We embarked on our first year of putting in a real vegetable garden. Since we have a rabbit issue (being the only house for blocks without a dog, we are a sanctuary of sorts, I suppose), we went with raised beds and tried our hand at square foot gardening. How did it turn out?
Our garden by the numbers:
- 121 days of growing
- Two raised beds 5 feet by 3 feet by not quite 1 1/2 feet
- Two planters (vegetable)
- Two cubic yards of dirty
- 18 varieties of fruit, vegetable and herbs
- 8 items from seed, one item transplanted, remainder from greenhouse (Lacoste Garden Centre)
- Just one red pepper.
The standouts from the experience?
- I loved always having vegetables on hand. We still tend to forget to plan vegetables with our meals, so having a salad bar in our backyard made me feel like I was providing my kids with healthy choices.
- Turns out I love beans. Love them. Roasted with ranch seasonings. Steamed and drizzled with olive oil, garlic and a touch of salt. Straight from the garden and raw.
- The cherry tomato variety we chose –Sweet Million — flourished (read more on that later) meaning C was in tomato heaven.
- Only a few things perished from my mid-July to mid-August neglect (which unfortunately coincided with a long stretch of hot weather without rain. Oh ya, we had a lot of those this summer).
- Beets were a favourite of mine, (but I don’t think anyone else in the house cared for them at all). I was so proud of them though!
- Obviously homemade salsa is the best
Veggie Fails (aka: Learning opportunities)
- Sweet million tomatoes took over everything. Choked out the steak sandwich tomatoes (of which we only got 5 total, and I’m hoping they will ripen in the cardboard box otherwise I will be pretty grumpy about not getting a single red tomato from that plant). Shaded my carrots. Dwarfed my bell peppers. Unseated the trellis they were tethered to.
- Cucumbers never seemed too happy. I think it was also a tomato-related issue.
- Carrots never really grew because they couldn’t get sun
- Only one of my red peppers turned red, which gave me an overall success rating of 50%. I think there was only one or two green peppers too.
- Sri Racha hot peppers grew much more abundantly, but were stinking hot at the beginning of summer and mild at the end.
- My herb balance was off. My basil barely produced anything. My oregano took over. My thyme was constantly flowering. And it turns out I don’t really care for rosemary nor mojito mint if I have to make my own mint.
- Garlic chives were not pungent enough, and once they flowered, they attracted wasps
- Spinach was too high maintenance for me and died off early
- Garlic never really grew. And then did really late. I’m leaving it in until the snow flies just to see if it actually produces anything.
- I didn’t do my second planting of lettuce early enough.
Comparison to CSA
- Much better selection of vegetables for our taste
- Less spoilage (especially since we apparently started feeding a family of rabbits who lived under a hockey net next door?)
- Less stress about making new and different things to accommodate the ingredients we had.
- Fewer opportunities to branch out from our comfort zone
- A lot more stress on me to make sure that it worked out, rather than it being a family experiment.
It just makes sense, as a family who is not into braised greens, rarely eats zucchini and loves cucumbers and peas more than any other vegetables, that we plant our garden to fit our needs, rather than participating in a CSA. I was much less angry at vegetables by the end of the growing season that I was last year. That being said, it wasn’t necessarily that much cheaper (especially since we had to account for the building of the raised beds this year), and we didn’t get the same volume of vegetables. Since I will be back at work next summer (BOOO!!) Scott has said that he will take on some of the garden responsibilities. He has agreed to learning the difference between a plant and a weed. Maybe by next May, I can convince him to actually pull out those weeds.