As the frost warnings set in and the days go from being humid and hot and consistently sunny to being delightfully crisp and cold, the end of gardening season is upon us. I think. I’m still new to this whole gardening thing. At the beginning of this year I decided that I wanted to attempt gardening. It might seem strange that this goal was prompted after moving into an apartment, not exactly the space conducive to extensive gardening, but it was exactly the space I needed to start small. In my life I had yet to be successful at even keeping a cactus alive, so I wanted to set myself up for at least a bit of success.
My dad and I built a raised garden that I could keep on my patio and I purchased a few big pots to grow tomatoes in as well. I decided that I would grow what I liked to eat because, well, it just makes good sense. I set about planting tomatoes (starting from a little plant), herbs, carrots, arugula, kale, and peppers. I read a few helpful DIY posts online about seeding but if I’m being honest I just went for it. Seeds, some water, a healthy amount of sunlight, and some wishful thinking. I am the type of person to forget about her garden for a few days and forget to water and do all of the daily plucking and fussing and arranging and weeding. I lucked out with a great summer season of sun, rain, and heat that aided my newbie garden.
I should have known that the kale would grown like mad. I am not the biggest fan of kale, but I do enjoy it mixed with other lettuces in salads, so I ended up planting it to see how it would do. Little did I know that I wouldn’t have to buy lettuce for the entire summer because my kale and arugula did so well and was able to support my work lunch salads, five days a week, for weeks on end. I even continued to pluck some giant kale leaves this past weekend because it continues to grow!
I really overseeded the carrots and failed at the whole ‘properly spacing’ thing. They were small but mighty carrots and I was able to harvest about 1-2 pounds worth. While that lasted my carrot-obsessed diet less than a week, I was pretty happy about it. My tiny garden produced some of the tastiest produce because I knew how much time and effort it took to grow everything all summer. They were absolutely delicious and it makes me sad that grocery store carrots don’t taste anywhere near as sweet as garden carrots.
I planted yellow peppers and red peppers, on a very ‘meh, let’s see what happens’ kind of attitude and they turned out wonderful. Each plant grew pretty large bell peppers that were sweeter and less chemical tasting that grocery store peppers. The yellow peppers ended up growing very long and kind of pointed while the red ones grew more round. It was spectacular to enjoy my own harvested peppers for the last month in stir-fries, roasted, in salads, and just raw dipped in hummus.
I completely failed my tomatoes. I learned that tomato leaves do not like to get wet and one weekend when I was away my tomato plant was soaked by a few rain storms and the leaves were super wet and rotten. I learned that this means the tomatoes are almost always going to be growing with rotten bottoms after this and so I kind of gave up on this plant. I continued to water and pluck leaves from the bottom to keep them from getting wet but it was a fairly lousy growing season after that one mistake. I still wound up with a few cups of grape tomatoes, but the rest were rotten and soon after the plant kind of gave up.
You would think of anything, herbs would be the easiest to grow. Um, okay. I may have fried every single herb I tried to grow. They were in some pretty high-sun areas and with not enough water, they didn’t fair so well. This might end up being a winter project, to try and grow some kitchen herbs inside, but this summer was not a great herb-growing season for me!
It was a really great learning experience for me to try gardening this summer. While I still didn’t fall in love with it or consider myself someone with a green thumb now, it was neat to see the fruits of my labour at the end of summer. Plus, garden vegetables are DELICIOUS. I definitely learned a few lessons and I think capitalizing on what grew really well for me and then trying out some different vegetables next year will be fun. Growing your own food just has a sense of satisfaction that you can’t get from preparing produce you simply bought. A tomato is so much better when you’ve watched it grow for weeks and kale is so much tastier (yes, kale) when you eat it three minutes after it’s been plucked from your garden.
I’m glad I put this on my list of 2017 Goals because it was definitely always an “I’ll try that sometime” thing. Something that you can easily put off. I really think it’s important to understand how much time, effort, money, and love goes into growing food and how we (by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) take a lot for granted when we have the privilege to choose from 17 different kinds of lettuce in the produce section of our local grocery store. If I were to try and survive off of my summer harvest, I wouldn’t make it through the winter and it gives me a new appreciation for the people who spend their lives growing the food that I am so fortunate to eat and the people who do in fact need to survive off of their summer harvest through the winter. I am excited to try my hand at another season of gardening next spring and summer.