Our Gardening Experiment – First Season in Review.

The Goal.

In December of 2017, we moved out of Ottawa and onto a small piece of rental property in the country.  It is a tiny piece of land but it offers us the chance to practice some homesteading skills that will be very useful once we buy our own in the near future.  One of these is, you guessed it, gardening.  Neither of us really have any experience so there was definitely a learning curve.  Nevertheless, we rolled up our sleeves, watched a few Youtube videos and, gave it a go.

Our Approach.

image of harvested veggies

One of the first things I should mention is that the garden already existed.  It definitely needed some love but the base was there.  The plan was to use the soil that was already there.  We simply had to till it up a little and separate it into rows to accommodate the veggies we wanted to grow.  Being completely new at this, there was obviously no seeds to use so, off we went to our local gardening store.  We opted for plants that were already started as we figured they would be stronger and give us a better chance of success.  On the other hand, we did buy some seeds for carrots and lettuce because apparently, those are not available in the “already started” isle.  What we ended up with was cherry tomatoes, green onions, lettuce, zucchini, carrots, sweet peppers, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, and string beans.

What Worked?

Image of our garden

Ideally, all of our plants would have thrived and yielded tons of harvestable veggies.  In reality, we didn’t expect that and, low and behold, we didn’t get that either.  I would not say that we had a bad season at all.  In fact, we learned so much that if we didn’t harvest anything, we would still call it a good season.  There were a few things that started out a little rough but with the help of a very seasoned gardener we course corrected and the results showed up immediately.

Here is what we think worked out well.  First, selecting plants that were already started was a great idea.  Especially for our first garden ever.  It allowed us to see progress very quickly and was very encouraging.  Second, all the time spent tilling and weeding the existing soil gave us a good solid foundation to plant in and made it easy to maintain once everything started to grow.  Third, we were so excited to finally have a garden that we really paid a lot of attention to it.  Watering daily, constant weeding, making sure the birds and insects weren’t getting into it too much.  We really had a blast.

Speaking of birds.  Those guys are really cute and all, but they can wreak havoc onto your garden.  At first, we had a few garden ornaments but eventually, we figured that it wasn’t enough and ended up with a full perimeter using some bright orange marking tape.

Tomatoes are by far our greatest producers this season.  As a matter of fact, as I am writing this article, it is mid-September and we are still harvesting some daily.  One of our jalapeno plants was also very productive while the rest of the peppers were ok but nothing spectacular.

What Didn’t Work?

Even though we feel like this year was successful, there are a few things that didn’t work out at all.  Cucumbers and green onions yielded nothing at all. The carrots and the zucchini turned out very small and so did the sweet peppers.

image of our zucchini plants

Furthermore, we really underestimated the amount of weeding needed.  At one point, we were spending at least half an hour daily simply pulling weeds out of the garden.  We mentioned that to Tessa’s aunt, a.k.a our expert, and she gave us some tips for next year which I will discuss a little later.  In addition, we felt like the tomato plants were growing well but were yielding no fruit.  Come to find out, they need to be pruned.  As soon as I did, the tomatoes started coming and have not stopped since.

Watering was another issue.  In the beginning, we would water once daily using tap water from the house.  We felt good about it but the garden didn’t seem to respond well.  Time to go to the expert again!  She advised us to start collecting rainwater and use that instead.  She also gave us a few pointers on watering different plants.  Zucchinis and cucumbers are mostly water so the plants require a constant supply of it.  We installed cut open pop bottles at the roots and filled them twice daily.  The difference was unbelievable.

Finally, there is the whole fertilization affair.  Should we, or shouldn’t we?  How often?  How much? What type of fertilizer?  We had access to some miracle grow, so in the garden that went.  Once a week, I put some in the water and fed it to the plants.  Result?  We are not sure if it helped or not.  More on that later.  One thing that did make a huge difference is that at one point, I felt like there was not enough soil.  The constant watering was eroding the roots so we added a lot more.  In fact, we rebuilt all of the rows, recovering all of the roots in at least 2 inches of fresh soil.

Planning For Next Year.

Here is the thing.  This whole season was for us, one of experimenting and learning.  Our garden did yield some results and we are very grateful for that but the knowledge gained is what we truly wanted.

That being said, there are a few things we need to address for next season.  Our top priority being soil quality.  The one that was there faired ok but obviously lacked in nutrients for the plants.  Fertilizing more might have helped us but we will start fresh for next year.  When the tomatoes stop producing, we will pull all the plants and weeds from the garden and remove all the soil from it.  When spring comes around, we will lay a layer of cardboard or newspaper at the bottom then fill in with nutrient-rich soil.  We also plan on expanding the garden a little to accommodate a few extra plants.

Next on our list is the plants.  We want to start as much of them from seed inside the house.  The way our house is set up, we have a lot of sun coming in the living room.  Our plan is to start the plants up there, then transfer them into the garden when the time is right.

Finally and probably most importantly, we will fertilize weekly.  We have discussed this at length and the importance of fertilizing cannot be understated.  Plants will grow in unfertilized soil but, if you want them to produce some beautiful fruits and veggies, they need food!

Here is to the future!

There you have it!  Our Gardening Experiment – First Season in Review.  We loved every minute of it, learned a ton and, ate some amazing fruits and veggies.  We are ready to take on next season by the horns and can’t wait to take you along with us.

Thanks for reading!

Marc

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