Fresh from Our Garden
Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Our first year didn't yield much but it sure was fun!
We built our first raised bed in May and filled it with baby plants I'd been growing indoors since February. I learned A LOT and grew a little. I can't wait to apply my learnings to next growing season!
It Takes A Village
“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.” --Gertrude Jekyll
I knew next to nothing about gardening when I started, but I fell in love fast! With lots of advice from my Auntie Jen, and regular reading of a few key gardening blogs like The Beginner's Garden and Joe Gardner, I set out to turn my brown thumb green! I had failed at growing herbs on my windowsill in Brookline, but mildly succeeded at growing tomatoes on the deck when we moved to Holliston last summer. It was a start, and now I had all of this outdoor space that was calling to me. An overgrown run of pachysandra was taking up the sunniest spot in our backyard and all it was good for was swallowing up balls and pool toys. The idea of digging it all up was daunting, but the rewards were great - fresh produce, a sense of accomplishment, and no lost toys!
The same was true for a patch of mixed day lilies, irises and ferns that was destined to become our first pumpkin patch. Brian bore the brunt of the labor of digging up all the plants - some of which went to a friend who actually wanted ground cover in her garden.
Once cleared, we were able to build a 4- by 16-foot raised bed. Why a raised bed, you may ask, when you could plant directly into the ground? Well, research told me that it would be easier to access, and more successful to grow in a new soil blend that I could control rather than whatever happened to be in the ground for the last several decades. Both proved true! I was able to order this cedar raised bed kit from Lowe's, which was awesome since actual cedar lumber was impossible to come by. Bonus, we were able to install in less than an hour!
Scroll through to see: 1. Building the raised bed. We used plain brown butcher paper as a fully compostable weed barrier. 2. Spreading the custom soil blend into the raised bed. 3 & 4. The ingredients for our custom blend, which I based off of research from the two aforementioned bloggers. 5. I chose a square-food-gardening approach to help me simplify the math of what I could plant in this space. I loved it! 6. I added simple irrigation and the nasturtium border. Both of which I will modify for next year's garden.
It's a Game of Hurry Up and Wait
Even after I planted all of the seedlings that I had been growing indoors for months, we had a loooong way to go before we'd be picking any produce. All I could do was watch the slow growth, and work on pest prevention. I lost my first crops of lettuce, kale and Brussels sprouts to some very agile bunnies so we had to install a little fence, which kept the mammals out but didn't stop the aphids from invading.
Even my trap crop of nasturtiums didn't keep the aphids at bay, so I employed a relatively natural trick of spraying water mixed with a little bit of dish soap on the undersides of the leaves, and that helped to minimize the damage. The kale and Brussels tried to make a comeback, but were attacked by another unknown pest so I've got more learning to do before I try to grow more of those. When all was said and done, my harvest was small in size and quantity, but the fun and learning was well worth the wait. Carrots, onions, and herbs were most successful this year. I dedicated a bit too much space to pepper and eggplant plants, which grew well but didn't produce fruit until very close to frost. I think I need plant less, start earlier inside and plant later outside next year. I haven't even officially closed up the garden for the winter, but I can't believe the process starts all over again in just a couple of months. I actually can't wait!
Speaking of waiting, I successfully grew a very nice rhubarb plant, which I'll be able to harvest in TWO summers. I can't wait for that investment to pay off! Especially since we grew strawberries this summer and had a very nice little crop. I'm dreaming of the day when we eventually harvest both the strawberries and rhubarb together. I kept the strawberries on the upper deck to protect them from predators. The conditions on the deck are really great for strawberries, tomatoes and herbs, plus the access right out the door of my kitchen is particularly nice at breakfast and dinner time when we can put these crops to use right away.
Bit by the Bug
The gardening bug, that is! (Well, I did get a few mosquito bites, too, while out in the garden this year but I learned my lesson - don't garden at dusk!) The raised bed wasn't the only gardening project we tackled this year. Since our kitchen renovation project kept getting delayed, I poured more energy into our outdoor spaces while waiting to tackle the indoor space. We renovated and expanded the dahlia garden, and planted our first pumpkin patch! Posts about those coming soon.