John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

First Summer Farm – More Lessons than Food

September 18th, 2009

It was about six months ago that I got the bright idea to try growing some vegetables in the backyard, and if I wasn’t such a patient person I’d have to call it a miserable failure.

The rainy weather never let up, and most of what got planted ended up drowning.

I learned a few things though.

When an onion sprouts in the refrigerator, you can’t suddenly put it outside in the hundred degree heat.  Apparently, they sprout differently based on what time of year they think it is.  Needless to say, what looked like a green and healthy onion with multiple long leaves, really just made great food for bugs and worms and other agents of decomposition.

Another thing I learned is that pokeweed sprouts don’t look very different than pepper sprouts – and that someone without too much knowledge & experience might not know the difference until those darn black berries start popping up. This also reinforces the importance of using soil that isn’t already contaminated with various seeds – at least until I can recognize my plants better.  Pictures on the internet aren’t enough to make one knowledgable either, who would have guessed that peppers and pokeweeds both have small white star-like flowers with yellow stamen?

Also, berries are as picky about growing conditions as they are delicious.  Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries – no luck.  I was warned that most grocery berries would be sterile, but a few sprouts did pop up.  Where they weeds or actually berries?  Who knows, the non-stop rain flooded them out and killed off anything in those pots other than the dollar weeds.

Luckily, it hasn’t been a total loss.

We did have some luck with the tomatos.  OK, at least one plant of the original ten seedlings is doing well.  They’ve got their own place in the yard next to the deck, and the tallest one has already used up four feet of lattice in its quest to reach the sky.  It might be too late in the season to get fruit from the plants this year, but we do know that tomatos like our combination of heavy rains and brutal sun.

There’s also been some luck with the long green onions.  Those guys are doing great in just a small container.  That’s going to be great next time I’m making nachos!

Next spring, we’ll have a slightly better plan in place before digging in to the dirt – and hopefully, it works out a bit better.

Comments

2 Comments

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  • Will says on: September 20, 2009 at 11:24 am

     

    Hey John – I have been gardening all my life and the best advise I can give is to keep at it. Thumbs do get greener with time. 😉 Here are just a few other tips:
    Extend you season with things like row covers and Walls o Water. Esp with tomatoes and peppers, getting them out earlier makes a difference as long as they are protected.

    Add compost or manure to yur soil in the fall and spring. Good drainage and tilth is a must.

    As for your tomato plant this year. Watch the weather and a few days before cold, (below 40), night time temps do this: Uproot the entire plant and hang it upside down in a garage or shed. The tomatoes will continue to ripen for weeks.

    Good Luck!

  • PJ says on: April 25, 2011 at 9:56 am

     

    Just found this post looking for ideas on growing berries. I’ve never had any luck with berries. Actually, that’s probably the problem – relying on luck in trying to grow berries. I did a lot of research on setting up the proper growing conditions, but still was unsuccessful. As for gardening in general, as Will suggests the best thing to do is to keep at it!

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