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Things I Learned from My First Garden

Veggie ChalkboardWorking in the garden is healing to the mind and soul!

I am 60 years old and I have never had a vegetable garden, until now.   When I was a child my grandparents always had a large garden. My sisters and I were sometimes allowed to pick out our very own little watermelon. We loved that. I can remember eating watermelon and having the juice run down our arms and drip off our elbows!

Our mom worked most of the time as we were growing up so vegetable gardening was not something she felt she had time to do. So I didn’t grow up accustomed to having one, or learning how to garden. Now more and more I want to eat and live more naturally and healthy so a veggie garden was on my agenda.

I asked my husband, Paul to build some raised garden beds for me this spring so I could try out my green thumb. He built 4 beds, each 2 ft x 8 ft that fit nicely in the corner of our backyard. We then made a trip to a local nursery/greenhouse for soil. I asked the staff at the nursery what kind of soil to purchase for the garden and they recommended what they called the mushroom soil mixture.

Next on the gardening to do list, was purchasing the seeds. We made a trip to Lowes and I picked out a total of 14 different types of mostly organic seeds. My choices were: carrots, zucchini and yellow squash, radish, arugula, spinach, lettuce, Brussel sprouts, green onion, pumpkin, watermelon, peas, green beans and cucumber. I planted my seeds that same day and within eight days could identify some seedlings coming up for each vegetable that was planted.

This has been a great learning experience and I will definitely plant a vegetable garden again next year, but I plan on making some changes based on the things I learned from this garden:

1.  I planted too many varieties for the size of my beds.

All Beds collage

2.  Most of my seeds should have been planted earlier.  I planted my squash and watermelon at the right time, after the last frost when the ground had warmed up, but most of my seeds should have been planted earlier in the season; in March or April.  I was worried abut the frost and kept putting it off.  Next year I will either plant sooner and cover baby plants if there is going to be a frost, or I will start my seeds inside and transplant them to the garden.

3.  I planted my squash too close to the surrounding vegetables.  I had no idea these grew so big.  The leaves and plants are very large.  They overshadow the surrounding plants blocking out their sun.  Only two of these would have easily filled one of my raised beds.

4.  Zucchini and yellow squash are best if picked by the time they are 8 inches long.  Before I realized it some of my zucchini had grown to at least 12 inches in length and very large around.  They grow very quickly so they need checked daily.

5.  Pumpkin plant vines grow very long!  They need planted in an area where the growing vines won’t encroach into areas they aren’t wanted.  One pumpkin plant would have filled one of my raised beds.  Cucumber and watermelon vines grow long as well.  Bottom line – I needed to allow more room for the squash, cucumber, pumpkin and watermelon.

6.  I love it!  Having a garden is fun, rewarding and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you pick and eat the fruit of your labors.

Yellow Squash Portrait

tiny pumpkin

Peas in the Pod Portrait

Both flower and vegetable gardening have become my favorite hobby.  I love being outside in the fresh air and sunshine digging in the dirt.  I recently found out that there is a bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae commonly found in soil that contributes to your mood by increasing the release and metabolism of serotonin (the feel good brain chemical).  So gardening is destined to be an annual work in progress at my house!

Vegie Basket

Oh, just an FYI –  if you have many yellow or zucchini squash plants, be prepared to give away lots of squash to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers.  Squash, lots of squash, lots and lots of squash…….

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