Our first genuine attempt at a full-scale vegetable garden has been up and going for almost a month now. We planted almost everything the week before we left for our last trip and returned to tiny bean sprouts and a few new leaves on our tomato plants. We’ve had uncharacteristically cool end of April/ early May weather here in Alabama. Last week we had at least five days of rain and temps dropping into the upper thirties at night. Luckily, it seems that we’re finally over our “blackberry winter.” Clear blue skies and warm afternoons are causing everything to perk up.
We’ve got eleven tomato plants. I’ve been (slowly) working on getting them staked before they get too big to avoid damaging their root systems. Tomato cages at Lowe’s are $5.00 a pop, so I decided to opt for homemade versions instead. A little Pinterest whimsy, don’t you think?
I keep picking up cheap four packs of pepper plants. I finally ran out of room in the garden and now several yellow bells now have a home in my flower bed. This is a cayenne that’s doing incredibly well. It bloomed several days ago so we should see tiny peppers in a few more days. Red, green, and yellow bell, jalapeno, and sweet and hot banana are all represented. I cook with colored bell peppers several times per week and they’re often quite expensive. I’m hoping to slice and blanch the extras and freeze them in small zip-lock bags to be used during the winter.
I actually created two separate areas for tomatoes and peppers. These have yet to be staked and are quite a bit smaller. I’m pretty sure they are Better Boy hybrids. Also, I’ve read several places lately that marigolds are an excellent addition to tomato patches because they repel certain pests. I interspersed them between all my plants. In any case, they bring a little color.
We have eight hills of summer squash and zucchini, all of which have two plants besides one. They seem to be right on track and will be getting big and jungle-ly soon. By the way, the white power is Sevin dust. I’m researching organic gardening methods, but for the time being, I’d rather not have everything nibbled down to stubs. In my limited experience, tender baby leaves are most susceptible to gnawing jaws.
Our cucumbers haven’t done so well. I planted three hills of Picklebush and none of them came up. They’ve since been replanted with this variety that sprouted in about a week. Hopefully they will catch up soon. I’ve been craving ice-cold cucumber with salt and pepper lately.
Here’s my pride and joy. We planted four different varieties of bush beans, only one of which totally failed and had to be replanted (it’s also possible that I forgot to actually put seed in the row after the fertilizer). This row in particular did very well. I’ve had to thin it a couple of times. Another row is sporting unusual purple stalks with green leaves. We should have fresh green beans by mid-June, if not a little earlier. I have a feeling that the first couple of pickings will be eaten up pretty quickly. We hope to get at least three pickings from each row. After they’re spent, we’ll rip them up and re-plant another batch that will mature in late August or early September and be used primarily for freezing. Bending and squatting to pick beans should be great for my birthing muscles, right? Our late summer garden plans also include: small pumpkins in June, re-planting one row of summer squash, and re-planting the other row of summer squash with a winter squash variety to store for chicken treats in cold weather.
Not pictured is the back third of the garden that became a stream during our week of rain. Cody actually had to shovel a few small ditches and that were super helpful in draining the puddles (ponds) that had accumulated. I don’t anticipate this being a problem again this season but next year we will have to reconsider what we plant there. We had four rows of corn that were basically washed away. They’ve since been replanted and will hopefully do so-so in their moist home. The okra we planted several weeks ago made it through the flood, but it is a little thin. Okra plants get huge, so maybe that’ll be ok. Also, about half of my sunflowers are six inches tall. I replanted the thin spots in hopes of having a complete wall of blooms in a few months. Cody was dying to plant a few watermelons. We have six hills. They’re sure to take over the entire back yard in a month or so.
Garden life without a tiller has been hard work. After the initial plowing and cultivating, we’ve only borrowed my parents’ tiller once to run through the rows for aeration and weed control. I try to hoe a row or two every day. We bought a Friskar’s manual cultivator for $25.00 at Lowe’s this past weekend to help out between tilling, too. It’s a little easier for me to manage than a hoe and is great for breaking up hard ground around the tomatoes and peppers. Hopefully we will be able to save up a little money this fall and invest in a used or clearanced tiller before next spring (however, a fall and winter garden are still very much in the plans). I have a feeling it’ll be significantly larger next year if everything keeps going well.
We both enjoy spending an hour or two before dark in the backyard digging in the dirt. Geoffrey and the cats love rolling in the dust and more than a few bean plants have been crushed because of their horseplay.
I cannot wait to bring in a big basket of veggies and fresh eggs every day.