If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

After nearly a decade of vegetable gardening, I’ve learned a few things.  In the beginning, I bought all of my plants at the farm stands around my town.  Strong and well-cared for, they didn’t fail to produce.  Then, I decided to move up the gardening ladder and seed my own garden.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the glut of weeds and immature seedlings that all looked just about the same.  I had to wait weeks, maybe even a month, before I could identify those sprouts with any confidence.  By then, my garden had become a jungle.  The amount of hours I spent removing the invaders and carefully nursing my struggling seedlings to health was staggering.  The next year, I decided that I needed to split the garden into two sections – flowers and vegetables.  That idea was spurred by an article that I read about encouraging pollinators to your garden.  Well, in theory, the idea was solid.  In practice, not so much.  My garden became a haven for bees and wasps and assorted other stingers and the dread and fear that I felt that summer kept me away from the vegetables more often that I would have hoped.  Again, my garden was overrun with weeds AND large, stinging insects.  Two years ago, we cut another large garden space. I planted everything imaginable:  tomatoes (8 heirloom varieties,) squashes (7 varieties,) mini chocolate peppers, kohl-rabi, turnips, lettuce, spinach, arugula, carrots, cucumbers (4 varieties,) beets, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, peas, pumpkins, watermelons, and a mountain of beans.  Here’s what we ate:  tomatoes, squash, lettuce, cucumbers, peas and beans. This year, I think I finally figured it out.  I just put in my tomatoes and squash plants.  The peas went in last month.  Beans and cucumber seeds will follow in a few days.  Sunflowers round out the bunch.  As for all the other seed packets that I bought in January when the thought of summer was just too far away to bear, I’m throwing them into the compost.  This is what I’ve learned:

GO SMALL!!!

Only plant what you really enjoy eating.

Don’t waste your time on pumpkins and other space hogs unless you’re sure you’re going to use them.  Pumpkins and melons are cheap at their peak.  Your garden space is not.

Pre-seed only a few new or heirloom varieties that you can’t easily find in your area.  Experimenting is fun but time-consuming and often frustrating.

Buy your starts from a reliable farmer.  They know a lot more about their product than most big-box sellers and will be able to give you great growing tips.

Buy space or time consuming veggies at your local farmers’ markets.  They’re often inexpensive (think kale, pumpkins, lettuce, and root veggies.)  This will give you more time to enjoy your own garden and will also help boost your local farm economy. 

Most importantly, enjoy your garden and share the wealth.  If you don’t overdue, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your harvest and, believe me, you will still have PLENTY of goodies to go around.

Happy Planting!

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