I grew up with gardens. Two large ones where my parents grew our vegetables that we ate fresh, and that my mother canned and we ate throughout the winter. Two things they didn’t plant were potatoes and corn. I’m not sure why. Just about most of the common vegetables were there, though; green beans, asparagus, tomatoes galore, salad greens of all sorts, carrots, beets, sweet peas, cucumbers and dill weed, chives and green onions, swiss chard and more.
As kids, it was our job to weed two rows every day in the summer – a job my older brother HATED but one I felt grounded in doing. It is no surprise that he didn’t like most vegetables, but I Ioved them all. My mother taught me how to can them and it really did make me feel like I was learning some really valuable life lessons, because I was. I canned for many years when I was on my own, but unfortunately, unless you grew your own food in large quantities, it became uneconomical to keep doing it. As that craze increased in popularity, the canning equipment, like jars and covers, became more expensive as the demand for them rose. That’s typical of anything. Plus, you need plenty of space to store your canned goods.
Soil is key to a good garden, and gardens must be kept watered. All gardens, flowers and vegetables, alike. I thought that by saving all my food scraps from my fruits and vegetables and throwing them all winter on top of my gardens, and then turning them over in the spring to mix with the dirt, was all the nutrients I needed to add. I used organic foods scraps, I had LOTS of worms and worms produce waste that fertilizes your soil. I would start my plants indoors in March or April and be able to plant them sometimes even a month early, depending on our weather here in the northern USA. My plants would start to thrive and I would see the blooming of their flowers, which I knew would turn into my food. I would see the start of a zucchini, or broccoli and feel happy. Then about a week later, I would see the vegetable start to turn yellow, or dry up, even though I was watering. It was hard to work outside the house in the summer and keep up the watering because I was coming home late and I didn’t want to stand outside when it was dark.
My vegetable gardening friends would have bountiful fruits of their labor. Tons of tomatoes… So, I started putting some of them in pots. Same thing. I could have six feet tall plants of tomatoes that looked healthy and see the flowers start, and then they would die off. I was so disappointed. I didn’t really know what to do. I looked into different ways of gardening (but didn’t try some of them) like gardening in bales of straw, raised gardens, trellises or other ways for things to climb. I swear I spent hundreds of dollars trying to get a few platefuls of food.
I noticed, though, that I didn’t have many bees or butterflies. I heard that others had many. I’m sure not having enough pollinators was creating an issue for me. Maybe my plants just didn’t entice them to come. I mean, how could someone less than a mile from me not have the same problem? The one thing I wasn’t doing was adding new top soil to my gardens. I remember many years back that same brother was adding sheep manure to some plants he was growing and he said it was quite effective.
So, this year I changed how I treated my soil. I added top soil, cow manure, earthworm casings, and organic fertilizers. I still throw my kitchen scraps on my gardens. I water, nightly, if it hadn’t rained. I do my best to keep the weeds out of the vegetable gardens, but the flower gardens aren’t as clean looking, this year… it has paid off. I am getting more blossoms that are turning into food. My plants are huge in one garden and I think I will get lucky this year. I think that I have been sharing with the bunnies and squirrels, even though I feed them to buy them off. I’ve noticed that I have corn growing that I didn’t plant… It looks like I could get a bumper crop of potatoes. I used the eyes of my organic potatoes that were growing in my refrigerator. It worked.
I joined a group who are trying to keep natural ways of gardening alive. They claim there are ways to grow, anywhere. I just watched six modules how to plant in buckets. I had no idea how many steps my own pots were lacking, and why these steps are so necessary. I haven’t tried them as I need different supplies to create these. These aren’t pots, but translucent 3.5 gallon buckets that you can use in the house all winter long. Obviously, they won’t produce the same amount as a garden outside, but they may be good enough to plant herbs, or one plant per bucket, if it is a larger plant. I have great south windows that they can stay in front of – away from my plant destructive cats.
It is good that I don’t need to depend on my gardening for my food supply. Maybe someday I will. I am learning some very good skills. I am learning how to compost in small amounts so that it is ready sooner. The ingredients in the buckets can be used over again, and it makes up a part of your new compost. I hope they are selling straw, still, as it is an important ingredient for the buckets.
I WILL master this.