One of the skills I really wanted to improve upon this year was my gardening. We’ve lived in our suburban home for more than 16 years now, and although I’ve spent many hours working on landscaping with much success, I’d never attempted a vegetable garden.
My father came from a farming family, and when I was growing up, he always had a compost pile and at least some tomato and pepper plants in our backyard. With a career, then babies, then a husband establishing a business, I never had time (or frankly the inclination) for such a garden.
This year, as part of my journey toward self-sufficiency, I decided that learning to grow my own food was mandatory. Since I wanted to be able to save seeds to ensure future crops, I decided to try my hand at growing heirloom plants. I chose a seed company that specializes in non-hybrid vegetables and got to work studying their catalog.
Let me tell you, this can be overwhelming if you don’t even have so much as a raised bed built yet. I could not envision how much space I needed, how many different varieties I’d want, nor even what my picky family would be willing to eat (and the LAST thing I wanted was to end up throwing away all of my hard work!).
I chose about a dozen seed packs to try. Long story short, I definitely need to work on my seedling skills. Although I was able to grow tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and onions into seedlings, none of them survived the cold wet spring to end up in my garden. I had to toss them all into the compost pile (where a couple of hearty tomato plants have actually taken root!) and go with store-bought hybrids this time around. I did learn from my mistakes and hope to do better next year, but I didn’t want to forego the whole season without growing anything.
I am now growing onions, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and strawberries from store-bought plants. In addition, I direct-sowed pole and bush beans, cucumbers, and carrots using my heirloom seeds. And if I can keep the damn rabbit out of the garden, I hope to have something to show for that!
Now that the weather has finally turned hot, I’ve had my first harvest – hence the basket of veggies, above. I’m so proud and excited that *I* grew this food with my own two hands, with no pesticides or insecticides, using rainwater I’ve captured in a food-grade barrel I installed myself! It’s extremely satisfying and gratifying. I’m hoping the rest of the summer will be just as productive.
Oh, and it’s almost time to think about fall plantings. Maybe those broccoli and lettuce seeds will get a second chance this year. We shall see . . .