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I don’t remember much about growing things when I was younger. I think the last time I was at my grandfather’s farm was when I was 6 or 7. I do remember having a great time any time I was there. One of the things I helped out with was a small patch of green beans. I obviously didn’t do most of the real work because it would still be a couple years before I was operating a tractor by myself. But I do remember picking the green beans when they were ready. And I remember eating green beans with every meal for months. We had a full freezer of them. While I would never want a freezer full of green beans ever again I’ve always wanted to grow my own vegetables. I’ve tried a couple times to do so on a small scale but it never quite works out for me.
One of the first things I tried growing as an adult was an herb garden. I don’t remember specifically which herbs I tried growing but I think I had about 8 different types. They did well for a couple weeks but at the time I was trying to grow them I was also preparing for an opera. As the date of the performance got closer I would have less time after work before I needed to leave and there were more days when I was being called to rehearsal. Eventually the plants died due to neglect so I never got any fresh home-grown herbs out of them.
I have the worst luck with garlic. It’s the one thing I’ve tried the most times to grow and I’ve never ended up with anything to show for it.
I first got the idea of growing garlic by accident. I was living in my first apartment after college. One night my wife –fiancée at the time– and I went to the grocery store to get ingredients for dinner. The recipe called for 3 cloves of garlic. We weren’t sure at the time of the difference between gloves and bulbs. In hindsight it’s pretty obvious. So we bought 3 bulbs to be sure we had enough. When we were done cooking we wrapped the remaining bulbs in cloth and set it on a shelf. Then we forgot about it. A couple weeks later all the cloves had sprouted.
Then a couple years later we bought extra garlic, forgetting we had some already. Again we put the extra garlic on a shelf in some cloth. Again the garlic sprouted. That’s when I had the realization I could try to grow my own garlic.
I did some research on the conditions required to grow it and got the things I needed. This was the same summer when I decided to try growing my own herbs. The unfortunate thing about this garlic was that it was doing really well. I was growing it in a pot inside and there were some gnats which decided to nest in the dirt where I was growing it. I put down a layer of artificial rocks for an aquarium and that got rid of them. The leaves were growing and everything looked healthy.
Then one day when I put them outside to get some sun before rehearsal I forgot to bring them in when I left. Like most summer days in my area it rained that afternoon. I got home and the garlic was completely flooded. I hoped that it would drain quickly enough to survive but within a couple days all the leaves were dead and I dug up the rotting bulbs which were left.
First Real Garden
I’ve never decided if my first garden was a success or not. I put about 6 months of planning into it before I built it. It was two raised gardens which were each 3 feet by 5 feet. Each square foot had a different type of plant growing, organized in a way to minimize invasive animals, insects, and other things. I actually planned the layout using Paint, with each pixel being an inch. I’ve included a section of the original file to show how I planned it. It’s still the original size but zoomed in so it may be blurry depending on your screen size.
The one on the left was the Southern bed and contained:
|16 Onion||4 Asparagus||1 Pepper|
|16 Onion||4 Marigold||2 Tomato|
|4 Garlic||4 Lettuce||1 Pepper|
|16 Onion||4 Marigold||2 Tomato|
|16 Onion||4 Spinach||1 Pepper|
The Northern bed contained:
|4 Natsurtium||1 Broccoli||8 Bean|
|16 Carrot||4 Marigold||8 Bean|
|16 Carrot||1 Broccoli||8 Bean|
|Squash||4 Calendula||8 Bean|
|1 Cauliflower||2 Cucumber|
Squash needs more than a square foot to grow so I gave it two. It ended up filling the space and growing out. The flowers were to attract insects which would have a positive effect on the garden, such as ladybugs. For the plants which had multiple spots where I was growing them, I planted a different species in each square foot so I could try different types of each. The tomatoes and peppers were all started in a Burpee Starter Kit and the ones which did the best got moved into the final garden. I also planted multiple seeds in every hole so I could then pick the ones which are growing the best to ensure a higher possibility of a higher yield.
I built a trellis for the beans and the cucumbers which ended up working very well. The netting I used was this one from Hydrofarm. Because I only needed a few feet I ended up having some left over to use in the future.
Most of the plants did well. I had to constantly fight off slugs which weren’t too difficult to take care of. The main thing about this garden which really disappointed me was when my garlic died. One day I went out and all the leaves had fallen over. I think something had eaten the bulbs. Also, I’m not sure what kinds of peppers I actually ended up with but, though they tasted good, they weren’t the ones I ordered. I did however get plenty of beans and plenty of huge tomatoes. I never figured out how well the asparagus did because the first year is when it grows roots and the second year it bears fruit. I moved in the fall after the first summer so I never got to see how it did the second summer.
Why I Don’t Currently Have One
One of the big reasons I don’t have a garden right now is time. I didn’t have any dogs the last time I had a garden. I used to get home from work and have plenty of time to check on the garden to make sure there were no unwanted bugs and make sure everything was watered before the sun went down or I had to leave for something. Now I have further to travel to get home and then I need to take the dogs outside then feed them and exercise them. And then I usually still have to leave for something else.
The other big thing is space. My yard has a space for the dogs to do what they need to do and a large portion of the rest of it is overrun by Japanese Knotweed. I’ve been slowly fighting it back but at the moment it is still unpredictable and I don’t want it popping up in a garden.
I also don’t have many spots with good sunlight. I can’t plant anything on the North side of the house because there is not enough sunlight and it is also a very steep hill. The West side is the front yard and I don’t really want a garden in the front. The South side is the only way to get down to the back yard without going through the house. It’s just wide enough to get a vehicle through so I don’t want to plant anything there. There is also not enough light there due to trees and the neighbor’s house.
The last thing keeping me from a garden is animals. There is a large family of cats which is living somewhere in the woods behind my house. Living somewhere with them are woodchucks and at least one large opossum. There are also some dogs in the neighborhood which like to wander around because their owners can’t keep them contained. All those animals along with the normal little forest critters and occasional deer are more than I want to deal with at this point with all my current commitments.
Let me know you gardening stories in the comments, good or bad. If you’ve never had a garden but want one, tell me about your dream garden.