Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Best5Garden 2014

Spring is here! It's time to get out there and toil in the dirt. Last year was our most ambitious garden to date. That doesn't mean it was a success. Each year I deal with little learning experiences. Like fishing, it seems that you learn one thing every time you embark on a journey and you won't ever learn it all until the day you die. But, at least on that day, you can say you figured it out.

Last years garden was tomato heavy. I started lots of seeds inside using my indoor growing kit that I bought off a friend when he moved out of state. It allowed me to have a full crop of half grown plants that had been spared from bugs and bad weather. The down side was that I had too many. No problem, though. Better too many than not enough? Right? Well, between the massive crop and an early August Trip to the Beach, we didn't maximize the garden's potential. Additionally, the other crops all faltered. The squash and zucchini succumbed to some sort of insect. The cucumbers went from a bumper crop to withering and dying in a matter of a week.

The main highlight, other than the hundreds of gallons of tomatoes, were the okra, which took 3 plantings. But, it produced terrifically and we LOVE okra.

This year will be different (as I tell myself every year!)

What did I learn last year?

  • Always allow more space than you THINK you need for creeping crops
  • Keep creeping crops away from stand-up crops  (cucumbers next to tomatoes). 
  • Lay down news paper or other grass/weed inhibitors before you plant the first plant
  • Never plan vacations during peak production
  • Never plant multiple tomato plants together
  • Spend the money and get good tomato cages
  • Watch the weather better so as to limit the waste of seven dust, etc
  • Keep it simple. Limit as few types of veggies. Do what you do best. 
  • Start seeds in plantable and biodegradeable cups. Transfering the plants from plastic cups to the soil causes mortatlity issues. 

Here it the plan this year:

Grow a multitude of tomatoes inside. Sell off about half the plants that come up for about $1, provided that we have that many to come up. That will help recover the initial cost ($130) of the equipment and consumables. I will then plant the rest. I will plan on selling any extra produce. That we don't use fresh, can, or give to family and friends. I know that sounds like there isn't a possible way that we would EVER have more than that, but we did last year, specifically the roma and cherry tomatoes. I plan to buy and assembly a rain water collection system. It will use the gutters of our shed to collect and will be stored above ground as to allow for gravity feeding to the garden. This will cut down on costs as well as limit the chemicals being fed to the plants. I am convinced the fluorine and chlorine in the water is NOT good for the plants, especially during the peak hot periods.

I plan on planting the following:

  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • Big Boy, Beefsteak, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes
  • Several variety of cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Okra

Current status:

Sunday we cleaned out the garage and started all the tomato seeds as well as some flowers. Sure, the flowers are pretty, but they also attract the insects. After planting, we got them underneath the grow light with a heater. Again, we had to purchase the seeds, the starter soil, and the starter cups. The total cost was $130. I would like to recover that in selling plants and produce.