because learning is fun and sharing is caring
I learn new things in my vegetable garden every single year. No matter how long I have been doing this at least one new challenge pops up each grow season. Last summer was particularly challenging for me because I was also growing a baby. For me, it was a tough pregnancy. I had morning sickness the entire time, I had so many food aversions I pretty much just survived on cereal, and I had no energy whatsoever. It was difficult for me to give my garden the attention it deserved and the attention that I wanted to give it. The garden took on a life of its own and because of that I learned a few new things.
Mother Nature is Seriously So Cool
I’m obsessed with the tiny ecosystem that develops in my garden. I really just think its the coolest thing, maybe ever. Since I took a hands off approach in the garden last year, the pests got a little out of hand. During various intervals throughout the season I had aphids, cabbage loopers, squash bugs, vine borers, asparagus beetles, and probably more that I’m forgetting. I did what I could, when I had the energy, but mostly I just left the plants to fend for themselves.
About mid way thru the season I started noticing something. More and more beneficial insects were starting to appear in the garden. I mostly noticed wasps, lady bugs, and hover flies. Mother nature did its thing and the beneficial insects started to help eradicate a lot of the pests. By the end of the season I noticed these lady bug larvae on my asparagus fern (pictured above). I hope they found a home they liked and will be back to help fight the good fight this year. If you want to learn more about how to help attract these awesome insects to your garden, check this out.
Squash Bugs are Not Kidding Around
They really aren’t. You have got to catch them early and get rid of them quickly! These guys loved my butternut squash and supposedly winter squashes are not even their favorite. Towards the end of the season they got aggressive and nearly took out my entire squash plant. If you are not familiar with these little a-holes, they start off as tiny egg clusters on the back of the leaves, they are redish in color. I first noticed them on the leaves of my tomato plants. Then, they hatch into tiny little grey bugs (pictured above). Adult squash bugs look very similar to stink bugs, only they have more of an oval body shape. Basically, they inject the leaves with a toxin and suck the sap out. The leaves turn yellow, then eventually die and disintegrate. Very sad.
Here’s what I should have done: crushed the egg clusters as soon as I saw them and then immediately searched for other egg clusters and done the same. The bugs are quick and hard to catch. Eventually, I did spend some time hunting them and either flicked them into a bowl of soapy water or crushed them with my gloved hand or foot. Never again, squash bugs. Never. Again.
Potatoes are Shockingly Easy to Grow
Why have I wasted so many years not planting potatoes? They were easy to plant, easy to care for, I had no issues with pests, and they produced so well. Not to mention how fun and gratifying it was to dig them up. It was like finding little potato presents in the dirt. I loved it and will grow them every year from now on. Expect to see an entire post dedicated to growing potatoes this year. They are awesome and deserve the extra attention.
Planning Your Garden for your Lifestyle Makes a Difference
This one I’ve actually known for a while, but every year I become more confident in it. Each year, before I begin planting my garden, I think about what my goals are for the season. Do I want to grow food to help my family save money on grocery bills? Do I want to plant varieties that are hard to find at the store? Should I keep it simple because my kids are going to suck up most of my time and energy this growing season (yes, yes they are).
The past couple of years my main goal has been to help my family save money on groceries. With that in mind I choose to grow things that everyone likes and will eat often like, spinach, kale, lettuce, and arugula. I also like to keep a good balance of things that can stored long term, either in the freezer or in a cool spot in the house, and things that need to be eaten fresh. I time their plantings accordingly so not everything is ready to harvest at once. This way we aren’t overwhelmed with a ton of produce at once that needs to be eaten quickly.
Its a delicate balance that I continue to perfect each year. I remember my first year growing in my own garden I planted more arugula than a small army could have consumed. I could not give it away fast enough. The following year I didn’t plant nearly enough. These are the types of things I take into account while planning my garden. My goal every year, regardless of what is going on in my life, is to have zero waste in the garden. I haven’t completely achieved this goal, but I’m getting closer and closer to it each season.
What did you learn last year from growing food? Share below in the comment section.