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Some Things I’ve Learned So Far…And Some Things I Haven’t

June 16, 2011

While I don’t have any serious gardening experience, I am lucky that as a child I spent a lot of time outdoors in the garden and the woods with my grandmother who had a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. My brother and I spent many afternoons collecting and labeling leaves, watching for piliated woodpeckers, building forts in the woods, and picking raspberries from the garden. From these experiences I gained both love for and knowledge about flora and fauna.

I check on the garden almost every evening when I get home and every morning when I go out to water the plants. I also try to find some time in the evenings or on weekends to spend more extended periods outside so I can observe the progress more carefully. Some of the things I’ve learned have been a result of looking closely at the plants and relying on the instincts and knowledge I gained as a child.

Here is a list of things that appear to be true at the moment. I make no guarantees that these will remain true in my garden nor that they will be true in anyone else’s.

  1. Kale does not need to be as large as it is in the supermarket to be delicious.
  2. Kale will keep growing after harvesting.
  3. Tiny tim tomato plants can support almost as many tomatoes as they have leaves (at least temporarily).
  4. Radishes pop up out of the ground when they are almost ready to harvest.
  5. Even if plants look very wilted (usually because I thought it had rained enough and didn’t water them) once they receive water they perk up quickly (overnight).
  6. Even bush beans may benefit from some support. I have some seriously droopy ones that are lying on the ground.
  7. There are bees in Queens! I have seen both bumble bees and yellow jackets in the garden.
  8. (My) broccoli needs to be staked.
  9. Rubber bands snap easily and often. I need to find a more reliable way to tie together the bamboo pole teepees.
  10. Providing shade will stop plants from bolting as quickly.
  11. Watering the plants every day is essential. So far once a day has been enough.
  12. It takes chives a while to “fatten up”.
  13. A screen door would be very helpful.
  14. It is much more enjoyable to sit outside than inside.

Sometimes this observational process is not enough. Despite my childhood experiences and, as my mother has pointed out, the fact that a good number of my great-grandparents were farmers (and thus I must have farming skills in my genes) a lot of times, after observing I have many questions. Ironically, as part of the gardening process, I have spent many hours sitting inside and staring at my computer. I’ve tried to cut down a bit on that time; I tend to spend unnecessary amounts of time reading multiple articles about every topic (they usually all say approximately that same thing). Nevertheless, the internet has been both a comforting and plant-saving resource for me as a beginner gardener. These are some of the tips that I have found online, used, and found to be accurate so far.

  1. Strawberry runners should be cut.
  2. Mint runners should also be cut.
  3. Basil should be pinched or pruned from the top to encourage bushiness.
  4. Basil should be harvested once a week.
  5. Holes in broccoli leaves are likely to be a sign of cabbage worms.
  6. Cabbage worms can be squished by hand (while this is not the most pleasant garden task, it is also not as bad as it sounds).
  7. Thyme likes drier soil than other plants.
  8. Mesclun mix should be harvested when very young.

Though I have learned a lot, many questions remain. Some of them are listed here. I’m looking forward to discovering the answers to some of these questions as the garden continues to grow. In many ways it is an ongoing science experiment. I try to remember this when problems arise. No matter how much research I do, I’ll learn the most through trial and error.

  1. Does it matter how close to the stem you cut when harvesting a leafy green?
  2. Are aphids particularly attracted to certain varieties of tomato plant or are they just difficult to get rid of once they are settled in?
  3. Why did the pea pods become tougher? Not enough water? As a result of the root rot that seems to be the cause of the still dying plants? Not being picked soon enough?
  4. How tall will the tomatoes and cucumbers grow?
  5. Will the (relatively thin) bamboo poles and twine be enough to hold up the cucumbers once they grow? (We have baby cucumbers!)
  6. How much shade is being caused by the increasingly tall tomato and cucumber plants and what remains of the peas? How much shade can the full sun plants tolerate? ( I failed to take into consideration the fact that tightly packed plants would block each other’s sun when planning how to space things out. Which is why I am now relegated to the small section of open space that remains).
Here is some pictorial evidence of some of the hypotheses, facts, and curiousities stated above.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Diana permalink
    June 17, 2011 11:15 am

    I’m on my fourth year of gardening. My first “garden” was two tomato plants on my porch. I totally understand your feeling about spending so much time on the internet, reading and researching. Sometimes, I have to just unplug and see what happens.

    I happen to have the answers to some of your questions…but I wonder if you’d like to be told, or learn thru experience. I have discovered the joy of learning from my many garden mistakes and successes. I will give you 2 tips though. 1. Peas hate heat and in my area (Zone 7) they usually don’t make it thru June. 2. Aphids can be controlled organically with insecticidal or castile soap sprays. I lost many many peppers before I learned that one.

    Happy digging. Your balcony looks so lush!

  2. June 17, 2011 11:21 am

    Thanks, Diana! I welcome any and all tips. Getting information from a person is more efficient (and enjoyable) than searching for it on the internet.

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