soil. If it isn't the right stuff, then your frustration will grow and you will not continue with the garden.

Critters can be a problem. Mine are rabbits...and I feel like Mr. McGregor sometimes, trying to fight the fight. Are there neighbors who might be having similar problems? Talk to them to find out what they do and why the do it.

And, be sure to thank your grandmother for all she has done for you. Be sure that you pass along whatever you learn to future generations.

Let us know what happens.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 2:42PM
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Thank you all so so much, I really like the idea of garlic too. Again, thank you thank you thank you!

I was put into quick care today, given a heart monitor to wear for two days for my fast heart rate that just started and hopefully the infection I guess I've had since March goes away with antibiotics.

My grandmother is a really awesome gardener, she has raised beds, a regular vegetable garden, binders in information, a lovely goldfish pond, herb beds... just all kinds of stuff. I will absolutely pass on what she has taught me.

I live in Southeast Ohio, and we had a very wet season. I am for sure going to plan more and think much more about the placement, quantity and type of plants I grow next year. I had a major rabbit problem and we put up a fence and that stopped it. (:

Again thank you all very much for the advice and if anyone else has more tips or advice I'd love to hear from you. I will not give up on my love of watching things grow and helping them grow. Maybe I will try to grow some beans and radishes too this year. My main goal is to get better, and clean it all out.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 4:43PM
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