Thursday, January 8, 2009

Looking Back: My 2008 Summer Garden

Summer's Bountiful Harvest

I love looking back at my summer garden pictures. It was so green, so full of life and it was so much fun! Here's a summary of my 2008 Summer Garden.

My then-BF (now-Fiance!) thought we should have a vegetable garden and I enthusiastically agreed. I had just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (which, by the way, just called out to me from the bookstore, in a section I never ever really walk by and that day I just felt like I had to. What a book!), and I was more than ready to quit the processed food-buying cycle and live off my own land and all that good stuff. We agreed that is was going to be organic for sure, and we should plant as many heirloom varieties as possible, staying with varieties that would do well in our area (zone 7, hot & humid with clay dirt).

Sean digging post-holes. That's my neighbor's garden spot behind ours - competition! :-)

We started by finding the right spot, borrowing and renting a tiller, Sean did his best to dig down into the lovely red, clay dirt with all those nice white rocks (we have quite the pile!). Because of the abundance of deer in our neighborhood, we decided to put in a fence as well, something more permanent than netting. Sean labored for a whole weekend and the result was gorgeous. We found the white garden gate on clearance down at the home improvement store and Sean "rabbit-proofed" it with netting.

A fence also helps keep Kane out of the garden. "Throw me the ball, Mom!"

Our finished planted garden.

We also decided to do companion planting, planting corn, beans and cucumbers together. Potatoes and bush beans loved each other along with marigolds. Herbs, peas, lettuce and aragula hung out in one section while the tomatoes and peppers had some company in catnip and basil.

Sean, the engineer, was a proponent of row planting (straight, mind you!) while I managed to save the herb section for a more creative willy-nilly type of planting.

We got a lot of seeds from Seed Saver's Exchange and from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, but also ordered tomato transplants and potatoes from Seed Saver's Exchange. Our first venture into seed starting indoors didn't go that well, but we tried again and got the hang of it. Some things we just ended up seeding straight in the garden. They seemed to like that better.

Our garden in the early growth stage.

The aragula turned out really well and the zinnias helped keep the bugs away.
I made an awesome Aragula Pesto from Farmgirl Susan's blog.
See link in my favorite blogs section.

We were very proud of our potato crop of red potatoes.
They lasted into the Christmas holidays!

Next year we're going bigger and more variety with the potatoes. Stay tuned!

The giant German Pink tomato. They were SO incredibly good.
Sliced with fresh mozzarella cheese, some basil leaves, balsamic vinegar,
salt and pepper......

So what did not work so good? Well, the carrots only grew to be about 1 inch long. They were good, but tiny. :-) The corn crop was not great. We only ended up with a dozen or so good ears, the rest were dry. But we heard that many local corn growers had the same problem. Many of the tomatoes developed blossom end rot. Feeding them fish emulsion and kelp helped some. Our neighbors completely gave up on their tomatoes. The lettuce was too hot and did not develop. The peppers did the same (to Sean's disappointment), but we will definitely try peppers again this year and work more on improving soil conditions. The broccoli grew but did not develop heads.

Here are some good books I have and some good links for research if you're a southern vegetable gardener like me. I'd love to hear from you, please share your experiences in gardening!

Home and Garden Info Center at Clemson University - lots of great info on how to grow things in the area where I live (South Carolina)
Organic Plant Healthcare - Billy Styles and his associates in Matthews, NC provide organic based products for soil, grass and turf improvement. We used their Urban Soil Conditioner when we tilled and then the Garden and Flower blend while planting.

Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham
The new Seed-Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel
The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control by Barbara Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley

We now also have our own composting pile enclosure and mom and I both have compost containers on our kitchen counters (complete with carbon filters!) to capture food scraps, tea leaves and coffee grounds. This is very exciting and I really hope we get good use out of this in the coming years. It feels so much better to not just throw it down the drain (and into my septic tank!).
Happy Gardening!


YD said...

Hey Lena, well, WVfarmgirl is right, there is no hope of recovering from our gardening addiction. I have been "reading" seeds catalog(I only have 1 right now) and have been planning what to get for my garden.
I'm no expert and I have never planted corn before. From your picture, I couldn't really tell how many rows you have for corn. I read that you will need at least 4 rows of corn for good pollination.
Great links of the books recommendation. I think I might get the companion planting book.

Lena said...

Hi YD!
Maybe that was our problem with the corn then, we only had 3 rows.
I'll post the fall/winter garden soon and you can see Sean's plans for the corn/potatoes area. :-) That man has some plans. We may have to open a neighborhood farm
I LOVE the companion planting book - and I refer to it all the time. It's a nice reference.

Mrs. JP said...

WOW,,what a beautiful garden. Nice scenery complete with lake and wonderful GS dog. It's good to see those pictures of nice fresh produce here in the middle of winter! I'm a crafter/quilter and full time wife/keeper of the pack here at the "dog shelter in the holler" and will be checking out your postings. By the way be thankful for your beautiful dirt there - ours is so rocky it'd take a jack hammer to do that. We'll have to do raised beds. However we did get some blueberry bushes and peach trees out last year so there's always hope. Have a great day.

YD said...

Hey Lena,

Some questions for you: will you be buying seed potatoes for your garden? If you are, where are you getting them from?
I have never gotten seed potatoes before and I don't know how much I should get.

inadvertent farmer said...

Ohhh I love to see brand new gardens, so much potential and they are always so neat and pretty! Great job, can't wait to see what you grow this year, Kim