July 18, 2011

I'm not sure what to do. I know herbs. I spent years reading about herbs and perennials, planting and experimenting, but veggies and fruits... not so much. My first attempt at gardening a little over 5 years ago turned horrible. My carrots didn't grow, my tomatos were consumed by some unknown creature, and my gourds were planted incorrectly so they turned to mush. After moving to our current home 3 years ago I planted strawberries and it went well (no pests, no stealing, great production, easy to harvest). Year two I graduated to lettuce, broccoli, onions, raspberries, corn and cucumbers. That is when it hit me. I had no idea when to harvest anything. I asked and read what I could but I still didn't know how to recognize when something was actually "seeding" or "flowering." What one would call a flower, I didn't. Sorta like beekeeping... I don't know what is normal and what isn't. Our corn was destroyed by earwigs, the cucumbers turned yellow because their vines had nothing to attach themselves to, the brocolli ended up flowering, the lettuce was great but I didn't know you could cut it down and keep using it so instead I pulled it all out *sigh. The onions never grew very well and the raspberries were fantastic!

Year three. I decided to plant more raspberries and strawberries (easy to grow, don't have pests (not yet anyway), can recognize harvest time). We now have 4 raspaberry bushes and 16 strawberry plants. We also planted cucumbers (we have a wire for the vines this time), pumpkins, watermelons, dill, basil, gords and luffahs.

As of July 9, 2011The cucumbers are doing great.

The watermelon... not so much. It just isn't growing very well.

The pumpkins flourished.

The raspberries and strawberries are fantastic.

The gords and luffahs are amazing.

Dill and basil look healthy and big.


I checked on things today after being gone for a week and what did I find?

The pumpkins have been taken over by something. I think it is a squash bug. The plants are still alive but I imagine not for long.

The rasberries and strawberries... well... the plant looks great but there are no berries to speak of. In fact, the birds are so bold they come down to eat them right in front of me.

The luffahs, gourds, cucumbers... all look fine and hopefully stay that way.

The dill and basil looks ready to be harvested but again... I'm not sure.

Here is where I'm confuzzled. (yes, that is confused + puzzled). I never know when to harvest things, how to preserve them, or how to prevent pests. I'm not giving up on gardening. I think I can get this but I need some help.

1. Is there a way to prevent squash bugs?
2. Is there a way to keep the birds from eating the berries?
3. How about harvesting... I want dill for pickles (yup, that's what those cucumbers are for) but I'm not sure when to harvest the seeds or how to save them for use when I can the pickles.
4. I want the basil a homemade sauce but do I harvest it now and freeze it for when I make the sauce? Can it be frozen?

The crossroads I'm at is deciding whether or not I just give up on the veggies. I find the berries much easier and of course, I can tell when they are ready for harvest and I know of numerous ways to use them but the veggies I'm not so sure about. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated because I will tell ya, having an entire family chearing on the pumpkin growth just to find out we failed just doesn't feel very good. The kids were not happy when I said they'd be getting their pumpkins for Halloween from someone elses garden patch again this year :(

Some pictures:

Vine base of pumpkins




dixiebelle said...

I def. felt this way for the first couple of years, and still do about so many things! Plus I went gung-ho and planted SO many varieties, it was hard to keep up with all their various quirks! "When to harvest?" was something I was constantly Googling about!! I am pretty much of the mindset that it's all a learning curve and if we get something edible, that's a bonus! If you pull something out too early, you learn not to do it again the next time, or with the other ones in the garden. If you leave something too late & it's inedible, hopefully you'll remember next year to harvest earlier. If something goes to seed, I let it spread it's self around and hope next year I'll harvest some of it before it happens!

And not to expect the same 'abundance' from season to season (first year we had SO many yellow button squash we were constantly giving them away, the next year, we barely got enough for ourselves & people were asking when was I going to bring the excess squash in?!).

When I complained *ahem* queried on my blog about feeling overwhelmed by gardening, the 'expert' gardeners told me you never know it all, nature will always throw you off & trick you, and to not try to rush the garden or force it to do what you want!


(Sorry, no help at all for your questions... have you got a good organic growing gardening book, or maybe a local nursery or permaculture group you could ask?)

Michelle said...

Dixiebelle, you are amazing! Just you letting me know I am not alone in my gardening struggle and that what I am facing is normal has helped a great deal. I hope my kids are taking notes so that they will have the knowledge from all my trials and errors as to not have the issues I am having.

I am off to read your link now :)

dixiebelle said...

Thank you for sharing & helping others realise that this 'grow your own' business might be rewarding, but it is also tricky & frustrating at times!

Jodi Anderson said...

I have been gardening since before I was ten, helping my mom, and on my own as an adult for over 20 years. I recently came upon this quote by Alfred Austin, which I think describes the plight of the gardener well: "There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder."

Also, I totally recommend Margaret Roach's blog, which is called A Way to Garden. She has great archives and lots of handy-dandy information.

(from www.akeepingofdays.com; you showed up in my gardening feed on Google+!)