This vegetable gardening stuff is harder than I thought. It doesn’t help that I’m such a newbie I didn’t even know how to plant garlic. But as I go along I’m finding that there is a lot involved here that many more experienced gardeners probably take for granted.
First and foremost, organization appears to be key. Problem is, it’s hard to plan when you really don’t know what you are doing. This, my first year, is my experiment year and I’m hoping I’ll learn enough to plan it right next year. For example, yesterday I went to the garden centre. I bought pole beans, bush beans, zucchini, two kinds of winter squash, and corn. Back at home I discovered that zucchini requires a 3’x3′ section of my 4’x4′ Square Foot Gardening box – basically almost a whole box! I didn’t have that kind of space. The squashes required 2 plots each so I only had room to plant the buttercup squash. I can’t plant the corn yet because the soil needs a few days to warm up, but as I was reading the instructions on the packet about needing to plant a whole bunch and making sure they get pollinated my head started spinning. You mean I can’t just plant 4 in a plot and see what happens? And since when did I have to concern myself with pollination? I’ve ended up with a garden shed full of seeds and onion starters, more than I’ve planted in my gardens. I hope I can use them next year – and I’m definitely going to need more garden plots!
And this brings me to my second gripe – and perhaps I’m still raw because I don’t spend much money anymore and when I do it hurts – but this SFG method is not as cheap as I thought it was going to be. It has already cost me about $100 to make enough soil for two boxes. Then yesterday I bought the materials to make the trellises. Three 10-foot 1/2″ steel electrical conduit pipes (which I had to cut myself with a hacksaw – so much for service at the hardware store); fine, they were about 5 bucks each. Rebar was also cheap at $2.50 apiece. But the elbow joints were $7.50 apiece – I paid $60 for the frames for two trellises!
Then there was the netting. Mel says to use “tomato trellis netting” which is made of nylon that won’t cut into the plants, is strong enough to hold up squashes, and has large 7″ holes. I phoned every garden store in town and nobody had anything other than “sweet pea and bean mesh”. Nobody even knew what I was talking about. I ended up going back to the hardware store to get some – its 5″ squares were the largest I’d found anywhere and it was apparently made of nylon (it looks like fishing line). But I’m finding it hard to believe this stuff is going to hold up heavy produce…still, I had no choice. My sugar snap peas were desperately in need of something to climb and had wound around each other and were threatening to wrap around my onions!
Back at the garden centre I was hoping to find seedlings to plant (especially tomatoes). They had lots of tomato plants but I wanted to know where they came from and how they were grown. There were no organic starters and the guy in the veggie section actually looked at me like that was the strangest question he’d ever heard. Now THAT was a bizarre feeling, living as I do in the crunchy capital of Canada! Looking at the labels on the plants got me nowhere. Oh sure, they listed the fancy names of the varieties. Some did say “hybrid” and others said “heirloom”. None said “open pollinated” and not a one of them said whether fertilizers or pesticides had been used to grow these little seedlings. Most of the tags said to use fertilizer at various times during the growth period. What, nobody can raise seedlings without fertilizers? Am I missing something here? So I came away with no plants and am hoping that I will see Albert at this weekend’s Farmers Market and that he will have some tomato plants (having already supplied me with chard, broccoli, and gai lan).
I wish I could find a good organic gardening book for total beginners (if any of you dear readers know of one, please tell me!). Every book I read is intimidating, except for SFG, but that book simply doesn’t have enough room to describe the needs of every plant in detail. There’s just too much information out there and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. I guess it’s a good thing that I’m not expecting much from my garden this year. I just hope I can figure it out before it is time to start planning next year’s garden!
But so as not to sound whiny, I will end on a positive note. I’ve harvested a few salads now (and learned that I could eat even more; note: plant more greens next year!) and some more radishes, green onions, and herbs from my Aerogarden (which I transplanted into a container filled with leftover Mel’s Mix). It’s a pretty cool feeling to get ready to start dinner by grabbing a bowl and some scissors and heading out into the garden.