Sunday, July 15, 2012

Urban Gardening: Our First Big Harvest

The idea of growing your own vegetables is very attractive - the amount of work you put in to boast that claim is... overwhelming!
After being on vacation for two weeks (post to follow - awesome activities to do in Oregon!), we came home to a largely overgrown mess of intertwined plants, weeds and bounty ready for the picking!
We came home yesterday afternoon and have (so far) spent 12 hours weeding, cleaning and harvesting.
Here are the fruits of our labor:
Roughly 3 lbs of regular and Italian green beans. (This kind of Italian bean grows meaty, rich-tasting, purple, and long beans. Many of the beans are at least 8 inches long!)

We've got more basil than we know what to do with (we'll dry most of it), peppers (for canning), and eggplants.

Our first batch of tomatoes (some of them broke off prematurely while pruning), lemons, and oregano.

Our pepperoncinis and Italian frying peppers.

Our squash (and lonely cucumber)... Wait, here's a better pic to describe how huge these things can get:
Most of these puppies are bigger than a dinner fork, which immediately makes me wonder... What on earth am I going to do with all this squash???

This is our third year gardening, so our skills have improved over time and allowed us to get to the point where we've got enough veggies to make the work worth it. Here's what we've learned so far:

  1. Knowing the quality of your soil (and improving it for certain plants using natural plant foods and fertilizers) is KEY! We've specifically sought out plant foods and fertilizers for the plants we've selected to improve the quality and health of each plant. 
  2. Plan before you plant! This not only includes the layout of your garden, but also researching which plants are compatible next to each other and how to plant your plants. 
    1. Before planting, my husband tests the soil (checking to see if it's too acidic for the plant or not), he digs a hole about 8 inches (12 for tomatoes) below the surface and places dry fertilizer at the bottom (for strong roots and healthy stems), and researches how to plant each plant. Then he puts a layer of soil between the fertilizer and the plant.
      1. For instance, tomato plants need strong bases to be able to hold those hefty tomatoes. So, my husband pinches off any branches or leaves growing at the base of the plant and places it deep into the ground. (Notice below how much of the tomato plant's stem is underground.)

    3. Put in the time! Weeds grow quickly and pests flock to your plants even faster. If something's eating your leaves, or if your leaves are turning yellow, curling in or out, getting mildew or if your blossoms are dying, do your research! Don't just give up on the plant! There are ways to keep your plant alive! Your local nursery can provide a wealth of information, and there are lots of gardening blogs and sites to refer to! Plan on checking on each plant DAILY! We have roughly 40 plants and spend around 6-8 hours a week in the garden. (If you have a watering system on a timer, this will reduce your time.)
If you're planning on gardening for the purpose of growing even half of your own produce, let go of the idea that gardening is like a hobby. If you want to yield reasonable results, you have to put in the time. Lots of time! 

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